Santa or St Nicholas?

When my mother taught in a Scottish Primary School, she used to gather the children together, about this time of year, and ask them to put up their hands if they believed in Santa Claus. Of course, some (maybe the ones that were good at Maths) smiled (or maybe frowned) and kept their hands down – and were surprised to see my mother raising her hand.

Then she would teach them all the more human but still wonderfully kind saint of Smyrna, known today, in English, as St Nicholas and whose name and whose generosity gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus. My mother maybe didn’t spell out in detail how this generosity (of paying poor families’ dowries) enabled young women who were poor to escape prostitution, but the schoolchildren certainly understood that they too could believe in the good Santa Claus and that the magic of kindness exceeds that of being able to fly about the chimneypots.

The reaction of some children to this kind of revelation is one of impatience. Why tell lies in the first place? If a story is to tell a truth, why not just tell the truth, plain and simple? This is certainly the message of Richard Dawkins (who also values children with autism but not those with Down’s).

In that case, why get married? Why not just have sex for pleasure and procreation? In 2008 in Scotland there were a series of video clips entitled, “It’s Time”, as part of the equal marriage campaign. A lot of that campaign involved telling stories and anyone who has ever attended a wedding knows that story-telling is an integral part of such celebrations – they may occur in the readings of sacred scripture as well as in the Best Man’s Speech!

NY-based science journalist Matthew Hutson reported in May 2012 in Psychology Today that: “Scientists who study religion have come to agree that belief in God (or gods) relies on everyday social cognition: our ability—and propensity—to think about minds.” He goes on “Which means if you are autistic, and unable to “mentalize,” you would be an atheist. New research published today in PLoS ONE provides fresh evidence for this claim.”

Linked and controversial study of the ‘extreme male brain’ finds that the ability (or propensity) to mentalise and to empathise are gendered.

Why am I telling you all this?

It’s no secret to my followers on Twitter that I’m currently writing a book on AIDS hypotheses. It may be a surprise to some that there are more than one – and that both main hypotheses (drugs & HIV) were initially under serious consideration by the CDC. What has been a great surprise to me, as I’ve intensively read the wealth of evidence that the HIV hypothesis is on shaky ground, to say the least, is the vehemence of the denial of the multiple ways in which this hypothesis is problematic.

I don’t want to go into those here. For those interested, see my forthcoming book, Silence & Dissent: Expert Doubt in the AIDS Debate, read the 722-page detailed tome entitled Inventing the AIDS virus, or look up the extremely erudite work of the Perth Group who have opposed the prevailing view for decades.

The angry denial that the HIV hypothesis is extremely (or, at all) problematic takes many forms including vindictively rejoicing on the death of those who held an opposing view and who resisted taking antiretroviral (anti-HIV) drugs at least until overwhelmed by well-meaning friends and family. This denial fails to observe their comparatively longer survival than their former recreational drug-taking peers diagnosed at the same time who started on these ‘therapeutic’ drugs immediately.

I’m not writing this to argue.

I simply wonder why on Earth anyone (especially anyone diagnosed as HIV+) would not want to have as much information from the most qualified minds freely available to them. It’s not. Or rather, it is but it is ignored. Like the advice that HIV is a clinical diagnosis and not one to be made from a test kit (which are extremely fallible but the numbers of false positives are hidden in the larger figure of those all tested rather than in the smaller figure of those found HIV+ and ‘confirmed’).

In the topsy-turvy world of big pharma-backed research, rather than demand proof for a hypothesis – so shaky that it was first announced at a press conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, that it depended on a virus proved to be stolen and that the researcher it was stolen from subsequently stated that is was not the sufficient cause of AIDS – proof is demanded for its rebuttal.

Proof there is, and in abundance, but why is it not being accepted?

Perhaps because this version is much more reassuring, especially for those who feel secure when everything is quantified and predictable:

‘HIV causes AIDS. Scientists can test your blood for HIV. Doctors can medicate you for HIV and provide you with numbers and even graphs that show your CD4 cell count going up (that’s a good thing) and your viral load going down (ditto). You can trust the medication. It may have some side effects but be positive and, hopefully, you’ll live long and prosper.’

This other version isn’t reassuring at all:

‘AIDS isn’t even a thing. It’s just whatever whoever wherever says it is. The test? Well, Western Blot is a fudge, ELISA is a soup and none of the proteins used is specific to HIV anyway. Anyway scientists can test your blood for HIV all they want but the most even they can claim to come up with is HIV antibodies (which could also just be antibodies to almost anything). Antibodies don’t kill you but whatever the doctors give you for HIV probably will as after some years (longer now, thankfully) of painful side-effects, you’ll probably die of liver failure and be written out of the statistics cos it’s not AIDS-related. The numbers and graphs they give you, about your CD4 cell count and your viral load are kinda just made up. Big pharma doesn’t give a rat’s arse about you or anyone, they just want money. Best thing you can do is stop taking the tablets. You may still have some side effects until they’re out of your system but be positive and, hopefully, you’ll live long and prosper.’

Life is all about choices. Thank God, this is not a choice I’ve had to make but I do know people who have. So, if you were told that you were ‘HIV positive’, what would you do? Would you choose the comfort of quantified information that (ignoring the persistent proofs of unreliability) the pharmaceutical industry offers?

Or would you want to learn as much as possible about this condition which that industry claims you have? Would you be angry that expert researchers have been no-platformed because they dare to doubt that industry? Would you be surprised at the level of vitriolic ad hominem attack these scientists have faced, and the damage to their reputation and careers that their principled stance has cost them?

The difference between the story of Santa Claus and that of St Nicholas is that the first is familiar, reassuring, schmaltzy and frankly unbelievable (if you think about it) and the second is complex, disturbing, historically and culturally value-laden and very, very human.

If you’re going to an AIDS memorial service tomorrow, follow the money. Find out who its sponsored by. Ask yourself why. Then keep asking questions until you, personally, are satisfied with the answers.

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Thanks to Vera Kratochvil who has released here photo “St Nicholas” into the Public Domain.

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Sex, Lies and HIV

They seem like two open and shut cases. Two young strong gay men, one Black, one White, one American, one British, one a College wrestler, one a hairdresser, both (apparently) repellent in character and (evidently) attractive enough to persuade multiple other young men to have sex with them, ‘bareback’. In one case, the persuasion not to use condoms may have been aggressive. No, it wasn’t the Black guy. In the same case, condoms may have been sabotaged.

Why were they prosecuted? Because both tested positive for HIV antibodies, at least some of their sex partners also tested positive for HIV antibodies and at least one had recently tested negative. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Or was it?

Although the report on Darryl Rowe by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales today is fairly concise and factual, the reaction on UK media has ranged from an icky fascination with Rowe’s DIY cure for HIV to the inevitable I told you so’s about ‘gay plague’. On the other side of the Atlantic, there was, of course, the usual homophobic and racist reaction to a sexually active gay man with the compounding sin of being Black ramped up by plague panic but this was accompanied by a grave concern – absent in the UK media – about the ethics of HIV criminalization laws.

Michael Johnson was initially jailed (2015) for 30 years for the twin crimes of “recklessly infecting and recklessly exposing a sexual partner to HIV” but after appeal (September 2017) the sentence was reduced to ten years. Darryl Rowe has been charged with the twin crimes of causing grievous bodily harm and intent to commit grievous bodily harm. I’m no expert on Common Law (we have Civil Law in Scotland and I’m no expert on that either) but I doubt that Rowe will face 30 years, or even ten, for GBH. Ironically, whereas Rowe was accused of post-coital taunting of his passive sex partners (and cutting the ends off condoms) Johnson was only ever found guilty of reckless behaviour.

Is that it?

Not according to the author of Are You Positive? an informative novella written in 2008, updated in 2010, by Steven Davis, centred on a fictionalised version of one of the many trials in the USA of men accused of recklessly infecting another man or woman with HIV. Davis centres his story on the evidence of expert witnesses who testify that, among other quirks in the official version, the notion that antibodies equal active virus was unheard of before HIV.

There are many, many quirks in the officially accepted story that HIV causes AIDS. Among them is the fact that the original statement, made to the press by Margaret Heckler, then US Secretary of Health and Human Services, in April 1984, was: “HIV is the probable cause of AIDS” (italics mine). When Dr Kary B. Mullis, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, now used to identify HIV proteins, sought a scientific reference for this statement, his search was in vain. Peter H. Duesberg, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berekely, points out that Karposi’s sarcoma, the once iconic disease of AIDS (watch Philadelphia) was so clearly linked to gay men’s use of poppers to facilitate passive anal sex that even the gung-ho virus hunters of the US Centres for Disease Control investigated it in 1981 and in 1991 (briefly) considered taking KS off the growing list of diseases associated with AIDS.

All of which is beside the point.

Jessica Matthews reports (originally on http://www.cnbc.com):

In six U.S. states, individuals living with HIV who are found guilty of knowingly exposing a partner are required to be registered as a sex offender. They can face felony charges, or felony-level punishments, in 32 states.

She goes on to give the establishment medical view of progress in antiretroviral therapy:

But as breakthrough HIV drug treatments and medical studies show there is essentially no risk of sexually exposing someone to HIV while taking antiretroviral drug therapy (ART), states are being forced to play catch-up to the science, and stigma, of the AIDS virus.

ART – or even HAART for those coinfected with Hepatitis C – is certainly better than AZT, the first HIV treatment which is now recognised as responsible for countless deaths (and now routinely prescribed to babies who have HIV antibodies). What Matthews omits to mention is that there is a great deal of risk – especially of sudden liver failure – to anyone on even the newest anti-HIV drugs.

My point is that judicial deliberation is based on the evaluation of evidence, not on maintaining a cosy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, not on performing a convenient public relations exercise intended to calm the general population as the government is seen to be doing something, and not, especially, on no-platforming unfashionable expert witnesses simply because they refuse to do all of the above.

Darryl Rowe is nobody’s hero and Michael Johnson does seem, at least, selfish. But the former should not be prosecuted for refusing drugs officially acknowledged to be harmful, the latter should not be prosecuted by a Bible Belt mentality that still sees all Black young men as rapists, and neither should be prosecuted for crimes of bodily harm when the only universally acknowledged bodily harm associated with HIV is that caused by antiretroviral ‘therapy’.

crossed-fingers

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his photo “Crossed Fingers” into the public domain.