AIDS: DATA AND DELUSIONS
by U.N. Lies
1. AIDS IN AUSTRALIA
Australia is often thought of as a free country, and by comparison
with North Korea it is. But everyday life here is marred by the predilection
of our governments for using taxpayers’ money to nag us about our personal
The merits of these barrages of unsolicited advice vary. Some
are sound but bad-mannered (example from Victoria: “If you drink and
drive, you’re a bloody idiot”). Others are twee and patronising.
Probably the most famous government propaganda broadcast in Australian
history was the “Grim Reaper” TV ad of April 1987. The Angel of
Death emerged from smoke and gloom as a solemn voice intoned: “At first,
only gays and IV drug users were being killed by AIDS, but now we know every
one of us could be devastated by it. That's why you should always use
a condom, because you can never be sure just how many people you are really
going to bed with.”
The ads provided a model for similar scare campaigns around the
world and a few years later were credited with saving tens of thousands
of Australian heterosexuals from the life-threatening disease.
Sure, increased condom use probably saved a good many from venereal diseases,
the incidence of which had risen sharply since the 1960s. But a heterosexual
in a Western country has about as much chance of being struck by lightning
as of contracting HIV from any likely sexual partner.
This simple fact has been known for fifteen years, but has been
energetically suppressed by governments and the health establishment,
not just in Australia, but around the Western world. AIDS is just
not very contagious – 50 times less so than hepatitis B, for example.
In a Western country with a good health system, where genital lesions
are quickly seen to, hardly any heterosexuals get AIDS.
Even by 1987, serious researchers knew that the Grim Reaper ad was
false and that the only people likely to get HIV in Australia were male
homosexuals (80-90 per cent of cases) and intravenous drug users (most
of the remainder). That is still true now, and it is also broadly
true in every other Western society. But you would never know it.
The disinformation campaign has been so effective that today, teenagers
who were not even born when the Grim Reaper ads went out still think the
main reason to wear a condom is to avoid AIDS.
There is no denying that AIDS discriminates. The most effective
response would probably have been a publicity campaign about sex practices
and condom use directed at male homosexuals, and an increased effort
to repress illegal drug use. But those were the last things activists
wanted. Instead, they decided to use AIDS as lever to advance their
own social agendas, namely more rights and social approval of homosexuals
and freer access to illegal drugs.
For such lobbying to be effective, the mainstream population had
to be gulled into believing that the issue might possibly be of relevance
to them, and it was this function that the Grim Reaper ads fulfilled.
Sure enough, the ensuing years have seen an endless stream of campaigns
calling for anti-discrimination measures for HIV-infected people in the
workplace, providing syringes and injection rooms for addicts, legal changes,
diverting public health resources and research funds to the disease, and
so on. The result is that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent
on a disease that kills less than 200 people a year in Australia. That’s
just over 0.01 per cent of deaths – far less than a tenth of the number
of recorded successful suicides.
AIDS also suited activists of another hue. Old-fashioned God-squaders
thought of it as divine retribution, and social conservatives generally
saw it as a warning against the cultural promotion of sex and drugs.
Of course these “retrograde” activists were ignored by the respectable
press and the chattering classes. But by giving the progressives
somebody to loathe, they completed the transformation of AIDS from a rare
disease into perennial political football.
2. AIDS IN THE WORLD
Social conservatives overseas have also sometimes portrayed AIDS
as a punishment. When Cuban soldiers brought it back from their “liberation
struggle” in Angola, Reagan’s ambassador to the UN said this illustrated
“the high price of colonialism”.
But on the whole the international debate on AIDS has been won convincingly
by the voices of inclusiveness and social concern. The resulting
concealment, distortion and disinformation have been so pervasive that
it is almost impossible to find out the truth about AIDS as a world problem.
For this type of result you need a single-issue United Nations agency
that can produce authoritative lies based on model outputs that no one
can check. UNAIDS was created in 1996 and in just eight years has
achieved remarkable results. Indeed, apart from the IPCC, probably
no other UN body has been so successful in maintaining and extending public
ignorance and anxiety about its topic of interest.
This year has been a high point. The 15th World AIDS conference,
held in Bangkok, had the smallest scientific content ever. The official
proceedings were taken over by soppy testimonials, sociological analyses
and legal advocacy. Outside, the psychologically disturbed performers
in the travelling anti-globalisation circus paraded bloodied effigies of
President Bush and screamed their lungs out.
UNAIDS even managed to take over the once-useful World Health Report
of the WHO. Just a few years ago, this report provided balanced,
sober and accessible information on the major health problems around the
world. This year the whole report was given over to AIDS, and there
was hardly a fact in it. Instead it waxed lyrical about building social
networks and fighting discrimination, ensuring equality of access for
women and men, implementing a human rights approach, empowering communities
etc. etc. High-impact photography and women’s-magazine-style personal
stories completed the propaganda pitch for the latest AIDS fundraising campaign,
called the “3 by 5 initiative”. There was virtually nothing about
the disease. Nothing about the different strains of the virus, where
they are found, their incubation periods, the way they affect the body,
how current treatments work, research on better treatments etc. etc.
This is not surprising as UNAIDS is really just the old Grim Reaper
campaign turned into a permanent commercial operation. UNAIDS’
only pretence to provide information is its annual estimates of HIV cases
and AIDS deaths. Here they have learnt a lot from the IPCC.
The real aim is to come up with a scary headline figure – an “advocacy
number” that will get the dollars flowing in. But it has to look
scientific. So they co-opt a substantial slab of the researchers
in the field and use models complex and obscure enough to look serious
to an ignorant public. Since UNAIDS is the main source of international
AIDS funding, and since the researchers in any case have a vested interest
in keeping the gravy train running at full steam, this is not really a
Until UNAIDS came along, AIDS and HIV estimates used to be prepared,
as for any other disease, by WHO. Since all the numbers had to add
up to actual deaths, there was scope for error but not for blatant lying.
WHO’s last estimate of AIDS deaths, published in 1995 but relating to
1993, was 700,000. That was not nearly bad enough for UNAIDS, as
it put the disease well behind tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and even
measles as a cause of death. Something had to be done.
UNAIDS quickly developed a new approach. They created models
of AIDS prevalence in the Third World based on data from so-called “sentinel
sites”. These are actually pregnancy clinics in towns where HIV
infection is a serious enough problem to justify the cost of testing.
Since by definition the clinics see sexually active women in high-risk areas,
it is obvious that they will show rates of infection far higher than the
average for the population. Yet UNAIDS managed to commission enough
dodgy research to claim that the rates were representative of the population
as a whole. The result has been massive inflation in the numbers of
HIV and AIDS cases.
Eventually, of course, real data catches up with you, as the IPCC
has found with the satellite and balloon temperature records. For
UNAIDS the facts arrived in the form of census figures. Censuses
are rare events in developing countries because of their costs and the administrative
effort required. But a special effort was made in 2000 to get some
decent data. For many countries in Africa it was the first census
for ten or even twenty years. The results took a long while to collate
but they started to trickle through in 2002 and 2003.
For years UNAIDS had been claiming that the death rate from AIDS
was so high that it was slashing life expectancy across Africa, and that
national populations were actually shrinking. But when the numbers
came in, there was practically no change in the growth rate of population
in most of their “poster child” basket cases in eastern and southern Africa.
In Botswana, often touted as the worst affected country in the world, annual
population growth had remained unchanged at a whopping 2.7 per cent a
This story has been leaking out for months. An article in
The Spectator late in 2003 set out the facts then known, including several
studies in South Africa that showed far lower infection rates among teachers,
soldiers and other groups that UNAIDS had claimed, and highlighting the
chronic overestimates produced by UNAIDS models. Then a few weeks
before the Bangkok conference the much more politically correct Boston
Globe carried an unusually well-researched story that really put the cat
among the pigeons. Former UNAIDS modellers and other experts clearly
stated that UNAIDS estimates were totally unreliable, and should be cut
by up to half.
The stories were met by the usual bureaucratic stonewalling and
mendacity. UNAIDS claimed the models were the best available.
Their research convinced them that sentinel sites were a good indicator.
Censuses and surveys could miss AIDS deaths because people were ashamed
to talk about it, and so on. Then the US Centers for Disease Control
did a proper survey in Kenya. UNAIDS got wind of it and very quietly
cut their estimate of HIV prevalence from 15 per cent to 9 per cent.
When the survey actually appeared the true figure was only 6.7 per cent.
UNAIDS pretended that was roughly what they had thought all along, and suggested
the CDC had missed some cases.
UNAIDS’ publicity machine exerts a ratchet effect on their estimates
of HIV cases. Each year’s number must be the worst ever. They
got it up to 40 million by 2001, a wildly inflated figure. What is
more, they claimed 5 million new cases every year, and 3 million deaths,
implying a net 2 million annual increase in infected people. By late
2002 the census data were starting to swirl and UNAIDS had to forget about
raising the estimate, instead keeping at it 40 million for that year.
To maintain the idea of an increase, they dropped the figure for 2001
to 38 million. Since then, facts have been raining down all over
them. They kept quiet until the week before the Bangkok conference
and then put out an estimate of 38 million, with 36 million for 2002 and
35 million for 2001. When questioned they say that current estimates
cannot be compared with previous ones. The data are dead, long live
We will probably never know how many people had or have AIDS.
It’s a fairly safe bet that, although a still a serious problem, the
disease is now well past its peak in practically all African countries.
It was never a threat at all for at least 90 per cent of the population
in the West. The long-predicted skyrocketing infection rates in Russia,
India and southeast Asia have never eventuated.
But don’t expect the truth from UNAIDS, ever.
Further reading and links
The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS:
UNAIDS methodology and estimates: See the following at
“AIDS Epidemic Update – 2003”, page 10
“2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic”, page 6
“How do UNAIDS/WHO arrive at estimates?”, webpage under “Resources”
“UNAIDS response to Kenyan HIV Prevalence Survey”, Press Release,
13 January 2004
“New UNAIDS Report Unveils Latest Global Epidemic Trends”, Press
Release, 6 July 2004
Fifteenth UNAIDS conference:
WHO estimate of AIDS in Australia:
Recent attempt to revive the scare:
WHO World Health Reports, 1995-2004: