Blog: Dispelling Misconceptions

As mentioned in the previous post [1], the Patient Zero meme instigated by the findings of Worebey et al cascaded through the general, medical, and scientific media alike.  An editorial published in Trends in Microbiology, Patient 0’ and the Origin of HIV/AIDS in America [2], praised the work of Worobey et al for dispelling the Patient Zero myth [3].  Worobey also concluded that HIV migrated to the USA from Africa via Haiti [3].

Haiti got all the press, but 5 years into the AIDS epidemic (1986), Bermuda that had the highest AIDS rate in the world, as seen in Table 1.


Table 1:          AIDS Prevalence in United States and Caribbean – September 1986



(cases per 100,000)

Reported AIDS cases










United States













Nevertheless,the Trends in Microbiology editorial supported the Africa-Haiti origin concept by listing three “plausible scenarios” for HIV transmission from Haiti to the USA.  My full response, below, describes the epidemiological winds that blow HIV from the United States towards the Caribbean (excluding Cuba because American travelers and tourists were embargoed).

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Patient Zero did not introduce HIV into the United States!

Not too long ago, this story was a meme cascading through the media. All emanating from a phylogenetic analysis published in Nature, 1970s and ‘Patient 0’ HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America [1].

The authors of this phylogenetic analysis (Worobey et al) also concluded that HIV migrated to the USA from Africa via Haiti. However, extensive epidemiological evidence suggests the Africa-Haiti-USA historical narrative is just as incorrect as the narrative regarding Patient Zero.

Stuart Derbyshire and I wrote a Letter to the Editors of Nature in response to conclusions of Worobey et al. At the kind invitation of the Editors, our response is posted on the Nature website. Given the allowance of 300 words and 3 references, the response cites a limited portion of available epidemiological data refuting this concept. Alternately, the response containing the full complement of 13 references is posted below.

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blog_logoJames Chin, MD, MPH was the former Chief of the Surveillance, Forecasting, and Impact Assessment Unit for the Global Programme on AIDS (GPA) at the World Health Organization (WHO) between 1987 and 1992.  From hearsay, I understand that Dr. Chin quit WHO in protest over WHO’s consistent use and distribution of the highest computer estimates for global HIV/AIDS statistics.

Nevertheless, he did not leave quietly, and trumpeted his views in the booklet The Myth of a General AIDS Pandemic: How billions are wasted on unnecessary AIDS prevention programmes.  The title of this document is forthright, and it contains strong words inside as well: Continue reading

[Continued from HIV / AIDS Statistics in South Africa: and the Possible Implications for the Treatment and Diagnostic Industries (Part 1)]

As described in Part I of this article, few people realize that the familiar HIV/ AIDS global statistics are actually estimates. For example, UNAIDS estimated that the Republic of South Africa had 140,000 HIV / AIDS deaths in 1997 [1]. However, after tabulating all death certificates for 1997, the Republic of South Africa attributed only 6,635 deaths to HIV / AIDS [2].

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The situation with the African HIV / AIDS epidemic is analogous to that of the global finance crisis. Thousands of diligent people are investing money, effort, heart and soul into a false conceptual paradigm, while a small number of people aware of the situation are unconscionably reaping financial and professional rewards. Relative to HIV / AIDS, the false operative paradigm is that HIV / AIDS is devastatingly epidemic in Africa.

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blog_logoThe concept that HIV is the product of biological warfare research is a popular.  Unlike the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) – the other well-known, blood-borne, viral disease organism, which had been endemic worldwide for decades – HIV had come rocketing up out of nowhere.

For some, the pronouncements of the Soviet KGB provided substantiation of this theory. The KGB broadcast that the CIA had experimented with HIV, and it had escaped from their laboratories. Continue reading

blog_logoRoger England is Chairman of the Health Systems Workshop, Grenada.  His analyses and commentaries are lightly sprinkled through the scientific literature.  The Writing is on the Wall for UNAIDS was England’s editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), May 2008.  England criticizes the rampant “exceptionalism” granted to HIV/AIDS across many domains.

In one strong statement, England writes: Continue reading

blog_logoIn the words of René Dubos: “It’s easy to think you are emptying the ocean with a bucket when the tide is going out.”

Perhaps I paraphrase. The quote is derived from Dubos’ book, Mirage of Health. His writing is focused on the history of science and a wonderful discourse on the cyclic and repetitive nature of social thought and concepts of health and disease. To quote an reviewer: “extremely interesting reading for anyone interested in humanity, disease, science and history.” Continue reading

blog_logoAs principal investigator at the Harvard School of Public Health, Max Essex, was recently awarded $20 million to study HIV prevention in Botswana – a meager reward for the man who played a pivotal role in creating the current conceptual model of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, compared to the billions distributed annually [1].

Essex’s erroneous research spawned the theory that HIV originated in African monkeys. This misconception is critical because the concept is a pillar for the fallacy that HIV / AIDS is endemic in Africa. Continue reading

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