Sunday, December 19, 2004

Liam Scheff Sadly misleads

Liam Scheff would do well to actually educate himself on HIV and AIDS. He was on a radio broadcast this afternoon, which I had the misfortune to turn into.

It made me physically sick to hear him.

Talking about the HIVNET 012 Ugandan study on Nevirapine, he firstly said that treating HIV transmission at the time of birth was wrong because mother and fetus have shared blood for 9 months. This is simply ludicrous, since the placenta acts as a specific barrier to PREVENT blood from mixing. HIV transmission during pregnancy is unusual, since most infections occur at the time of birth when the infant travels through the birth canal. This is why C-sections prevent infection!

He also said that pregnancy can produce false positive HIV infections, but made it sound as if every pregnancy did this, instead of the 1.6% normally quoted (and more recent studies have put it well under 1%). He stated that the maternal diagnoses in the study were made using ELISA, when in fact they used the full diagnostic test with confirmatory Western Blot. He also said that the kids were diagnosed using an unapproved RNA test, when in fact several tests are used routinely for diagnosis in neonates. The children in that particular study were in addition subject to very stringent diagnostic tests including multiple RNA tests, virus culture, and serology at 18 months of age.

All of this is stated in the study protocol which he either hasn't read or chose to ignore. I rather think he's just ignorant on the whole thing.

Sadly I wasn't in a position to listen to the whole show or phone in, but I did write. What concerns me is that laymen will have listened to this and may very well believe it. One of the hazards of free speech, especially in this situation, is that there is no personal backlash for lying.


Blogger Bennett said...

Hi Sam,

I tidied up one of your posts cos it was a duplicate :)

Aspirin is a dangerous drug, period. So is tylenol. So is alcohol. I can see your point, but it has to be taken in context.

Nevirapine used as a short-course treatment for preventing maternal transmission of HIV has NOT been shown to have the same serious problems (liver toxicity) as the long-term use in HAART.

I read Liam's articles, he clearly didn't read any of the science behind the stories - either that or he blatantly chose to ignore it. The HIVNET012 study protocols for example are available online with minimal effort and directly contradict his claims. A basic textbook on the anatomy of the placenta shoots down yet more of his drivvel. It should be obvious to anyone with any sense that the nevirapine death reported had everything to do with failing to act upon lab tests and could have happened with any one of a hundred different drugs. The fact it was Nevirapine meant nothing other than it provided more ammunition to the dissident cause.

Not checking sources or simply ignoring their evidence is inexcusable as a journalist. Sadly he, like many "scientific" writers does both. I see the same thing in the daily tabloids and broadsheets, only they aren't trying to put people's lives at risk.

I agree that we have to keep open minds, but we also have to accept certain unalienable truths. HIV kills. anti-HIV treatment can prevent opportunistic infections and prolong life, and yes sometimes that comes at a price. Whether that price is enough to pay has to be a joint decision between the patient and their doctor (and ultimately the patient usually decides!). Things like viral load and CD4 counts give historical risk assessments of what happened in other people and help to guide treatment initiation. It's a complex thing - simply throwing triple therapy at everyone who spikes an HIV test isn't the way it's done.

James Whitehead has mentioned a lot of anti-oxidant research and ideas in my discussions with him on the BMJ and privately. I do not believe that antivirals are a complete cure, nor are they necessarily the right answer for everyone at every time.

You know James better as GlutathioneSurvival1 on the AME boards :o) Occasionally there is common ground between the two sides, even if the only public face is that of bitter argument.

I may be trying to sink Liam's reputation, but most likely my comments will only serve to make him more of a God-like source to the hardcore dissidents. I very much doubt I can be accused of libel - for that I have to be wrong ;-)

Thanks for your post - it makes a change to have some sensible commentary rather than the cut/pasting of crap that Paul King has dumped on here in the past.



4:41 PM  
Blogger Bennett said...

Sam - Scheff clearly doesn't do his research.

He said that the HIVNET012 trial didn't use full HIV testing (ELISA and WB). It did.

He said that the fetus and mother share blood. They do not.

He said that in the HIVNET012 trial they made no effort to confirm infant infection after birth, when in fact they did regular followup testing until 18 months of age using multiple testing types!!!

He tries to link thalidomide to bleeding when that isn't a side effect at all.

It's very clear as a scientist and a doctor that Scheff doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. Sadly, and I mean no disrepect by this, neither do many readers, like yourself. I can see why you might think he's telling the truth, because he writes well. But check out his facts and his arguments. They are grossly mistaken.

Ask yourself this - why would Scheff say that the fetus shares blood with the mother? Is it because he is ignorant and uneducated, or perhaps merely to support his argument against HIV infecting babies at the time of birth? Could he perhaps have *gasp* invented this fact to support his argument??!

This is why I am here.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Bennett said...

If you are Mimi and documentation was provided then why aren't charges being brought, FDA audits, IRB committee meetings? Instead the NYS health dept writes a latter in DEFENSE of the ICC, after having conducted their own review and onsite inspection of the ICC.

Why would a nursing assistant have documentation of anything...?! If you have their medical records and/or showed them to Liam that's a HIPAA violation and a Federal crime. Nothing else means anything...heheh.

Sorry - the credibility of your post is zilch, but worth me keeping it. 5 points for effort, whoever you are. Bonus marks for creating your own "blog" last Friday, no doubt to give yourself come credibility. Marks deducted for spelling however - tut tut.



11:36 PM  
Blogger LS said...


Liam Scheff has invited you to debate any point in the article, and does so again...

I think, Nick, if you want to paint a pretty picture of what you folks do with so called "hiv tests", and "life-saving" (life-ending) drugs like Nevirapine, and Thalidomide, you are free to do so... if you can find room in the funny pages.

But what you write ain't true, it ain't 'science' (whatever you take that much maligned word to mean, I have no idea.. but I think when you say it, you simply mean "What Nick Bennett Really, Really Wishes and Believes!").

Anyway, Nick, please find herein an invitation - among the many you've had and cowered from - to clarify any dispute you may have with me, (which all seem to be entirely personal)...

And then we can get to the bottom line in all your little screeds -

Why is it that in an article about a drug - Nevirapine - that caused the death of the pregnant mother who took it - Joyce Ann Hafford -

Why is it, Nick, that make a borrowed aside about the wisdom of drugging with an extremely toxic drug, the center of your philippic, rather than correcting whatever error you saw therein, and moving to the argument:

You want to say that pregnancy is a fine time to give Nevirapine, because the child is not a direct recipient of the mother's blood?

Let me ask you something, doc. Is or isn't the child on the inside of his mother?

So, they're sharing something. And the idea that the drug doesn't affect the fetus is - well, it's not one you even address, is it?

So, let's be grand about it, and review the medical lit. on the "Aids" drugs given in utero, and see if any of these children had remarkably, pointedly shorter lives, massive increases in defect and health problems, and then, in incidents of death.

(Hint: they do).

But you want to dispute this, in the filigree. Nick, one note, I don't live in the filigree. And neither did Joyce Ann Hafford.

She was a real, living person, who was killed by taking your "life-saving Aids drug" at normal doses, as prescribed by 'compassionate' Aids doctors (who laughed off her death, by the way - "Not much you can do about dumb docs," said NIAID Chief Tramont).

The tests used to validate her murder - sorry, Nick, is that too strong a word for you, to describe the death of a perfectly healthy woman by totally unnecessary pharmaceutical? -

The tests used to validate her murder, aren't evaluated in your apology, but I've evaluated them, and so have the test manufacturers.

But you won't get into what it means to give a "life and death" diagnosis, based on a test that has no standard, and gives no clear result - neither negative nor positive. Only non-specific results that must be "interpreted for meaning."

And you're worrying about the news getting out, I guess. Or why slander me, the guy - and let's be clear, only one of the many - who reported on this bitter tale from the annals of the propaganda factory you call your home?

Aids, incorporated, Nick. I mean, what a bunch of humanitarians. Do you even mention the woman who was murdered by the drug that you love so much - Nevirapine - do you even mention her, or the drug, in your 'article'?

Here's a re-title for your blog:

"Nick Bennett is a big, fat, liar. And a coward."

Or, prove me wrong. You can find my email, and my webpage, and unlike your blog - which I've tried and tried to post on, to no effect - I'll answer your email, and we can have it out, like adults (if you think you're up to actually facing the object of your slander and ridicule).

I'll be waiting for your note, Nick.

most sincerely,

Liam Scheff

6:24 PM  
Blogger Bennett said...

I allowed this post through for the simple reason of letting it through for the world to see Liam's anger.

My answers are elsewhere in response to other postings of his.

I do not debate denialists on this site, nor do I intend to engage elsewhere at this time.

It's much more fun to watch a dog foam at the mouth than poke him with a stick!


1:00 AM  
Blogger David Crowe said...

Nick; Good to see your blog is active again.

If a test is 99% accurate that means that, when used on people without the condition there will be 1% false positives.
If pregnancy produced a 1% error rate, 1 out of 100 women would test false positive for HIV.
Let's say 1 out of 1000 pregnant women really are HIV infected. Then you'd have 1/1000 tests true positive and 10/1000 false positive.
Test one million women and give 10,000 a prediction of doom (plus toxic drugs like AZT or Nevirapine).
Seems like a big problem to me.
And what if the HIV tests are meaningless, that means that all the positive HIV tests are meaningless. That's an even bigger problem. 10,000 women poisoned, 00,000 women saved. Maybe this could be a new AmFar ad?

7:40 PM  

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