Friday, April 27, 2007

Perth Group lose court decision

At last - I can feel free to comment on the case of Andre Parenzee. Having watched from the sidelines and been privy to some of the behind-the-scenes chatter, from both sides, I can at last let loose.

The bottom line - for the first time the dissidents have tried to take their views into the public realm of the legal system, and argue their case to non-scientists in an attempt to bamboozle and confuse just enough to set some kind of legal precedent in their favor. There have been urban myths about a German high court saying that HIV doesn't exist (when in fact the court papers, when translated from German, actually talk about prosecuting a doctor for malpractice and clearly side with the orthodoxy). There has even been a sad, blatantly self-absorbed, fantasy novel about taking the HIV science to court and proving the denialist cause.

But you see, here is where the fantasy world of AIDS denial is forced to catch up with real life.

Take for example one of the pivotal movements of the trial - when Robert Gallo, testifying by video phone, says something about everyone knowing that HIV causes AIDS. According to the dissidents, the judge "rebukes" Gallo's arrogant testimony by saying, "Not everyone thinks that way." No wonder then that they are surprised and invoke conspiracy theory and corruption to explain the outcome of the trial.

The truth however is rather different - when the judge made those remarks he was in fact grinning, sharing a joke with Gallo that the Perth Group were outliers to the normal paradigm.

So now the judge's decision makes more sense. It is however a telling example of how the denialists misinterpret what is in front of their faces - they were reading the same court transcripts that I was after all, but I didn't get the same impression about how it went that they did. It's no wonder that as a collective they can't interpret the science correctly either.

There were other reassuring aspects to the judge's findings. As I showed repeatedly on the BMJ forums, the Perth Group lie and twist the evidence to suit them. One particular argument goes along the lines of:

PG: Montagnier didn't prove the RT came from retroviruses, it could be confused with a cellular enzyme.

Bennett: But the references YOU supply tell me the biochemical differences between this cellular enzyme and the one Montagnier found. Montagnier's original paper also states that he performed CONTROL experiments to show that it wasn't the cellular enzyme based on these biochemical differences.

PG: No he didn't.

Bennett: Yes he did, read the bloody papers.

PG: It was oxidative stress.

Bennett: No it wasn't.

PG: Yes it was. Oxidative. Woosh. [waves hands]

Bennett: Is this getting a little like Monty Python...?

The judge agreed with my own opinion of the PG.
"Justice Sulan said Ms Papadopoulos-Eleopulos, a physicist who works at the Royal Perth Hospital, relied upon opinions of others, which she often took out of context and misinterpreted"
Overall in fact, every point they made, even down to the argument that the PG are qualified to comment on HIV/AIDS science, was rebuked.
Justice John Sulan today dismissed the witnesses' testimony, saying the pair lacked credibility and were advocates for a cause rather than independent experts.
In my own mind, the only thing left to answer is why. And I still don't know that. Having interacted with them for months on a daily basis I am convinced they are either delusional or stubborn or both. I am seriously concerned that they are knowingly lying, but that's harder to prove. They display many characteristics of sheer stupidity and yet spend hours of their time overanalyzing and misinterpreting the literature, so clearly have some form of grey matter between their ears - they can at least put together some form of argument even if its entirely illogical. What's most frustrating to me is that they are completely un-educatable and refuse to listen to the facts.

I wonder if and when they ever will. I seriously doubt this will slow them down one bit in their anti-AIDS campaign.

The bottom line is that one more sad chapter in the ongoing AIDS denialist movment is closed, at least from a practical perspective. I am sure however that the dissidents will continue to tout their views and if anything use this loss as yet more evidence for an establishment conspiracy against them. Crazy.


Blogger mainky said...

I was sorry to read that The Perth Group was made out to be a joke in court.I've conducted my own research and have also communicated with a member of The Perth Group. No, I'm not a doctor,but that's not an indicator that I'm not educated enough to have an intelligent conversation on this topic. I'm not going to say that I agree totally with all of opinions of The Perth Group, but I can say, from personal experience that there should be more research conducted on this issue - especially the issue about autoimmune diseases cross-reacting with the HIV antibody tests and the tests used to confirm the HIV+ test results - in particular, Lupus. Lupus vs. HIV. What is your opinion on this subject? In particular, as a doctor, how would you differentiate between the 2 illnesses? How would you know which diagnosis to make if a patient showed Lupus symptoms, no HIV+ symptoms, with HIV+ test results? What if the same patient experienced improvement while on Lupus medication, but no improvement while on HIV medication? And would you issue prescriptions to a patient for both illness -since most doctors would assume (diagnosing without further investigation) that the patient has both Lupus and HIV? Hmmm...a patient taking Lupus meds and HIV meds... to me, that doesn't make any sense. If you have me, there is a conspiracy - the conspiracy is to have people in our country living as infectious HIV+ patients instead of admitting that the antibody tests are not perfect. Didn't the person responsible for the invention of the PCR test document that he did not create the test to quantify/count viral load, but to amplify serum/increase the amount of the serum available for testing??? I welcome your thoughts on this matter.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Bennett said...

Hi Mainky

I'm really not sure I understand the question - Lupus is nothing like HIV - but you say you have had personal experiences.

Lupus is a disease of autoimmune attack on the body - it involves just about every organ system, and is admittedly notorious for presenting with ill-connected vague symptoms (although it has it's "classic" presentations, as do all illnesses). On the other hand, symptoms from simply having HIV are usually non-existent unless there is immune suppression present, in which case you will see the effects of the opportunistic infections rather than HIV itself.

Lupus is famous for the butterfly facial rash, arthritis, renal disease, that kind of thing. You don't see that with HIV.

The one symptom that can be shared is generalized lymph node swelling, but this is common in HIV infection and rare in Lupus.

If someone had lupus symptoms, no HIV symptoms, I fail to see why I would even order an HIV test. I would order lupus testing (anti-DNA antibodies, inflammatory markers, rheumatoid factor etc) and move on if I got negative results. I certainly wouldn't treat with lupus meds versus antiretrovirals.

Also, I doubt very much that a doctor would assume that someone had lupus AND HIV without further testing. Most doctors, especially in the US, won't diagnose much more than a common cold without further testing! The unfortunate lawsuit-ridden nature of modern medicine won't let them...

I'm also not sure why you bring in Kary Mullis (the inventor of the PCR reaction) in the same context as antibody tests... They are two entirely different things. Regardless, Mullis' opinions are rather bizarre considering he authored a book chapter on the use of the PCR reaction to quantitate DNA... It really doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that using appropriate controls you can easily run a chemical reaction and state that "If the signal intensity from the HIV reaction is halfway between the 100 and 200 controls then the starting concentration must be around 150". On a very simplified level, this is how viral load quantifying is performed.

All I see with Mullis' criticism of quantitative PCR is a complete lack of imagination... and I wonder if a certain amount of ego is involved, in that if he didn't think of it then someone else couldn't possibly take his invention further...

The antibody tests for HIV are better than many other tests out there - compare for example those for Lyme Disease, where there is almost a true conspiracy to inappropriately diagnose and treat based upon dubious, incomplete testing. Beware the community doc who treats based on a positive ELISA....

If you have a personal concern about false-positive results, you need to bring that to your doctor's attention, not a Blog. If you haven't had lupus testing but have a lupus diagnosis then you need to get that sorted out. If your doctor refuses to listen to you, find another doctor.

That doesn't mean the doctor has to do what you want, but they should still listen to you and explain their thinking...

Good luck


5:29 PM  
Blogger sadunkal said...

I'd say if the judge is sharing a joke with Gallo, if he is already making fun of dissidents' views, then you simply can't take this judge's view seriously. And that has been the problem for 20 years, thanks to the corrupted capitalism...
I suggest that you watch "The Corporation" for more info.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Bennett said...

If you followed the court case from the start you'd see that the Perth Group made fools enough of themselves for the judge to make a joke with or without any prior prejudice ;-)

The world laughs at George W Bush's gaffes. Does that make the world wrong, or simply that the President is capable of some incredible verbal screw-ups?

Note that in the denialist coverage of this particular comment they saw it as proof that the judge was _reprimanding_ Gallo for assuming that everyone believed HIV caused AIDS. There was widespread joy that they would undoubtedly win the case with the judge on their side.

Hmm, AIDS denialists getting things entirely wrong. That's just _so_ unusual!



7:14 PM  

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