And going to the university and the University of Florence in particular, it came out that Professor Ruggiero – that’s myself – was in absolute terms the Best Professor in the Entire University... and not only in biology and medicine but overall, concerning all the professors of the entire university" - Dr Marco Ruggiero, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Florence.

"Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating the forms and varieties of this originary complexity, and their multiple consequences in many fields. He achieved this by conducting thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, to determine what aspects of those texts run counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis)."
- Wikipedia: Jaques Derrida (and also copy-pasted to 2,520 other websites)

"I have long ago given up looking at anything from Snout... He has no credentials at all to discuss the things he talks about, yet feels free to denigrate a long-established, peer-reviewed Italian journal, and highly competent, even distinguished scientists and scholars. If anyone prefers to take his opinion rather than mine, I think that shows rather poor judgement in view of the curriculum vitae posted on my website and the anonymity and missing C.V. of Snout…"

- Henry H. Bauer. Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Science Studies and Dean Emeritus of Arts and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bauer’s basic factual howlers I: “Very many HIV positive people spontaneously revert to HIV negative”

IT CAN BE DIFFICULT for a newcomer to get a grasp of the fundamentals of Henry Bauer’s evolving and eccentric belief system surrounding HIV and AIDS. In a nutshell, he claims that his study of the results of HIV testing in various groups at various times and places in the United States shows these are incompatible with HIV being an infectious entity, let alone a sexually transmissible one, and that at the group level the rate of HIV diagnoses bears no relationship to the subsequent development of AIDS. This is, of course, arrant nonsense, but before exploring the fallacies in his analysis here, it’s important to recognise his erroneous assumptions about what an HIV positive diagnosis actually is.

A good introduction to Henry’s thinking is a seminar he delivered in September 2007 at the Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. History doesn’t record the reactions of the audience (at least as far as I could determine), but Bauer has thoughtfully posted
lecture notes on his website.

This paper is full of bizarre gems, but notably, Bauer claims to his presumably medically literate audience:

“Many HIV-positive people remain positive; but very many HIV-positive people spontaneously revert to HIV-negative: drug addicts who kick the habit, and, most important, I think--among HIV-positive newborn children, about 90% typically become HIV-negative within a few years, about 75% in the first year.
So: HIV-positive marks exposure and reaction to a NON-SPECIFIC challenge to health.”

This extraordinary belief in widespread spontaneous seroreversion following an HIV diagnosis is so fundamentally wrong that it deserves a more thorough parsing, even leaving out the strange non-sequitur at the end (that an antibody response’s alleged transience indicates that it is “non-specific”).

ANECDOTAL STORIES of claimed or hoped for “seroreversion” (returning a negative HIV antibody test after a confirmed HIV diagnosis) are a mainstay of internet discussions among AIDS denialists, but in almost all cases they are a result of wishful thinking or a failure to understand the diagnostic testing process.

Sometimes a viral load result below the limits of detection is misunderstood as “HIV negative” although this is not uncommon during the period of
clinically latent infection, even without antiretroviral treatment. Sometimes people mistake a single unconfirmed reactive preliminary screening test for a positive diagnosis. An increasing problem is the availability of fake tests or unapproved tests of dubious reliability illegally and unscrupulously marketed on the internet for self diagnosis at home.

In his 2005 “review” article in the Journal for Scientific Exploration, Bauer writes:

There have been many anecdotal reports of individuals reverting to HIV negative even after confirmed HIV positive tests [41; pp 425-426 in 42; pp 50-55 in 43]
“Demographic Characteristics of HIV: How Did HIV Spread” p 576

Actually, there haven't.

Reference 41 is Christine Maggiore’s notorious What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong, and 42 is Duesberg’s Inventing the AIDS virus, both highly questionable sources for a “review” article with pretensions to scientific credibility. Worse, as he later admits, Maggiore and Duesberg provide testimonials not of people seroreverting but remaining clinically well for a period after diagnosis - many of whom have since become ill and died after the publication of Duesberg’s and Maggiore’s books, as has Maggiore herself. Mistaking the period of clinical (not virological) latency for seroreversion is a howler so basic it should raise serious concerns about the competence of the author.

Reference 43 is Root-Bernstein’s 1993 book
Rethinking AIDS – The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus. Root-Bernstein cites a number of intriguing cases reported by Tenenbaum in 1993 where a brief partial seroreactivity occurred in five haemophiliacs exposed to contaminated factor VIII but who never had a confirmed HIV positive diagnosis, together with a number of cases of exposure to infected blood products that did not result in any seroreactivity at all. In other words there was no confirmed diagnosis of HIV positive status to revert from.

more comprehensive investigation of purported seroreversions among 5.5 million tests including 4911 positives concludes that:

Review of this database demonstrates no evidence for true seroreversion of
HIV-1 antibody status. We conclude that if seroreversion occurs at all, it is
exceedingly rare. In fact, most (if not all) cases of apparent seroreversion
represent errors of attribution or testing.

- Roy et al 1993: Absence of true seroreversion of HIV-1 antibody in
seroreactive individuals

BAUER EITHER DOES not grasp the significance of HIV antibodies in neonates, or he is being deliberately misleading when he writes of “HIV positive” neonates who subsequently test “HIV negative”.

Antibodies can come to be present in an individual in a number of ways: they can be a product of the individual’s own
adaptive immune system in response to an infection or other source of antigen or alternatively they may be transferred from another individual: this is called passive immunity. Examples of the latter include specific immunoglobulins (such as those against hepatitis B or tetanus toxin derived from human blood donations) administered to prevent or treat various infections, and antibodies naturally transferred across the placenta from mother to fetus, or in some cases through breast feeding.

So babies born to HIV infected mothers will frequently have HIV antibodies whether they are themselves infected or not. Antibody tests cannot distinguish between antibodies produced by the baby’s own adaptive immune system, and thus indicative of active infection, and those passively acquired from the mother and indicative only of the mother’s infection. Generally, passively acquired HIV antibody levels decay to undetectable levels by around 6 to 12 months of age, but can take as long as 18 months or more. During that time other alternative tests (mainly nucleic acid tests) are used to diagnose “HIV positive” status in infants, not antibody tests.

Bauer has
tried to claim (citing the so-called “Perth Group”) that there is a hard and fast rule in paediatric immunology that all passively acquired antibody will become undetectable by 9 months, and that any antibody found after that time cannot be of maternal origin. Thus, if antibody is present at 9 months and becomes undetectable at 18, he says, this represents “true seroreversion” of antibodies produced by the baby's adaptive immune system rather than the decay of passively acquired maternal IgG (or “1”gG as Bauer insists on calling it, demonstrating his level of familiarity with elementary immunology). This supposed “rule” is nonsense. The point at which passively acquired antibody becomes undetectable depends on the initial titre, the rate of decay, and most importantly, the sensitivity of the the particular assay for very low levels of antibody.

THERE ARE AT MOST a handful of individual case reports of apparent seroreversion following a confirmed diagnosis of HIV infection in the entire medical literature, and while some are intriguing, most are somewhat doubtful. Bauer’s insistence – in print and on his blog - that seroreversion is common speaks volumes about his capacity for reading and understanding scientific evidence. More importantly, Bauer’s misapprehension that the development of a diagnostically valid set of HIV antibodies is often temporary is critical to his misreading of patterns of test results in populations: indeed, his "analysis" falls apart almost immediately without this key misconception.

More on this in following posts.


Seth Kalichman said...

Henry Bauer is a sad, scary joke. He is sad because he says what so many people what to here – that HIV cannot cause AIDS.
He is scary because denialists are using him to bolster their wacky ideas.
He is a joke because he is, after all, Henry Bauer.
He is a self proclaimed pseudoscientist. Former editor of the pseudoscience outlet Journal of Scientific Exploration. When asked about the source for a famous hoax picture of the Loch Ness Monster he said he still believes the picture is genuine. His colleagues have no respect for him. He has written openly about being homophobe. And his views on AIDS are real nonsense. David Crowe (who may not exist) helped him write his book, actually probably wrote sections including the one on Race. The book sold 500 copies in its first year. So that means that not even 1 in 4 of the Rethinkers posted online bought it. Thanks for highlighting the foolishness of Bauer here on this great new blog!
Seth Kalichman

jtdeshong said...

Hey Snout,
I am glad you have started a blog!
I enjoy you literate and succinct writing style. Which means, the denaialsts will hate you (as is evidenced by the way they treat you on other threads). I get such a huge kick when these idiots try and take you on. I can not wait to see what they write here. I just hope they get more creative with their monikers and don't all post as ANONYMOUS!!
Now, as for Bauer, he is great fun, isn't he? Just don't make the mistake I did and call him a Kike. He doesn't mind being called a liar, hypocrite or murderer, just stay away from Kike!!
I can no longer post at his hilarious skeptic site now!!
Frowny face!! (Under a big, fat smile)
J. Todd DeShong

Snout said...

Bauer generally has a very low tolerance for comments on own his blog that point out the obvious deficiencies in his grasp of his subject matter or flaws in his reasoning. This is why nearly all the comments on his blog are supportive when the overwhelming majority of scientists, physicians and other interested parties recognize his theories as nonsense.

Bauer has the right to moderate his own blog as he sees fit. However it is dishonest to censor virtually all substantive criticism and then claim that his points have been ignored by the mainstream or are unanswerable. It is that dishonesty on Bauer’s part that has to some extent motivated me to start this blog as a reference for those who are wondering if there is any truth to Bauer’s drivel.

I haven’t fixed on a moderation policy for this blog yet. I am adamant that it will not turn into yet another forum for HIV/AIDS denialists to try to create the illusion that there is genuine scientific debate that HIV causes AIDS, that HIV is sexually transmissible, and that antiretroviral therapy is effective in reducing morbidity and mortality due to HIV disease.

This is not a “freedom of speech” issue. If AIDS denialists are really that keen for such a “debate” they are perfectly free to change their own moderation policies on sites such as “AIDS Myth Exposed” to allow comments from the Reality Based Community.

But that is not the purpose of this site.

Succinct, coherent comments and corrections relevant the subject matter at hand are welcome. Not welcome are the usual stream-of-consciousness rehashings of the same old denialist canards that have been answered again and again elsewhere.

And yes, it would be preferred if posts carry a name or consistent pseudonym, if only to make it easier to follow the lines of thought of individual contributers on each thread.

SteveN said...

Just thought I'd like to add a short public note of congratulations for a job well done. Exposing the arrogant ignorance of 'Rethinkers' (snigger!) such as Bauer is an important but usually thankless task. I, for one, would like to thank you Snout for your efforts.


Sharon said...


1 in 4 sexually active teenagers become infected with an STD every year, in the United States alone. Now, more than ever, we need to join together to fight this growing issue. As I read through your website, it is clear that you share the same passion for STD/STI awareness. We here, at Disease.com, understand the importance of STD/STI prevention and treatments. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. We can not reach every teenager, but together we can try.
If you need more information please mail me with the subject line as your URL.

Thnak You,
Sharon Vegoe

Anonymous said...

You can be "positive" by sunbathing, so all "tests" are complete bullshit.