David Barton Again Says Bible Teaches HIV Vaccine Won't Be Discovered; Distorts Vaccine Research

David Barton continues to mislead his audiences about HIV research. Earlier this year, he told Charis Bible College students that a vaccine won’t be discovered for HIV because the Bible teaches HIV is the penalty for being gay. Then he misrepresented two separate studies on HIV vaccines to make it appear vaccine research had been halted due to lack of success.
Barton did the same thing again Saturday, April 11th at the Faith Baptist Church in Knightdale, NC. He told the audience the Bible teaches that no HIV vaccine will be found and then he misrepresented two studies so that he could seem right. Watch:

If Barton is right, then why don’t all gays get HIV? And why is HIV a straight disease in countries other than the United States?
What I wrote in early March is still true about Barton’s claims. At about 1:56 into the clip above, Barton shows a headline touting the discovery of a HIV vaccine. Then he says, “six weeks later” another article came out saying the vaccine didn’t work. However, what he doesn’t tell his audience is that he is deceiving them. The first headline was about one study and the second headline was about another study conducted four years later. To Faith Baptist Church, Barton said essentially the same thing as he said at Charis Bible College. What I wrote then about the claims applies to this speech:

…Barton said he might be wrong because of a 2009 article in Popular Science with the headline: “For the First Time Ever, An HIV Vaccine Shows Success in Trial.” This was taken from the New York Times and is a report about the RV 144 vaccine trials, also known as the “Thai Trials” because the six-year study was conducted in Thailand. According to the NIH News, the trials began in 2003 and demonstrated safety and modest effectiveness. Barton implies that this trial was halted; it was not.

In the video, Barton first showed the Popular Science headline and then said:

The headlines came out and said, for the first time ever an HIV vaccine shows success in trial. Oh my gosh, I guess there is, I guess I must have misinterpreted the Bible, cause the Bible’s true, and then six weeks later, they came out with this that says, NIH halts trial of HIV vaccine after it fails to work. The newspaper said it worked but none of the medical evidence said that it worked. So they still don’t have a cure.

The problem with Barton’s presentation is that the second headline didn’t come out “six weeks later.” Rather it came out four years later in 2013 and was about an entirely different attempt to create a vaccine.

The Yahoo News article Barton referred to (the second headline – NIH Halts Trial of HIV Vaccine After it Fails to Work) is only available via Internet Archives and is dated April 26, 2013. The Yahoo article linked to a NIH announcement that the HVTN 505 clinical trial had been halted. The HVTN 505 trial results had nothing to do with the earlier success of RV144. The RV144 trial was reported in 2009, the same year that the HVTN 505 started. The NIH has more on the HVTN 505 trial on the NIH website.

Barton got the time frame wrong and made it appear that the two headlines were related to each other.

Barton’s use of the headlines is extremely deceptive. In fact, progress continues to be made which builds upon the modestly successful vaccine already available. In fact, R144 vaccine does offer protection from HIV infection. An extension of the success of R144 is being conducted in South Africa now. 
It is hard to understand how Barton could make this mistake unless he either didn’t read the articles (just relied on the headlines but didn’t read the articles) or he is intentionally misleading people.

Update on the HIV Vaccine that David Barton Said Was Halted

Yesterday, I pointed out that David Barton tried to prove his belief that God would not allow researchers to find a vaccine for HIV by misrepresenting research on the subject. Barton first pointed to a successful vaccine trial (RV144) but then led his audience to believe RV144 was halted by showing them a headline announcing that another study (HVTN505) had been stopped by the NIH. In fact, as I demonstrated, RV144 was deemed safe and modestly effective (see that post for video of Barton’s slight of hand).
Curious about the current science involving RV144, I wrote to the NIH to learn the status of the program. As it turns out, a new development was reported by the NIH in February of this year involving the vaccine Barton said was halted. From the 2/18/15 NIH press release:

NIH-Sponsored HIV Vaccine Trial Launches in South Africa

Early-Stage Trial Aims to Build on RV144 Results

HVTN laboratory staff

(View larger image. HVTN laboratory staff Nomzamo Tabata (left) and Owethu Mahali process specimens at The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Brooke Auchincloss)

​A clinical trial called HVTN 100 has been launched in South Africa to study an investigational HIV vaccine regimen for safety and the immune responses it generates in study participants. This experimental vaccine regimen is based on the one tested in the U.S. Military HIV Research Program-led ArchiveRV144 clinical trial in Thailand—the first study to demonstrate that a vaccine can protect people from HIV infection. The HVTN 100 vaccine regimen was designed to provide greater protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa. The results of the HVTN 100 trial, expected in two years, will help determine whether or not this vaccine regimen will be tested for efficacy in a large future study in South Africa.

“A safe and effective HIV vaccine is essential to reach a timely, sustained end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. “The launch of HVTN 100 marks an important step forward in building upon the promising results of the RV144 trial to produce an HIV vaccine that could have a significant public health impact in southern Africa, where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is most pervasive.”

So Barton was not only wrong to mislead Charis Bible College students by using one study to claim something false about another study, he failed to tell them that progress is being made currently toward the creation of a vaccine. Who will reeducate them? They are now ill-equipped to discuss these issues intelligently with their congregations. It is hard to calculate how many people they will mislead as a result.
 

Ugandan Scientist Who Chaired President Museveni's Anti-Homosexuality Committee Runs HIV Project Funded by CDC

UPDATE: I have updated the title of this post to reflect new information from the National Institutes of Health. According to NIH spokesperson, Renate Myles, the CDC funds the grant led by Jane Aceng, not the NIH. Myles wrote:

NIH does not fund this grant.  The grant referenced in your blog was awarded by the CDC.  Please correct your post since it is causing quite a bit of confusion.  NIH Reporter includes data files on research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I would recommend that you contact the CDC to learn more about the grant and how it is structured.
All the best,
Renate Myles

……..
The committee of Ugandan researchers and scientists who gave President Museveni cover (see their final report here) to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was chaired by Jane Ruth Aceng. Dr. Aceng is a pediatrician and Director of General Health Services at Uganda’s Ministry of Health. She also is a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health, currently leading a project which addresses “HIV response” in Uganda. See below to see the three grants she has received since 2012.

I wonder if the CDC and NIH will evaluate such requests for funding differently now in light of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  Dr. Aceng is supposed to be leading an effort to address HIV response and yet her failure to stand up to the President’s misuse of science will weaken her nation’s ability to reach vulnerable populations. It is also quite possible that straights will fear coming forward for testing and treatment because they may be afraid of questions about their sexuality. People from all over the ideological spectrum agree that the bill will harm Uganda’s efforts to address HIV/AIDS (e.g., UNAIDS, Harvard’s Ed Green).
At the least, I hope the NIH and CDC will take steps to secure project leaders who are actual leaders.
H/t Joe Amon

Rick and Kay Warren condemn the denial of link between HIV and AIDS as promoted by the AFA’s Bryan Fischer

Early in January, Bryan Fischer, issues analyst with the American Family Association, threw his support behind the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS. On his daily talk show, Fischer hosted University of California, Berkeley professor, Peter Duesberg, who is the principle proponent of the theory that HIV is a harmless virus and that AIDS is the result of lifestyle choices, such as drug use and promiscuity, which weaken the immune system. Duesberg says that gay men are at special risk since they use drugs and engage in casual sex more so than other groups.

In a column on the AFA website, Fischer wrote:

So what is the cause of what we know as AIDS? What is the cause of this condition that is killing people? Duesberg’s answer can be found in one word: drugs.

And specifically, drug use connected with the kind of sex that is far too common in the homosexual community. While the average heterosexual has somewhere between seven to 14 sexual partners in a lifetime, it is not uncommon for homosexuals to have hundreds, even thousands, of sexual partners.

By partnering with Duesberg, Fischer brought AIDS denialism closer to the mainstream of evangelicalism. In response, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay issued a statement to me about Fischer’s and Duesberg’s denial of the HIV-AIDS link. The Warrens’ statement is powerful and decisive. It is reproduced here in full:

Since AIDS was first discovered in 1981, 30 years of non-stop scientific research by the US military, the medical community, our government, and by every international health organization has proven over and over, with countless irrefutable results, that ONLY people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) develop AIDS.  To imply the disease is caused by anything besides HIV is quack science, like claiming the earth is flat, or the moon is made of cheese. Since 1985, when the virus that creates AIDS was isolated, every doctor on the planet, except Peter Duesberg, has known that HIV is the only cause of AIDS.

Duesberg’s denial of the entire body of research, and his rejection of thousands of scientific trials and papers, would be laughable if millions of lives weren’t at stake.  But his view is deadly.  Unfortunately, Duesberg convinced some people in Africa that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and as a result many people there needlessly became infected with the virus, and some have subsequently suffered and died.

It is frustrating – and frightening – for those of us in AIDS ministry to see someone like Dr. Duesberg play to people’s bias and prejudices.  For the past eight years we have worked with thousands of churches around the world and in America who have ministries to those infected and affected by AIDS.  No one deserves this illness, and we must not ignore those among us who are infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.  There are numerous ways to acquire the virus – sexual activity, blood transfusions, being born to an HIV positive mother, dirty needles –  but what matters isn’t  how a person became infected as much as how we will respond. People with living with the virus are people that Jesus created, loves, and died for. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that when you find someone bleeding on the side of the road, you don’t say “Was it your fault?” You just help them in love!

Let’s be very careful about what reality we deny; lives are at stake.

When the Warrens write that Duesberg convinced some in Africa that HIV and AIDS were not related, they are referring to the period of AIDS denial in South Africa from 2000 to 2005. In 2000, Duesberg was invited by South African President Thabo Mbeki to provide advice on AIDS policy. Subsequently, the South African government displayed antagonism toward AIDS treatment and prevention programs which involved anti-retro viral drugs (ARVs). Nicolo Nattrass, writing in African Affairs, said that President Mbeki questioned the science behind the epidemic. However, the consequences were devastating. According to a Harvard University press release and a study from the journal African Affairs, over 330,000 deaths could have been prevented if ARVs had been used. The Harvard release, citing a 2008 study, added that 35,000 babies were born with HIV due to failure to implement appropriate drug based prevention programs.

If anything, the African epidemic provides evidence counter to Duesberg’s theory. The epidemic there is driven by heterosexual activity. The stereotype about gay men spreading HIV via lots of drugs and sex is not applicable there.

Given what is at stake, the Warrens’ statement is important. The American Family Association has a sizable audience which includes GOP Presidential candidates. Confusion over something as basic as what causes AIDS could become a barrier to the progress made in ministry and treatment for those with HIV/AIDS. As the Warrens remind us, lives are at stake.

Uganda appoints GLB advocacy group to public health committee

In a surprising move, the government of Uganda appointed an organization aligned with GLB interests there to an important public health committee.

In a surprising, unprecedented action, the Uganda government has appointed LGBTI lobby group, Uhspa Uganda, to a committee to mainstream homosexual’s rights in Uganda’s Public Health Policies.
The Uganda Health and Science Press Association is a registered LGBTI network of groups.
The Health, Human Rights and Gender Committee is overseen by the Ministry of Health in Kampala. It brings together high profile activists, policy makers and donors to develop a Human Rights-based approach to health programming in Uganda.
A letter signed by Uganda’s Director General for Health Services, Mr Nathan Kenya-Mugisha, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, described Uhspa Uganda as a “key stakeholder” in mainstreaming minorities rights in health programming in Uganda.

All along opponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill have contended that the bill would drive gays away from any health or prevention services. This press release quotes Dr. Thomas Muyunga who confirms the effect of the AHB.

There are attempts by the Ministry of Health to support health delivery to LGBTI persons through the Most At Risk Populations network clinic at the national referral Hospital in Kampala. However, the clinic is poorly funded, and since the introduction of the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 in Ugandan Parliament, clients visiting the clinic have dropped for fear of being arrested.
According to Dr Thomas Muyunga, an activist and a medical doctor, some of the clinic’s clients, think the clauses of the Bahati Bill have already become law, even though the bill expired with the Eighth Parliament of Uganda earlier this year.

With reports that the bill may soon return, I suspect it will take time for this public health committee to engage frightened people to come in.

Ugandan Women with HIV speak out against criminalizing HIV

This from the Ugandan Parliament website:

Women oppose bill criminalizing HIV

Women living with HIV have petitioned Parliament opposing clauses of the HIV and Aids bill that   criminalize the act of spreading HIV. They argue that criminalization provisions of the bill will force persons living with HIV underground for fear of prosecution.

“Women Living with HIV will be disproportionately prosecuted, since women often learn their HIV status before their male partners”, said Apea Agnes the Executive Director of the National Community of Women Living with HIV in Uganda (NACWOLA).

She told the Speaker of Parliament that mandatory testing and unauthorized disclosure of results will violate the rights of persons living with HIV and limit the participation in voluntary HIV testing and counseling.

The petitioners appealed to government to scale up its investment in antiretroviral treatment and care to save more than 500,000 Ugandans in urgent need of ARVs.

Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon Edward Ssekandi hailed NACWOLA for championing the fight against HIV and reaffirmed the commitment of Parliament to funding activities aimed at reducing the spread of HIV.

He confirmed that the HIV Bill before Parliament was tabled with good intentions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

The Ugandan Speaker’s response is hopeful. He refers to the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill (go here for full text) tabled before Parliament in May. A similar argument can be advanced against the portion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which uses HIV status to determine the death sentence.

60 Minutes on US HIV/AIDS intervention in Uganda

Last night, 60 Minutes provided a sympathetic review of the PEPFAR intervention in Uganda. As I have discussed here before, the program has been immensely successful. The broadcast puts real faces on the success (especially the kids) and the problems (extraordinary footage of HIV informing sessions). Near the end of the segment, 60 Minutes interviewed Martin Ssempa but without any mention of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Bob Simon notes that the spread of HIV is driven by polygamy, “sugar daddies” and sexual networks – all heterosexual issues there. He also documents how US backed drug treatment has brought hope to HIV positive people. I could not help but feel touched by the faces of the children and the pain of the couples who found that one or both of them were HIV positive. The presence of Martin Ssempa without mention of his advocacy for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a striking omission in light of the potential for that bill to erode more progress on HIV. The main driver of HIV in Uganda is heterosexual behavior. Ssempa does speak about that, but it certainly seems to me that his recent anti-gay crusade has the potential to undo his good work by making gays the scapegoat for a problem that cannot be solved by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I addressed some of these issues in a November, 2009 commentary which I am reprinting after the break.

Continue reading “60 Minutes on US HIV/AIDS intervention in Uganda”

What percentage of young MSM have HIV?

Recently, a fuss arose over a quote regarding HIV and young men who have sex with men (MSM) from Regina Griggs in a OneNewsNow article regarding youth and sexual identity. She said (in context):

Research shows that individuals often go through periods of gender and sexual confusion as they grow from children to teenagers to adults. Griggs wonders why, then, would schools opt to send children along a dangerous path. “Why are we allowing people to tell them, ‘Try it — you might like it?’ Over 70 percent of young kids 13- to 24-years-old, men having sex with men, are now HIV-positive,” Griggs notes. (see editor’s note)

Griggs here is describing prevalence, which is the total number of people in a population with a certain disease at a given time. However, this is clearly incorrect, as other bloggers have pointed out.
She may have been referring to a fact sheet at the CDC called HIV/AIDS Among Men Who Have Sex with Men when she was quoted by ONN.

In the United States, HIV infection and AIDS have had a tremendous effect on men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM accounted for 71% of all HIV infections among male adults and adolescents in 2005 (based on data from 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting), even though only about 5% to 7% of male adults and adolescents in the United States identify themselves as MSM.

The ONN editors recently added a note pointing out the 71% figure from the CDC fact sheet.
This simply says that men having sex with men accounted for 71% of infections among all males reporting infections in 2005. MSM was a large driver of infections reported in 2005. While this is a sobering statistic, it does not mean what Mrs. Griggs said it means.
I do not know what the actual prevalence of MSM aged 13-24 with HIV is but it would need to be over 800,000 cases in order for her statistic to be true. This does not seem possible.
I arrived at that number by looking US Census data for 2005 which pegged the number of males in the US between 15-24 at about 19.7 million. The CDC estimates 5-7% of this age group as being MSM which yields 1.2 million males. If 70% of this group was HIV positive, then that would mean Mrs. Griggs is claiming that about 840,000 young men have HIV. Of course, these numbers are estimates since I rounded figures and used the Census data starting with age 15 and not 13 as the CDC does.
According to the CDC fact sheet, there are not that many people living with AIDS at present:

At the end of 2005, an estimated 217,323 MSM (191,362 MSM and 25,961 MSM who inject drugs) were living with AIDS, representing 67% of male adults and adolescents living with AIDS and 52% of all people living with AIDS.

These numbers are staggering enough without exaggeration or misinterpretation. I commented here because many have asked about the validity of these numbers and the quote made me curious about the scope of the issue.

Should HIV status ever be disclosed?

This is a question often debated among therapists in situations where an identifiable potential partner can be identified. For instance, here is a case where a husband’s sexual activities will be made a part of an action by an ex-wife where the husband may have (alleged by the ex-wife) infected her with the virus.

If you were a friend of this couple and you knew one of them had HIV, would you tell the other? If you were their marriage counselor? Recently, on the BoxTurtleBulletin blog, Daniel Gonzales said that HIV status should never be disclosed. His advice was in contrast to advice given on a gay dating website (although I don’t fully agree with the advice columnist either) Essentially, the question posed by the scenario was this: If a friend knows the HIV+ status of someone who might be a dating or sex partner, should the knowing friend warn the unsuspecting friend? The gay dating website published advice suggesting that the friend should be warned. Daniel said the unknowing friend should not have been told.

I disagree with Daniel. I would probably inform a friend about much less, if I knew it. And certainly in this case, I believe that such disclosures should be made where there is a clearly identified partner. I sometimes link to Box Turtle Bulletin when Jim and the gang discuss research since he often provides thoughtful commentary and analysis of research on gay related issues. However, I strongly disagree here. While I do not think that HIV status should always be disclosed, and I am sensitive to the issue of stigma, but, in a case like this, I cannot understand why privacy should trump safety. I do not believe it does.

UPDATE: Jim Burroway posted a lengthy response to the dust-up over the advice on his blog regarding HIV+ disclosure. I still disagree and left a comment about it there:

Bottom line, if I knew two friends who might hook up and I knew one of them had a disease that could be spread via intimate contact, I would tell my unsuspecting friend as well as the friend who had the condition that I was going to do so. Sure, I might have to deal with fall out; but I believe I might have to deal with a different kind of fall out if I say nothing.