Overestimating AIDS by Phillip E. Johnson

Overestimating AIDS

The Boston Globe reported in late June that estimates of the number of people in many countries with AIDS have been dramatically overstated because of errors in the statistical models used to estimate the number and other factors. The Globe said that analysts are cutting the estimates of those infected with HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) in many nations by half or more. Rwanda’s figure is being cut from eleven to five percent, and Haiti’s from six to three percent.

The newspaper candidly reported that any finding that the epidemic may have been overstated will not be welcomed by activists who have devoted their careers to fighting HIV and do not want to see any HIV money diverted to meeting other needs. I presume that the thousands of HIV researchers and the multinational pharmaceutical companies that sell the expensive drug cocktails honestly believe what they say, but there are more than enough billions at stake in the estimates to motivate a tendency to believe the worst, which is actually the best if you are thinking in dollars.

In fact, the prevailing sentiment in AIDS research is that it is reprehensible to say or do anything that might cause the public to doubt the severity of the epidemic, because any doubts may cause people to risk unsafe sex, to neglect to take the nausea-inducing medications that are supposed to extend their lives, and, although this is left unsaid, to lose some of their enthusiasm for funding AIDS programs generously.

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Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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