Discussion: House of Numbers

Late this morning I finally saw Brent Leung’s acclaimed alternative HIV/AIDS documentary House of Numbers. This screening was part of another documentary that was filmed that day and I got to have brilliant discussions with many notable dissidents, including doctors, journalists and some of those affected by the mainstream consensus. I was also able to ‘inject’ my vitamin D seed into a lot of interested persons.

The first thing about this 90min film is that it is actually one-sided. It does have a large bias to the alternative view, but I don’t particularly see that as a negative. Most people are familiar with the traditional viewpoint, so cutting this into a 45-45 film would’ve just presented two diluted parts. Even so, this film would’ve still been engrossing had it been longer.

Perhaps the most impactive thing about it is that it isn’t just solely about data. HoN would not have won 13 awards if it solely talked about numbers. No, HoN focussed on the human cost of a dogma that I believe is completely bankrupt and only kept alive because the definition of HIV is about as easy to understand as letters in spaghetti soup.

Perhaps one of the most appalling stories was that of a baby adopted from Romania by an American couple, who tested their child at her place of birth and was found to be HIV- yet tested HIV+ in the US because of different criteria (and believe it or not you can test HIV+ in America and cross the border to Canada to be HIV- due to different interpretations of blood results – this is the only illness to be like this, worldwide). The girl was put on AZT – which is like a long term chemotherapy – and her parents were told she would not live beyond 3yrs old. The girl who was otherwise healthy developed severe leg cramps and other horrible symptoms. When her parents had decided to discontinue the treatment, to let her live “a happy 6 months than a lifetime of pain”, the girl got better. Doctors said she wouldn’t make it past 5. She is now 19. Had she continued on AZT like most persons she would almost certainly be dead. AZT kills more people than the illness it tries to cure, and in fact no one on the high dose in the 80s has survived. AZT does appear to have short-term therapeutic value for people who are HIV+ and symptomatic, but so does chemotherapy for cancer. Furthermore, the efficacy of AZT does not and has never proved that HIV exists because the test is for the antibody only and that antibody has not been connected to any virus ever, in the same way that the efficacy of statins does not prove the cholesterol hypothesis.

HoN underlines that poverty and drug addiction are the key causes of AIDS because they most frequently occur in these groups and are remedied by rather simple actions. The gay and haemophiliac communities have more complex reasons for their HIV prevalence, but again not likely because of a virus. Other people are also tarred as HIV+ because the test is not standardised, produces an alarming number of false positives, and no test kits have implicit endorsements from their manufacturers.

On the data side we hear stories of statistical manipulation (AIDS statistics are merely estimates that are amplified; not accurate counts) and there’s various interviews with a number of respectable scientists. The film does preach to the converted, but would be fairly jaw-dropping to those new to the debate.