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Testing malfunction 

To the editor,

For someone that I don't know, I'm very fond of Stephen Lewis. He works his butt off to help people, people who are normally pushed aside or ignored especially. If that doesn't show goodness of character, then I don't know what would. There was one thing about The Coast's recent article ("Struggle for life," October 20), though, that I found unsettling: that being his insistence on the need for anti-retroviral drugs in African "AIDS" patients.

I put AIDS in quotations because, in fact, virtually no African patients are ever even tested for HIV. The tests are just too expensive, and also terribly unreliable (with a very high false positive rate). There is no possible way they could confirm the presence of HIV antibodies in more than just a tiny fraction of the suspected cases.

Instead, they use something called "presumptive diagnosis," a time and money saving device accepted by the WHO. Basically, if an African has flu-like symptoms, weight loss, coughing, itching, diarrhea, etc., for a persistent period of time (three days or more), then AIDS is assumed, no testing necessary.

If that same system of diagnosis were accepted here, the AIDS population would explode overnight. But of course, it would be an artificial explosion.

It seems pretty clear (to me at least) that the majority of premature deaths in Africa can be traced back to filthy living conditions and chronic malnutrition. These conditions in themselves can certainly cause severe immune deficiency and symptoms that are nearly indistinguishable from AIDS, no HIV required. Unfortunately, plain old malnutrion, starvation and squalor are nowhere near as headline grabbing or as glamourous as AIDS, and therein, it seems, lies the main problem.

Many billions of dollars are poured into safe-sex campaigns and highly toxic anti-HIV drugs for impoverished Africans, and billions are also being siphoned out of community programs for this same purpose. That's when you get, as journalist Liam Scheff puts it, "no clean water, but plenty of condoms."

I highly recommend reading Liam Scheff's article "The Hidden Face of HIV" to discover an alternative viewpoint on AIDS. The article, along with many other heretic quotes on the same subject, can be found at www.whale.to/w/quotes.html.

By Candace Fougere

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