HEAL London

Health Education and AIDS Liaison - a more intelligent approach

Articles for those questioning HIV testing, viral load and CD4 count diagnoses and what it might mean for them

Porn star has false-positive HIV diagnosis

Porn star has acknowledged false-positive HIV diagnosis
An adult film performer who was diagnosed HIV positive causing the whole porn industry to shut down in California has now re-tested and been diagnosed HIV negative. The multi-billion dollar industry can now breathe a huge sigh of relief and resume production. Another porn performer was diagnosed HIV positive late in 2010. Derrick Burts left the porn industry and became an advocate for the use of condoms in pornography. But this story ought to be thought-provoking for two reasons.
Now, there are probably relatively few people who don’t use the internet for porn at least on occasions. Or at least, relatively few men. We know plenty of people certainly do, because otherwise the porn industry in California wouldn’t be ‘multi-billion dollar’. And the internet is one of the easiest way of distributing films and free teasers for films that you can then buy or special interest porn websites you can subscribe too. Actually, it’s quite difficult to even avoid adverts for porn websites, and the only reason people advertise so much is because it’s worth it.
So, among men who occasionally watch porn on the internet – in other words, men – and who have at least half a brain (the two are not mutually exclusive) it must surely have come to their notice that there’s a heck of a lot of porn being made involving penetration without condoms. There’s a lot of it about, and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference whether it’s straight or gay porn.
In a survery conducted purely for the purposes of research as I’m sure you’ll understand, I did a review of newest releases of short gay films on Xtube.com. I picked newest specifically to avoid the potential bias inherent in the ‘popular’ category that may have skewed the results. In films involving penetration using the penis and where it was possible to tell if condoms were used or not, over a third of the films were not using condoms. It may not have been a statistically significant result from the number of films I counted that met the criteria, but it accorded with my observations over a period of time.
What’s unusual about the Californian porn industry is that whenever someone gets diagnosed HIV positive it makes worldwide news, as if it proves the connection between sex and being diagnosed HIV positive. But with so much porn being made involving unprotected sex, and someone being diagnosed HIV+ seemingly only every couple of years or so, surely those who actually use their brains ought to be realising, “That doesn’t seem very often in relation to the amount of unprotected sex being filmed”. And you’d be right. Especially when people are led to believe by the medical profession that you can catch HIV on average after just a couple of times being exposed to it.
In reality though, the evidence does not support that claim. Quite apart from the fact that there is no credible evidence that proves sexual transmission of HIVfrom one person to another ever (Step 1, prove HIV exists. Step two… oh wait, we haven’t managed step 1 yet), there is not even credible evidence that HIV diagnoses are sexually transmitted to any meaningful extent. The Padian study, now being ‘re-interpreted’ in an unscientific bid to show that the use of condoms is effective, actually comprehensively demonstrated the unlikeliness of sexual transmission at the very least. In fact, with zero HIV positive diagnoses in the originally-HIV-negative diagnosed partners, despite 282 couple-years of sex with intermittent condom use and a variety of sexual practices, it comprehensively undermined claims by doctors that it was a realistic possibility. Every other robust study has shown from an epidemiological perspective that the claim of sexual transmission just does not add up. This is backed up by individual stories of people who’ve been in long relationships and their partners have remained diagnosed HIV negative despite having unprotected sex, or having children.
Given that there are so many non-HIV factors already documented to trigger false positive HIV test results, even when occasionally someone is diagnosed HIV positive after having sex with someone who has also been diagnosed HIV positive, given that it seems to happen so rarely, the question has to be asked, “could it be a coincidental false positive due to other non-specific factors?”, Because when the law of large numbers is taken into account, coincidences will happen and what seems to happen is that people make a simplistic correlation and assume there is inherent causation. Unfortunately humans being such powerful pattern-recognition machines, sometimes we spot patterns that are simply coincidental or incidental rather than causual. Ie, by only looking at the positive incidences and not comparing it to the number of negative ones (where the correlation didn’t happen), we can be easily misled.
So really, the claim that the porn performer Derrick Burts had HIV, with the suggestion that he appears to believe that he got it through condomless-sex while working as a porn performer is very misleading from a transmission-claim point of view, never minding any questions over the validity of HIV tests.
And that’s where we come to the next interesting bit: the acknowledged false-positive HIV diagnosis of the anonymous porn star this time round. It’s only acknowledged of course because they were given two different diagnoses. But even if both had been positive, one does not ‘confirm’ the other. They are not like independent throws of the dice, where the result of one has no effect on the result of the other. As HIV tests are supposed to be measuring the same thing, a positive diagnosis on one is likely to be the same thing that triggers a positive diagnosis on another one, regardless of what it is. Yet when HIV tests are being evaluated they tend to use comparison with other tests to ‘confirm’ their results. False positives are regarded so simply because another test disagrees with their result, whereas positive results where both are measuring something that has nothing to do with HIV – which we would regard as applying to all HIV positive diagnoses – are presumed to be true HIV positives simply because both tests agree. That’s like asking two known liars a question, and assuming that if both give the same answer, then the answer must be true, ignoring any motivation they might both individually have for giving the same answer.
What normally happens of course is that once someone has been diagnosed HIV positive once, testing normally stops. Doctors positively discourage having more tests done, and procedures within at least Britain make it unlikely anyone will be diagnosed HIV negative after being diagnosed HIV positive once, if the patient gives the same date of birth and address information as when they were first diagnosed.
But at least there has been a publicly acknowledged false HIV positive diagnosis. And hopefully that will encourage more people to start asking more searching questions about the validity of their initial HIV positive diagnosis.

HEAL London doesn't normally show adverts, but this one emphasises the point in the article

An adult film performer who was diagnosed HIV positive causing the whole porn industry to shut down in California has now re-tested and been diagnosed HIV negative. The multi-billion dollar industry can now breathe a huge sigh of relief and resume production. Another porn performer was diagnosed HIV positive late in 2010. Derrick Burts left the porn industry and became an advocate for the use of condoms in pornography. But these two stories ought to be thought-provoking for two reasons.


Read more: Porn star has false-positive HIV diagnosis

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This issue goes to the heart of the problem with HIV/AIDS and really highlights the fundamental problem with medical science as a whole at present, especially with the regular threat of world-wide, life-threatening epidemics such as bird-flu, SARS, swine-flu, or next month's pandemic-du-jour.

What happens in principle is that some apparent pattern of ill-health amongst a number of people is noticed by health officials, which raises the question, "What could the cause of this be?"  When a number of people who have something in common with each other (eg, they live in the same geographical area, work in the same place, have been part of a network of people among whom there may have been a sexual connection) get a similar set of symptoms, it suggests there may be some factor in the community that could be affecting multiple people simultaneously.

Read more: How can all HIV positive diagnoses be false positives?

HIV test designer reveals shocking truth

HIV test designer Dr Rodney Richards and cell biologist Dr Andrew Maniotis are two of Dr Jonas Moses guests in this special report on public health policy. Debating also is guest Audrey Serrano who recently won $2.5m for incorrect diagnosis as HIV+, and for the pain and distress she suffered as a result for taking unnecessary and debilitating AIDS drugs and having her daughter taken away, from which she is still recovering.

Rodney Richards and Andrew Maniotis reveal a few of the substantial - and shocking - fundamental flaws in testing for HIV and other diseases and their ramifications for both individuals and publich health policy.

Read more: HIV test designer reveals shocking truth

I was positive now I'm negative - what's going on?

Have you ever been diagnosed HIV positive at one point, yet later on decided to have another test and found you were diagnosed HIV negative instead? Have you been told that it couldn't happen, or that it is 'extremely rare', or that 'your first positive diagnosis must have been wrong'?

People are led to believe that HIV tests are reliable in that they reliably detect HIV and that there are rarely ever any false positives. And so, even though you may be dutifully getting tested regularly as the doctors want, especially if you are a gay man, AS SOON AS you get one positive diagnosis - testing stops. You may be told there is no point in doing any more because, " That's it: You've got it for life."

Read more: I was positive now I'm negative - what's going on?

I've been diagnosed HIV+ - should I re-test?

The short answer is “Yes”. The longer answer is “Yes, but…”, and the ideal answer is "No". Basically we recommned HIV test avoidance completely, but we recognise that for psychological reasons it is not always possible.

Let me clarify. Firstly, I’m going to challenge the assertion that anyone is definitely HIV+. Essentially the reason for this is that the notion that HIV tests are accurate is absolutely risible, and the evidence for this is not only in HIV test kit literature, it is voluminous in medical literature too. There are so many other factors that can cause repeatedly positive diagnoses on HIV tests, which include ‘poorly understood cross-reactions in healthy people’ (from an HIV test kit documentation) that everyone should consider their HIV positive diagnosis suspect at the very least.

Read more: I've been diagnosed HIV+ - should I re-test?