Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society

David R. Crowe, President
Phone: +1-403-289-6609
Fax: +1-403-206-7717

Roger Swan, Treasurer
Box 61037, Kensington Postal Outlet
Calgary, Alberta T2N 4S6
Phone: +1-403-220-0129

HIV Testing for immigrants in Canada

David Crowe
Alive Magazine

June 12, 2001, House of Commons, Ottawa: Inky Mark, Canadian Alliance MP demands to know why all immigrants to Canada should be tested for HIV, which could lead to 200 HIV–positive immigrants being treated, for a total cost of $40 million every year. Allan Rock, Minister of Health, and Elinor Caplan, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration respond that “testing is important because it leads to counselling and treatment”.

Statements by both parties reflect their political realities, not the facts of the matter. Alliance members feel it is wrong to spend scarce health care dollars on people who are not Canadian Citizens, and Liberals feel that Canada should be protected from diseases from outside through mandatory testing. Both parties are wrong, and nobody should get tested for HIV.

HIV testing is wrong because it will inevitably lead to false positives. Since most doctors have absolute faith in HIV tests, these people will be persuaded or bullied into accepting extremely toxic drug therapy. It can be shown that tests on a low–risk population may be extraordinarily inaccurate (see first sidebar) and, for HIV tests in particular, there is no way to separate the true from the false positive tests (see second sidebar)!

HIV testing of immigrants is particularly wrong, because they are much less likely to protest against AIDS drug therapy. Someone trying to get into Canada is likely to be on their best behaviour. And that includes following the orders of the Immigration Department, doctors and public health officials. Canada has shown that it is prepared to force medication on people through recent cases such as the Tyrell Dueck cancer case and the Sophie Brassard case, which forced this mother to give AIDS medications to her children against her will. In other cases, treatment is forced by denying benefits to people who refuse to conform, Canadian citizenship for example.

If the Alliance’s estimate of 200 HIV–positive immigrants every year were all to come down with AIDS, this could be the boost that Health Canada needs to keep the ‘epidemic’ going in Canada. According to their own statistics, new cases have fallen from a high of 1,758 in 1993 to only 261 in 2000. This is a figure that is rarely reported by a health bureaucracy anxious to keep their funding up.

The worst thing about HIV testing is that, as the Ministers state, it will lead to treatment. No matter how often the mainstream media reports AIDS drugs as ‘life saving’, they are actually shockingly toxic, and there are more and more scientific reports about their debilitating or fatal side effects. This year marked the first time that AIDS doctors officially admitted that their ‘hit hard, hit early’ treatment mantra that made Dr. David Ho Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1996 was horribly wrong. Even with this stunning, but limited admission, doctors are still likely to blame the virus, instead of the drugs, for everything bad that happens to their patients. AIDS becomes a hex. The HIV test is the curse, and the AIDS drugs make sure that the prediction comes true.

I recently talked to a woman whose life was destroyed by AIDS drugs. Given AZT, she developed peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) which reduced the ability of the blood vessels in her legs to pump blood. She can no longer work, because she cannot stand up for very long at a time. Many doctors would blame this disorder on HIV, even though it is a well documented side effect of antiviral medications, but this woman is different. She was never HIV–infected. Injured by a needle, she took the recommended preventive therapy, but never became HIV positive. The damage must have been from the therapy.

HIV testing of immigrants will just be a subsidy to the ailing AIDS industry and bureaucracy, suffering from a severe shortage of new patients. Unfortunately, the immigrants may lose their health, their ability to work and even their lives stimulating Canada’s medical economy.

Sidebar: Law of Numbers

All tests perform poorly in low risk groups. HIV tests are often quoted as 99.9% accurate. Even accepting the ridiculous notion that an antibody test can be this accurate (when it is known that antibodies persist after an infection has been eliminated), performance can be shown by simple mathematics to be terrible.

A 99.9% accurate test would have one false positive in every 1,000 negative people tested and one false negative in every 1,000 positive people tested. Consider a high risk group where 10% of people are actually infected. In 1,000 tests, there will be 100 true positives and 1 false. Not bad, but considering the impact of an HIV diagnosis (toxic drugs and a death sentence from doctors) this is still like playing Russian Roulette.

But, what about a group that is at very low risk? For example, less than 1% of the general population in North America is believed to be infected. Assuming 1%, 1000 tests will lead to 10 true positive tests and 1 false positive.

If we assume that the tests are only 99% accurate (still rather optimistic) and that perhaps only 0.1% of the group being tested are truly positive, then there will be 1 true positive and 10 false positives.

The problem is that there is no way of finding out whether 11 positive tests out of 1,000 people represent 10 true or 10 false positive results. What is needed is a ‘Gold Standard’ and, for HIV, we do not have one.

Sidebar: Gold Standard: Testing the test

Imagine a sharply dressed man selling a device that, he claims, can cheaply and simply can test for Gold. After the Bre–X scandal, you would probably not believe him unless you had seen extensive testing done on various known concentrations of Gold, and with elements likely to register falsely.

Medical tests, such as those for HIV, are no different. To be considered accurate, they must themselves be tested against something that is indisuptible evidence for the pathogen. With viruses, nothing other than isolation of the virus from people with AIDS (and lack of isolation from healthy people known to be uninfected) followed by characterization of its proteins and genetic materials will suffice. Shockingly, in the 20 years of research into AIDS, this experiment has never been performed.

How then, is it claimed that HIV tests are so extraordinarily accurate? Testers of these tests have confused reproducibility with accuracy. If testing with two different tests produces the same result most of the time, they are considered to be accurate. But considering that the major HIV tests are both antibody tests, it is quite conceivable that they are often both wrong.

One of the seminal papers that claimed high HIV test accuracy (Burke, NEJM, 1988) actually shows that, by today’s standards (two ELISA tests followed by one Western Blot test), the tests are extraordinarily inaccurate! Only about 50% of the second ELISA tests registered positive and only about 30–40% of the Western Blots. By using a sequence of 7 tests, he was able to find a small number of samples that repeatedly tested positive. Nothing in his work connected the test to HIV.