UNAIDS, the global standard-bearer in the fight against HIV, has come under stinging attack in a new book accusing it of inflating numbers for fundraising purposes.
The most burning criticism, levied by American epidemiologist James Chin in his book “The AIDS Pandemic,” accuses UNAIDS of intentionally inflating its estimates of how many people have HIV in order to dramatize the epidemic and win more money from donors.
It would appear Chin shone a light on something serious as India recently dramatically reduced its estimate of people infected to a range of 2.0-3.1 million from 5.7 million. That’s not just a reduction in estimates. That’s half. India was talking about an epidemic but the new figures suggested a fairly low infection rate of 0.36 percent of the adult population. That’s down from the presumed 0.9 percent. That means it was wildly overestimated.
Because of the inflated numbers India had the tragic distinction of having more cases of HIV than any country in the world, including South Africa. So guess what? India was getting a larger percentage of AIDS money while South Africans died. Nice.
An equally sharp reduction was made in Cambodia, where the estimated infection rate was cut to 0.6 percent of adults from 1.6 percent.
UNAIDS regional director for Asia Prasada Rao said the decreases were evidence of improved science and said the dramatic reduction in the estimates showed the agency’s willingness to embrace new data. I love this logic. Yes we were wildly wrong about the number of AIDS cases but we’re showing how wrong we were which proves the system works. So by proving the system doesn’t work we have now proved it works. Hooray!
But Chin insists that UNAIDS had intentionally used the upper end of all its estimates to try to make the epidemic seem as devastating as possible. Now remember folks, to many of these guys it’s all about funding. And if one country has a pretend epidemic it gets money over the one with the real epidemic. And the UN doesn’t care if the numbers are accurate because it helps fundraising. I guess if South Africa could have more pretend people dying of AIDS that would help. But in the meantime they’ll just have real ones.