reply to post by Sinter Klaas
Let's hit the highlights of the original post, first. Sinter Klaas states that, among the uneducated HIV denialists, there are four claims: (1) AIDS
is man made, (2) HIV tests are not reliable, (3) HIV has never been reliably identified, and (4) antiviral therapy given to HIV patients results in
AIDS, not the virus itself.
I'll tackle these one by one. I will cite sources with the traditional brackted number system ( such as  ), which will link to a reference, should
anyone wish to check my reference or read the studies I've cited.
MYTH 1: AIDS IS MAN-MADE
First, we should correct an error of notation in the original post. AIDS is a syndrome (hence the S in AIDS). It is simply the state of having
acquired an immunodeficiency, and can be genetic, the result of an infection, or the result of environmental issues. That being said, the most common
infectious cause of such a state is human immunodeficiency virus (the most common overall being malnutrition)
. What the original post was trying to suggest (and please
correct me if I'm wrong) is that the human immunodeficiency virus was man-made.
Having established that it is the virus we're interested in, showing that it isn't man-made is rather simple. Historically, the story goes that
HIV was first seen in the 1970s. While this was certainly when it gained prominence, scientists have since found HIV in samples dating back to 1959,
all from Africa, suggesting a region of origin 
. If you have access to the journal
"Nature", the article (which is a wonderful read) is in the February 5, 1998 issue. Now, having established that HIV at least as far back as 1959,
let's examine the scientific community at that time. In 1953, Watson, Crick and Franklin discovered the structure of DNA, though any sort of
manipulation was still beyond the reach of then-modern science 
. Though they were
able to show the structure, the actual nature of DNA, that is, the basic hereditary unit of all human cells, was still unknown. It wasn't for another
five years, until the Meselsohn-Stahl experiments 
, that the
scientific world would realize what, exactly, DNA does. Now, couple this with the fact that HIV uses RNA, a related molecule whose role wasn't
discovered until 1959 
, and we're in a pickle.
Let's take these last two bits of information into consideration. If HIV were discovered to have existed in 1959 (or even 1970, if we're being
generous), then that means scientists somehow managed to manipulate existing viruses (or novel proteins) with genetic material they had only
discovered the nature of the year prior. Currently, we are still having difficulties manipulating viruses, and that's with fully-sequenced genomes,
DNA sequenced to order, and libraries of previous genetic experiments to draw upon. How on earth would scientists in the 1950s have been able to
perform such delicate work with DNA when they essentially only knew that it existed, and that it carried hereditary material? That's not even taking
into account our limited knowledge of glycoproteins (the main reason HIV is so dangerous) in the 1950s. We also lacked the sequencers and
enzyme-synthesis abilities necessary to grow personalized viruses in culture in the 1950s.
MYTH 2: HIV tests are not reliable
Again, we have an error, either of notation or omission, by the original poster. There are many types of HIV tests, some more precise than
others. The type of test used depends entirely on the setting, as well as whether the patient has had a previous positive or negative result
previously. We also need to establish two terms: sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity
is defined as the number of true positives divided by
the sum of true positives and false negatives, thus negative results in a highly sensitive test will efficiently rule OUT a disease. Specificity
is defined as the number of true negatives divided by the sum of true negatives and false positives, thus a highly specific test will identify
all truly negative results and positive results can role IN a disease.
With those definitions in mind, let's look at the two main types of HIV tests used in clinical practice: ELISA and Rapid Test. The Rapid Test is
typically used in "minute clinics" and general practitioner settings. It can be performed orally, and measures the presence of anti-HIV antibodies.
The drawback to this test is that it requires the person to have been infected for 3-4 months, as your body needs to have mounted some level of an
immune response. This test is 99.5% sensitive (meaning few, if any, false negatives) and over 99.9& specific (meaning very few, if any, false
positives). This data has been demonstrated both by clinical trials, as well as by the CDC and FDA
. Any positive result in a Rapid Test is follwed by a MANDATORY second test using a
different method. This protocol MUST be followed by federal regulations to ensure a positive diagnosis. The second test, ELISA, is the most common
"second test" used to confirm a Rapid Test. This test again relies on anti-HIV antibodies to be present, though alternative PCR methodologies can be
employed if early-infection state is suspected in the patient. Blood is drawn and then cross-reacted with known samples of HIV, as well as diseases
known to cause a false-positive (such as lupus and syphilis). If a positive result is produced, the sample is analyzed via Western blot to confirm the
identify of the antibody, to ensure it is specifically anti-HIV 
As shown above, HIV testing is a multi-level and multi-platform process. It isn't one, single test, and it isn't something done haphazardly. To
suggest that the testing is inaccurate or unreliable shows a clear misunderstanding of how a patient is tested following an initial positive result.
In all clinical experiences where I have had a patient test positive by OraQuick Rapid Test, they have had no less than two further testing methods
(typically ELISA and Western blot) before I felt comfortable telling them they have formally been diagnosed with HIV. This is not my personal
standard, it is the federal standard that ALL physicians are required to follow before tendering such a diagnosis.
[edit on 4/9/2010 by VneZonyDostupa]