Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What’s next for the HIV/AIDS vigilantes at Treatment Action Campaign?

by Henry Bauer

Just a couple of months ago, I noted that the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa had urged the Gates Foundation not to proceed with trials comparing stavudine to tenofovir because stavudine is so much more toxic and should simply be replaced by tenofovir forthwith. I noted too how strange this seemed, given that the toxicity of tenofovir is high and well known, as I had noted in several posts; see“HAART is toxic: Mainstream concedes it, in backhanded ways” (2011/12/30).
What will TAC do next, given that the toxicity of tenofovir is becoming talked about increasingly?

“In their analysis of comprehensive VA electronic health records, the study authors found that for each year of exposure to tenofovir, risk of protein in urine — a marker of kidney damage — rose 34 percent, risk of rapid decline in kidney function rose 11 percent and risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) rose 33 percent. The risks remained after the researchers controlled for other kidney disease risk factors such as age, race, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and HIV-related factors. . . . Patients were tracked for an average of 1.2 years after they stopped taking tenofovir. They remained at elevated risk for at least six months to one year compared with those who never took the drug, suggesting that the damage is not quickly reversible . . . . ‘We do not know the long-term prognosis for these patients who stop tenofovir after developing kidney disease’”.
(Of course the authors of the reported study pointed out that HIV itself increases the risk of kidney damage. HIV itself is blamed by HIV/AIDS believers for every ill that antiretroviral drugs bring, for example “HIV-associated lipodystrophy”. Strange that all this supposed harm done by “HIV” was first noted only after antiretroviral drugs came into use.)
I confess that my query, what’s next for TAC, is replete with unashamed and undisguisableSchadenfreude.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa exemplifies as actively virulent a set of HIV/AIDS groupies and vigilantes as one could find anywhere. It is not too easy, though, to find out who exactly are the individuals who staff TAC. The website identifies only the “Leadership” of Vuyiseka Dubula, TAC General Secretary, and Nonkosi Khumalo, TAC Chairperson; and the Contact page gives the name only of the PR person (“Media Comment”), Caroline Nenguke. In this type of organization, these positions are figureheads, the real work being done by full-time staff.
The Annual Report for 2010 like the website gives no names of staff, not even who wrote the Report. It does mention — as had earlier news items — that funding has declined in a way that has made it necessary to retrench. Were I a donor, I would be unhappy at the Annual Report’s acknowledgement that the budget shows “General and Administrative” expenses at 21.7 million, not much below what was spent on “Programmes and Projects” at 27.6 million (currency is not indicated, presumably SA Rand). However, the Report does give a link  for the full financial reports, and the 2011 one has the names of 5 directors: NAC Khumola, V Dubula-Majola, N Geffen, MJ Heywood, and TT Diamini, as well as two who had resigned in 2010: A Achmat and TGP Klaas. Compensation for the 5 directors is shown as 777,019 (if in South African Rand, a bit over US$100,000), a very small part of the 21,700,000  “General and Administrative” expenses. What were the other parts?
Nathan Geffen is a member of “AIDStruth.org”, co-authored Edwin Cameron’s book, “Witness to AIDS”, and himself has written “Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action Campaign” (2010). He is active not only in HIV/AIDS matters but also politically, active among Jews who are critical of Israeli policies and actions. Mark Heywood is Director of the AIDS Law Project, whose website is as lacking in individuals’ names as is the TAC website.
I am irrevocably suspicious of organizations that do not give up front the names of all their significant staff and that do not in public documents itemize expenditures on salaries and associated benefits, just as I’m not interested in the views of bloggers and commenters who hide their identities. When things are not revealed, it seems reasonable to infer that revealing those things would discredit whoever wants them to remain hidden.

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