Mike Adams doesn’t understand basic high school immunology.

Mind-altering stupid from the self-proclaimed “Health Ranger”


Every science blogger needs a post poking holes in an article by Mike “Health Ranger” Adams – this is mine.

The setup.

Readers are directed to this recent article HIV vaccines cause 50 percent false positive rate in HIV tests, although, be warned: prolonged exposure can cause repeated palm-shaped imprints to form on your face.

Adams starts off by stating (correctly) that the standard HIV screening test, tests for antibodies against HIV, rather than the virus itself.

Well, yes. I am not sure why this is considered as surprising. The top result on google for “how does hiv test work” contains a pretty decent description including the phrase “it’s testing for HIV antibodies, not the actual disease.” Ah, the marvels of the internet, eh?

The US Centres for disease control has a more informative and perhaps reliable website HIV Testing Basics for Consumers, which under the tab “How do HIV tests work?” contains background information to the tests as well. So yes. HIV ELISA-based tests test for antibodies against HIV.

Every website I visited, UK or US, states that following the positive test with the ELISA kit, a further test (a western blot or possibly nucleic acid testing) is required to confirm the positive result. Which Adams doesn’t mention.

Adams also states “in some circumstances”  that the HIV test has a 50% false positive rate, but rates I’ve found are more like 1%. Adams doesn’t state what these circumstances are.

He then states that HIV vaccines cause upto 86% percent false positive rates with the HIV ELISA test. He even provides a journal in which this data is published – but obviously fails to provide us with a citation – that would be too much to ask. Here is it. It’s free.

It’s an interesting paper – and it contains data showing that vaccinating individuals against HIV causes those people to produce antibodies against HIV that cross reacts with tests designed to detect antibodies against HIV

This should not be a shock to anyone.

This is what your immune system does.

The first point to make is that 86% is the highest rate for a single vaccine causing cross reactivity (the adenovirus 5 type of vaccine).  The overall average level of “false positive” for all vaccine types and all ELISA test types was actually 42%. So that headline 86% figure Adams uses is misleading (check table 3 for a breakdown of the figures).

The cross-reactivity of the vaccine induced antibodies and the antibodies screened for in the HIV kit is not 100% – which again, is not particularly surprising. After all, there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat – or in this case, for the immune system to recognise the HIV virus, and given that multiple types of vaccines were included in the study, this is to be expected. Different people, depending on their genetic makeup, will also produce different antibodies against different epitopes on the same foreign body – in this case the virus.

So some of the HIV-negative people vaccinated against HIV in clinical trials produce antibodies against HIV which cross react with the current first-line HIV ELISA tests. I don’t think this should be particularly surprising to anyone with a GCSE in Biology, unless they’ve changed the syllabus dramatically in recent years.

It is also worth mentioning that with the second line HIV test – of the ~40% of people who tested false positive,  ~10% percent of those also go on to test positive on the western blot test. So this is 92/2176 = 4.2% This number is not mentioned anywhere in Adams’ piece. (Table 5 in Cooper et al)

It is nice to have data published confirming this though, so hats off to Cooper et al for doing the leg work.

The Payoff.

So having built up a “case” that the *cough* HIV test is unreliable *cough*, due to cross reactivity with vaccines currently still in clinical trials, Adams then goes off on one, and goes for a wander around HIV/AIDS land throwing out “false-positives” in every direction:

1) He says that having tested HIV positive your life is altered in all sorts of nasty ways – no employment, no healthcare insurance, etc. Of course, he’s right, but he hasn’t mentioned the follow-up test. Not once. His 86% figure is misleading. This is essentially scaremongering – one would imagine that participants in a clinical trial would have that information on their medical records.

2) Fantastic quote – “We have already established here on NaturalNews that HIV / AIDS vaccines are medically unnecessary” – Brilliant – he should really tell some doctors and nurses though. This assertion is backed up by a quote from Nobel Laureate Luc Montagnier (he of the homeopathy fame – alarm bells should start ringing at this point) that “We can be exposed to HIV many times without being … infected. Our immune system creates [antibodies] within a few weeks, if you have a good immune system.”

Yes we produce antibodies, but HIV/AIDS get around them by being an AQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME. Antibodies are only used to tag foreign objects for destruction by the immune system – antibodies are less effective at directing the immune system to kill viruses if there is no immune system left to kill the viruses! For more information – check out the wikipedia page for AIDS – it is as good a place as any to start, and is well referenced.

3) Western medicine causes disease instead of curing it –  a list of complaints about western medicine with not a single reference to back them up.

4) Finally – the money shot – links to clips of HIV/AIDS quack soft porn video, “House of Numbers”, and, oh yes, a link to somewhere when you can buy “House of Numbers” on DVD.

The conclusion.

Doctors are not infallible. Tests are not infallible. There are always going to be cases that slip through the net. The initial screening test has a false positive rate of roughly 1%. Of those that false positives, most will be shown to be false positives in the follow-up test. It is of course devastating for those few people who are misdiagnosed, and we must not forget that, but better that than having tests which have an unacceptable level of false negatives.

Those who participate in clinical trials are relatively rare and special cases – and should have the fact that they are participating in a clinical trial recorded on their medical notes.

But I think that the most important conclusion to this is RTFP – read the fine paper – and don’t trust Mike Adams’ interpretation of it.

(But hey! Don’t accept mine either – read the paper! This one is free!)

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2 Responses to Mike Adams doesn’t understand basic high school immunology.

  1. Neuroskeptic says:

    This is mind-meltingly stupid because creating anti-pathogenic antibodies is of course how vaccines work, so of course they will screw up antibody-based tests, almost by definition. I have anti-measles antibodies (actually I’m not sure how many remain now, but I did shortly after I got my MMR) and I’ve never had it. That’s why I’ve never had it

  2. […] Mike Adams doesn’t understand basic high school immunology. « Anomalous Distraction […]

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