The United Nations grossly overestimated both the scope and direction of AIDS infections, its scientists will admit later this week. The actual numbers in almost every theater have proven to be much less than UN reports indication, in some places less than half of that asserted. Outside researchers say that their demands for government funding motivated them to essentially lie about the gravity of the situation:
The United Nations' top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement.
AIDS remains a devastating public health crisis in the most heavily affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.
The latest estimates, due to be released publicly Tuesday, put the number of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year's estimate, documents show. The worldwide total of people infected with HIV -- estimated a year ago at nearly 40 million and rising -- now will be reported as 33 million. ...
"There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda," said Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."
So where did the estimates go awry? They relied too heavily on pregnant women as a leading indicator, not taking into account the obvious fact that pregnant women were more sexually active than others in the population. New studies show that India has less than half of the AIDS cases originally assumed, and even in sub-Saharan Africa, the UN overestimated the epidemic. They will retract previous estimates in Nigeria, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Former WHO AIDS expert James Chin thinks the numbers are still too high. He said 33 million puts the UN in the ballpark, but that his research indicates that the actual number of cases is no more than 25 million. That means that the UN overshot the entire epidemic by almost 40%. They wouldn't be retracting the 40 million if it hadn't been for Chin and other researchers like him, who saw the exaggerations for what they were -- a mechanism of guilt to force Western nations to pony up more money for UNAIDS.
This kind of scientific work casts new doubt on other issues that the UN champions as well. Their panel on global warming will publish a new position, insisting that the situation is critical and that nations need to act now in economically-crippling ways to curtail emissions. As Scott Ott notes rather trenchantly, they're basically saying that all of the people who don't really have AIDS will drown in the rising ocean levels instead of dying from HIV infections.
Why should we trust their scientists on this when they've consistently fibbed about AIDS? They have a track record of hysterics and exaggerations for political purposes. They've turned themselves into an advocacy group for statist policies, and any UN report on impending disasters should come with a five-pound sack of Morton's Salt in the future.