Harm Reduction: How Australia Stopped HIV

In 1985 before the introduction of needle and syringe programmes (NSP) 90% of Australian injection drug users reported sharing injection equipment. By 1994 following introduction of NSPs this figure had fallen to 20%. In 2009 this figure was around 15% possibly reflecting the constant number of distributions from NSP programmes over the previous decade.

One of the most powerful modes of resistance to the spread of HIV/AIDS is Harm Reduction (HR) measures.

In Australia, HR exists as one of three pillars of Harm Minimisation (HM) – our official illicit drug control policy. The other two pillars are Supply Reduction and Demand Reduction. Reduction in supply receiving the lions share of funding directs energy at reducing international and domestic supply. Reduction in demand receiving less funding delivers programmes and initiatives designed to reduce the demand for drugs within communities.

Harm Reduction receiving the least funding from the HM pile targets the harm to individuals that eventuates from behaviour. HR has always drawn condemnation from conservative groups because of the association with drug use and sex. Initially men who have sex with men (MSM). Then later through maximal exploitation of drug using pop culture. Nonetheless, study after study comparing countries and districts within countries to have implemented HR or not done so, show a stunning success in favour of HR.

This post will look almost exclusively at IV drug use. HR for Injection Drug Users (IDU) includes provision of clean needles and sterile water, swabs, sharps containers for disposal and specialised filters capable of removing bacteria. Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) including methadone and buprenorphine and safe injecting facilities are pivotal aspects of HR. Heroin on prescription is not available in Australia but has shown unprecedented success as a HR measure where it has been implemented.

Despite the evidence supporting HM as an effective policy and the reality that Supply Reduction [law enforcement] is the most highly funded pillar, Aussies are still subject to notions such as “Tough on drugs” and code words such as Drug Free Australia’s Harm Prevention. Intuitively it sounds fine. Why minimise harm if you can prevent it?

Yet on examination “harm prevention” is the abandonment of HM for the reintroduction of Just Say No approaches. Known to have had deleterious effects on self esteem, no effect on lowering drug use and providing the field upon which drug use flourished, Just Say No quite simply failed, and failed Epically. Today of course, skeptics are well aware of how beliefs and behaviours are reinforced through attacking them. Harm Prevention even more so is code for punitive, custodial and forced behaviour control.

It is at times perplexing as to why so much energy is spent on attacking HM entirely. Supply Reduction however is based in part upon the reality that people want, seek, use and enjoy illicit drugs. Education to accompany this is open and honest – not promotion of illicit drug use . Yet to the conservative mind the idea that their children, friends or the community at large is the demographic from which drug demand comes, is morally untenable.

With HR it is aspects of this pillar that equally cannot be accepted. To the conservative mind, just as condoms cause AIDS and promote sexual promiscuity so too do clean needles, safe injecting facilities and safe injecting education encourage drug use. Drug Free Australia write:

We need to re-focus our drug policy and practice on an approach that prioritises primary prevention, if we are to see any real change in the health and wellbeing of our current and future generations of young people. We need to acknowledge that Australia has one of the highest rates of drug use, because of a priority on Harm Minimisation rather than Harm Prevention, and we now need to take a leaf out of the books of the policy makers in the UK and United States. Both these countries have given greater emphasis to prevention initiatives, while still aiming to help people who are drug dependent, to recover.

The towering dishonesty inherent in this nonsense is typical of the tactics used by DFA in what has become over just a few years, one of the most immoral lobbying groups on the illicit drug landscape. Australia has high levels of cannabis use and abuse. This is handy in arguing that we have high drug use generally. A synopsis of the above is simply: Harm Minimisation has caused Australia to have one of the highest drug use levels in the world. We should be doing what America and the UK do.

The UK get a mention because they reclassified cannabis to a Class B (like speed/other amphetamines) from a Class C drug and punish users accordingly. Of 2.3 million USA prisoners in 2010, over 65% or 1.5 million meet DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. On top of this another 458,000 have a history that meets DSM IV criteria for addiction, were under the influence when they committed their crime, committed a crime to finance the purchase of drugs or were incarcerated for a drug law violation.

Between 1960 and 1990 official crime rates in Finland, the USA and Germany were similar. Incarceration in Finland dropped 60%, remained stable in Germany and quadrupled in the USA, driven primarily by drug convictions.

Today around around 80% of USA prisoners are incarcerated due to illicit drugs. 11% are receiving some type of “treatment”. The last thing Aussies need is a dose of the USA nightmare.

What of the impact of changing our strategy on HIV and consequently other types of blood borne virus transmission? The graph below is from a TED talk by Sereen El-Feki, vice-chair of the Global Commission on HIV and the law:

HIV infection in Injection Drug Users

Whilst Thailand and Russia have ignored Harm Reduction and Australia and Switzerland have embraced it the USA and Malaysia employed only some Harm Reduction techniques. Should Australia embrace USA tactics our prison population will explode, HIV infection in IV drug users will increase by about eight times the present rate and treatment – presently some of the best in the world with plunge to 11%. The cost to the public health purse would simply gut present programmes and destroy any hope of improvement for say, dental, mental health, public hospital care, nursing home care etc.

There is a 4 minute out-take from Sereen El-Feki’s TED talk in April this year below. Or download MP3 here.

The first case of AIDS was reported in Australia in 1983. At that time morbidity rates to rival World War II were expected. Following the innovative approach of HR, levels of infection in all demographics fell from 2,500 per year to 500 in the decade following inception of HR. This infection rate has remained stable.

At the time, initiation of clean needle supply contravened the states Drug Offensive which, already highly criticised, had regrettably escalated drug use and criminalisation via the failed “Just Say No” approach. The pilot programme ran from St. Vincents Drug and Alcohol Service on November 13 1986. It was run in the suburb of Darlinghurst. An evaluation recommended they should be adminstered by social workers, drug agencies, pharmacies, medical professionals and urged:

The urgent widespread introduction of needle exchange programmes in all states and territories

There needed to be an amendment to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act following which NSW pharmacies sold “anti-AIDS kits”. By mid 1989 there were 40 public outlets run across Sydney. By 1994 there were 250 outlets run by NGOs, government agencies and pharmacists distributing 3.5 million syringes annually. For the year 1993-1994 10.3 million syringes were distributed across Australia. The USA with 15 times the population of Australia distributed 8 million syringes in 1994-1995.

More comprehensive analyses refuted the concerns of increasing drug use. No increase in drug use was seen in any country that had instigated needle exchange and more so, attendance at rehabilitation and abstinence programmes had increased. Australia’s Commonwealth Department of Health (now Dept. of Health and Ageing) estimated that 25,000 cases of HIV were averted in the 12 years from 1988 – 2000 due to needle exchange alone (page 10 – 3.5.3).

The infection rate among Aussie IDU sat at around 3%. Users who were also MSM had an infection rate of 27%. In Russia where HR for drug users was denied, the figure for IDU was between 75 and 90%. One study in 1997 looked at 81 European cities with and without needle exchange programmes. Seroprevalence (measured from the presence of HIV within blood taken from used syringes) increased 5.9% annually in cities without clean needle distribution, and decreased 5.8% in cities with needle exchange.

In an astonishing comparison, Edinburgh with no NSP experienced a 65% HIV infection rate amongst IDU. Glasgow, less than an hours drive away and with NSP experienced a 4.5% increase in HIV infection amongst IDU. The one issue Australia faced was return of used syringes. Users were placing them in sharps bins. Yet to return any syringes to Exchanges meant risking being questioned by police. A used syringe is evidence of illicit drug use and this acted as a disincentive to return items for safe disposal.

Of note however is that fears and front page headlines of beach goers and joggers stepping on syringes and undergoing “agonising waits” for blood tests to be cleared of HIV infection are out of proportion. HIV dies very quickly once outside the body and syringes on beaches have been discarded into drains, washed out to sea and then beached. Nonetheless despite the absence of actual transmission it is an unpleasant experience which can be lessened by removing all offences for possession of a used syringe.

Clearly, Australia’s decision to take the necessary steps and bring together members of drug using demographics, gay rights advocates and prostitutes collectives and allow them to consult upon and shape this programme was one of it’s greatest public health initiatives ever.

Between 2000-2009 NSPs have averted 32,050 new cases of HIV and 96,666 Hepatitis C infections. Needles distributed increased from approximately 27 million to 31 million in that decade. For every one dollar invested, four dollars have been saved. 140,000 Disability Adjusted Life Years were gained over the same decade.

Still, conservative biblical fundamentalist group Drug Free Australia boldly inform us that Return On Investment is quite wrong and should show an expense. In earlier posts you can access from the tag on the right, I highlight how they cherry pick phrases and select data out of context. At other times they simply dismiss WHO findings based solely on the reviews of just one Swedish researcher, Dr Kerstin Käll.

So to be very clear, Dr Kerstin Käll, working for the Swedish government who are dodging UN demands to establish more Needle Exchanges and accelerate HR or remain in breach of the international right to health, conducted no research but criticised methodology that was favourable of NSP success. Her own research argues regular testing for HIV is more of a prevention – yes prevention – than clean needle supply.

It’s easy to get confused because whilst Käll supports NSP programmes as reducing hepatitis C in prisons DFA refute any change in HCV attributable to NSP programmes… anywhere. They also lobby stridently against the establishment of needle exchange in Australian prisons. Of course, despite the evidence above they insist the impact of NSP on HIV is “inconclusive”.

Ultimately it’s irrefutable how successful Harm Reduction has been in controlling the spread of blood borne viruses. Paramount amongst these is HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B. The most significant and visionary measure to now apply would include steps to decriminalisation and regulation.

Today however, this is where Australia is falling behind.

The Australian Vaccination Network

From the very beginning in 1994, the AVN has always been a membership and donation-driven organisation, relying on the support of our members… All memberships include a subscription (either hard copy or digital – your choice) to the AVN’s magazine, Living Wisdom. (Meryl Dorey – AVN president)

Is The Australian Vaccination Network Australia’s leading Charity Fraud?

In 2009 a small group of concerned Aussies began to raise dissent with health authorities about a group of vaccine conspiracy theorists known as The Australian Vaccination Network. It very quickly became apparent that something much darker was unfolding behind the locked and censored doors of the leader of this cult-like group, Meryl Wynn Dorey.

The AVN was like a black hole for money and their Charitable Fundraising Authority was the Event Horizon. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were sucked into their two bank accounts as promise after promise and scam after scam was presented to members. It seemed that every remote issue related to vaccination was cause for a new fund raising drive.

The vital need to test vaccines, the need to protect health workers from vaccination, the need to save school girls from HPV vaccines, the need to allow unvaccinated children into childcare, the need for $52,000 seemingly just to have and to hold from this day forth. The need to advertise about vaccines and autism, the need to help a family “on the run from vaccination”, a competition to beat a $500 donation, the need to fund legal fees for another family in court (over $100,000). On and on and on came the demands for money.

Yet no project ever eventuated. No family received so much as one cent. They were abandoned to the courts with the AVN nowhere in sight. No feedback on any of this money has ever been provided.

Then the little group discovered the AVN’s false use of business names. AVN members were paying to fund AVN material to be produced and passed to new mums under the auspices of certain businesses. Except the businesses had never heard of this and recoiled at the mention of the AVN. It was a complete scam to fleece members. Then came the “information packs” being sold. Except they were full of stolen copyright material. Once again, scam after scam going on and on with excuse after excuse.

The totality of fraud is mind boggling and after a couple of initial jaw droppers, I’ve only returned to writing about it recently.

As you’ll see in the video below the text at the top of this article is misleading. Dorey’s genius is in picking a passing demographic. Expectant parents will be drawn in to her scams, subscribe, join and then be overwhelmed by the reality of a new family or a new child. Few will chase up the one or two hundred dollars that nice lady took. Like all scams, embarrassment and red tape, with the possibility of more expense to get back much less inhibits victims from taking serious action.

Consider the 205 professional members I can glean from Meryl’s listing at present. One can pay up to $1,500 for a Gold Professional. It includes:

Gold Professional Membership to the Australian Vaccination includes a Subscription to Living Wisdom Magazine  for 1 year

Now, this is curious. Some ordinary members have asked why there was only one magazine out of the nine promised from the start of 2011 to the middle of 2012. They were told if they weren’t so stupid and actually read the announcement Meryl published they’d know that “6 magazines per year” now just meant “6 magazines… when the AVN is good and ready”.

Yes the new Join Us page has no mention of any time limit you silly members. Then again it isn’t very clear in explaining that you may need to leave the subscription to your grandchildren:

Membership includes 6 editions of Living Wisdom magazine (either hard copy or digital or both if you choose) and there are discounts available for 12 and 18 issue memberships.

Eighteen issues?! At the present rate that’s going to take twenty seven years… and counting.

So, why are Gold Professionals still being sold yearly subscriptions as above? Indeed, what of professionals who bought annual or three year memberships because of the frequent and regular exposure promised in the Living Wisdom magazine? Gold and Silver Professionals were promised:

A Healthy Choices ad in Living Wisdom magazine for 3 issues – value $450.00

So whether professionals paid $275 for one year or $700 for three years, let’s check what they relied on in making that decision.

  • A free listing for your business or practice in Living Wisdom magazine and on the AVN website. Just hang in there another 18 months or more.
  • 6 issues of Living Wisdom magazine in the printed format. At one issue per 18 months that’s going to take nine years.
    The magazine covers the most up-to-date news happening around the world involving vaccination. The last issue contained a PDF by Judy Wilyman’s supervisor that’s all over the internet for free, and some whacky conspiracy claims arguing against the real science of vaccination that you copied and pasted from elsewhere or just made up.
  • 6 issues of Living Wisdom magazine in the digital format
    Digital magazines are the way of the future, with a simple click of a button you can have a magazine downloaded to your computer to read at your leisure. The “click of a button” eh? My that does sound all space agey. Thank goodness they’re “the way of the future” because we have no way of predicting how the world will even look by the time they all come out.
    A link will be emailed to you every time we have a new magazine ready for you to read. All you will need to do is click on it and you will have all our great articles at your fingertips. Of course by 2021 and beyond information will be beamed directly to your eye lens display, and the magazine will simply appear as if floating right in front of you.
  • 10 free issues of Living Wisdom online magazine to give away to clients or colleagues. Remember to leave instructions in your will so your descendents can visit your dying clients or colleagues, or perhaps leave them at the graveside. Don’t let on – it’ll be a terrific surprise.
  • A 10% discount on books, CDs, DVDs, etc. from the AVN shop. AVN Books, DVD’s and CD’s etc are available for free all over the internet or at much less price than the AVN want.
  • Advance notice of seminars, webinars and workshops around the country and, in many cases, a membership discount. Wow. I get to find out about the same repetitive autism and cancer claims and actually pay to fly there.
  • Access to the AVN website. This contains pages and pages of great news articles on vaccinations and childhood immunizations collected over many years. You haven’t really had a close look lately have you Meryl.
  • Discounts and premiums from some of our other Professional Members. These include specials on everything from homoeopathic and chiropractic visits to purchases at retail shops. You have 1 occupational therapist, one physiotherapist, one Bowen therapist, one herbalist, one TCM practitioner etc, etc… and 135 chiropractors! Who goes to a chiropractor associated with the AVN anyway?!

Arguably, there are plenty of reasons for victims to not want to draw much attention to themselves after being tripped up by self-confessed “rabid, idiotic fringe dwellers”.

Dorey has at least ceased using the title “Australia’s leading vaccination expert” as she amusingly used to bill herself.

But Australia’s leading charity fraudster is sounding pretty good about now.

A response to the defence of chiropractic

Paul; your writings are amusing, but you have only 183 followers! My 14 year old daughter has three times that on a silly facebook page!

In the spirit of genuine laziness and as one of the “waspish witch-hunters of political medicine”, I’ve reproduced my response to a comment on the About page written by a giant in the art of selective topic pertinence.

Keith. Mate!

Your daughter has a bigger number than mine. On Facebook! Well, I’m sure that every one is a dedicated and true friend engaged in a deeply meaningful personal relationship. Or… maybe quality isn’t what matters, if I’m to take the meaning.

Yes I agree chiropractic will be around for years to come. Chiropractors will tweak and change to keep in line with shifts in superstition and trends in gullibility to ensure they maintain a large slice of the health scam market. They will also fight and defend like skilled con artists and fraudsters to hold onto the empty title of “doctor”, being only too aware of the psychology that drives the gullible to their doors. Mimicry of actual medicine and misuse of technology is vital to the illusion.

Also I agree on the history. Palmer certainly wasn’t the first person to rattle and dance, poke and prod whilst intoning godly laws about the human body and human health. He was however the first to market his touchy brand of magic as “science” and made liberal use of the most modern tools at his disposal.

I note your journey to last century to exhume the Wilk case. A splendid diversion. Yet since then, not only was your daughter born but chiropractic shifted into a fundamentalist ideology that denies every rule of medical science and the very laws of nature itself. Of its own accord it has become the “go to discipline” for glowing appraisals of alternatives to medicine and solemn condemnation of conventional medicine.

More so, it has again of its own accord inserted itself in serious health debates way beyond the beliefs ensconced behind the battlements of its extra-dimensional reality. The vaccination issue. Pre natal, neo natal and extended post natal proclamations designed solely to scare vulnerable and gullible new parents to sign those lucrative “treatment contracts”. Paediatric chiropractic – perhaps more amusing than you realise if not for the conclusive demonstrations of inefficacy.

To my knowledge the only scheme to actually provoke symptoms of Munchausens Syndrome By Proxy it is responsible for creating nervous wrecks and genuine psychological patients of innocent parents. The invention of “syndrome” after “syndrome” and the terrifying warnings of what awaits those who do not succumb to regular “maintenance”.

However as we read in Quacks galore in facade of quirky medicine:

SCIENTISTS spent $374,000 recently asking people to inhale lemon and lavender scents to see if it helped their wounds to heal. It didn’t.

The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US also outlaid $700,000 to show that magnets are no help in treating arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or migraines.

The centre spent $390,000 to find that old Indian herbal remedies do not control type 2 diabetes and $406,000 to prove coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer.

It’s the same story around the globe. One by one, weirdo treatments are being exposed as bunkum.

Why are people so gullible, handing over their hard-earned cash for unproven alternative therapies? […]

Latest research says dietary supplements and megavitamins, acupuncture and chiropractic are of little use – and may even be harmful. […]

Chiropractors have now been discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down, yet people still spend up on these bone-crunchers and state and federal governments seem unwilling to shut them down.

Recently I reported on two experts on alternative medicine who reviewed all the evidence and concluded chiropractic was “worthless”.

“Harmful, worthless, discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down”. Keith, mate! And that’s coming from proponents of alternatives to medicine.

Like all magical claims chiropractic has been sternly examined and found wanting. Claims of efficacy crushed under the simple application of RCTs and its claims of safety evaporate before a monumental collection of research into death, permanent injury and disability or injury and complications with frequent cases of lengthy recovery. To be sure this happens in medicine also but to those already on death’s doorstep, significantly ill, disabled or in need of life saving surgery. And they are well informed of the risks that apply to a strictly evidence based choice.

That chiropractors scheme and trick people who are absolutely perfectly healthy – indeed many fatalities in robust health, the prime of life – to believe they need attention is itself a grave insult to common altruism and a thunderously immoral application of psychology. That healthy and vital people can be killed or injured and experience levels of morbidity that equal high impact vehicle accidents is a statement about chiropractic no-one can ignore.

Again addressing your mine’s bigger than yours argument I note the “fast-dwindling group of activists” reference. Of course nothing could be more inaccurate. Advocacy for science based medicine and skeptical defence and examination of consumer rights in health and beyond, is at an all time high. But it is not quantity that matters, and your obsession with quantity reveals your lack of appreciation for quality.

It is evidence that matters. Including evidence explaining what drives the interest in so many health scams we have seen rise up of late. The search for Truth is indeed vital, but skeptics and other scientists will accept the evidence as it comes. This happens to include that which explains the manipulation of individuals to believe the equivalent of magic is fact. Should the evidence indicate an increase in the future this too will be sought for further elucidation.

To comment on evidence gleaned from the methods that can be trusted to inform us of our world is not to be waging war. Much less a “self created turf war” as you put it. Of course people will continue to believe in fallacy and illusion. Magic has been a feature of our species for countless thousands of years, yet today we can discern the mechanics by which false displays are executed and the primary role of the believer themselves.

Many things will persist with health scams. Wars, cults, belief in the supernatural and our disposition to internalise superstitious belief to name a few. People are hard wired to believe in fantasy. Yet in a democracy I would not have it any other way for it reflects on my freedom. Your real concern should be with a.) the lack of evidence for chiropractic and b.) the ultimate goal of regulators.

Seeking to impede exploitation of fellow community members when evidence irrefutably confirms this, is the democratic right of skeptics and science advocates. When perpetrators of scams confirm malignant intent by misrepresenting evidence it becomes a moral obligation – a duty to our species.

Of course, with real freedom we find expression and belief should not be inhibited. In this light the freedom to be stupid is your democratic right.

I too have found great amusement in this exchange.

I fear however, your return to the lives of schoolgirls on Facebook is perhaps well justified.

Here’s lookin’ at ya Keith.

Judy Wilyman named and shamed as cruel attacker

An anti-vaccine lobbyist who contends that children should die from illness to prevent the “genetic deterioration” she believes is being caused by vaccination, made front page headlines today.

Judy Wilyman argues that vaccines contain proteins and poisons that have a “synergistic, latent and cumulative effect” ultimately causing autism, arthritis, anaphylaxis, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, asthma, etc, etc. This generation of children is “the unhealthiest yet” whilst no evidence that vaccines prevent disease actually exists – anywhere – she has asserted.

41% of today’s children are “chronically ill” primarily with auto immune and neurological diseases that arise from vaccines, Wilyman claims, suggesting that “good science would be investigating all possible causes of these diseases“. Yet whilst Wilyman is well known for drawing conclusions from remote correlation and blaming conspiracies for the absence of proof, today it was the latter obsession that drew journalistic interest.

So corrupt is the pharmaceutical industry, she has long reasoned, that to support vaccination must involve financial incentives. Any claim that vaccines actually do prevent disease is a simple lie. It would be “a crime against humanity” to provide incentives for immunisation and the media (who have pharmaceutical interests) seek to coerce and educate the public through fear campaigns involving stories about children ill or dying from vaccine preventable disease.

UOW researcher targets grieving parents ran the subheading of the Illawarra Mercury. Wilyman is the student of AVN defender and anti-vaccination supporter Dr. Brian Martin, professor of social sciences at UOW. Beginning with a comprehensive rundown of recently made accusations against parents who had lost their daughter to pertussis, it continued to a double page spread.

The main story by Cydonee Mardon, Grieving parents slam researcher covered what many already know.

Judy Wilyman, a PhD student and former Illawarra high school teacher, questioned whether Toni and David McCaffery had been paid to promote the whooping cough vaccine.

Ms Wilyman said the State Government was using four-week-old Dana’s death and “the mantra of seeing sick babies gasping for air” to push the vaccine.

Dana died of whooping cough, or pertussis, in March 2009. Her parents have since worked with health authorities to raise awareness about the infection and gave permission for their story to be used on a NSW Health Department campaign. […]

[Toni McCaffery said] “Dana is not an anecdote. We do not receive money for warning people about whooping cough. That is the most disgusting allegation.

“The money we received [from] the Australian Skeptics we donated to research to save babies from pertussis. Government has not ‘used us’ to promote vaccines in recent media stories. We agree to such interviews in our own time without any agenda other than to give people the warning we did not receive.”

Mrs McCaffery said Dana’s story appeared in a government brochure because “parents have a right to be warned about whooping cough and given accurate information”.

“We did not get that warning. It is up to parents if they want to vaccinate. It is also up to any parent to go public and speak to media. Do not use us against other families.”

The Mercury contacted Ms Wilyman who has so far declined to comment.

It was also another blow to the public face of the AVN who were correctly reported as hosting Wilyman’s letter to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner in which she also referred to the “mantra” of seeing sick babies gasping for air.

In W.A. in 2010 Wilyman used a 60 year old quote to suggest that infant and childhood mortality is a necessary price to pay in preventing the diseases she believes arise through interaction of genes, the environment and timing. By stopping vaccination which is switching on otherwise dormant disease-causing genes, and allowing vaccine preventable deaths we could improve “the overall health” of children, Judy Wilyman believes.

She informed her audience:

In 2010 it is known that environmental factors can switch genes on, that would otherwise remain dormant. This is called predisposition to disease. Resulting in epidemics of genetic diseases. Things like autism, diabetes and asthma.

I’ve got a quote from Macfarlane Burnet… 60 years ago. Macfarlane Burnet said:

In future years we may have some hard thinking to do. It may be that we will have to realise that mortality in infancy and childhood in the past has been the necessary price that had to be paid to prevent genetic deterioration and that some of our modern successes in preventative and curative medicine, may on the longest view be against the best interests of the state.

In the 21st century it is known that genes and environment and timing interact together in the occurrence of disease. The overall health of children in the 21st century would appear to be supporting Burnet’s prophecy.

Source: W.A. Audio (at 28min, 30sec)

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet was a Nobel prize winner and Australian of the year born in 1899. A brilliant virologist and immunologist the Burnet Institute in Melbourne is named after him. It is almost beyond belief that in the same talk Wilyman uses influenza as her example of a disease for which the vaccine is more dangerous. Could she possibly know of Burnet’s work in advancing influenza immunisation and how it still influences progress today?

His search for vaccines, particularly for influenza and massive inoculation studies (20,000 subjects) during the second world war, earned him global recognition. Under his guidance progress on polio, pox viruses, herpes, Murray Valley encephalitis and myxomatosis were added to this contribution. Simply put the man was a giant in the progress and necessity of immunisation with vaccines.

This post has no chance of doing Burnet justice other than to highlight Wilyman’s calculated deception in her abuse of research. It is enough that the “mandatory and coercive” monitoring of vaccination status – the “crime against humanity” Wilyman and Dorey ignorantly rail against – owes no small amount to Burnet’s input into keeping records on individual vaccination history.

Also in today’s Mercury is a moving open letter from Toni and David McCaffery. It happens to include reference to the reality of encouraging parents not to vaccinate:

We moved to the Northern Rivers to bring our family up in this pristine environment. However, we did not realise this was a hotbed for contagious and potentially deadly viruses.

Our sweet Dana is the innocent victim of dangerously low levels of awareness and even lower vaccination rates. Instead of her photo winning baby competitions, she is the tragic face of a Whooping Cough (Pertussis) epidemic and sparked a national vaccination debate. […]

Please learn from our past. Vaccination was introduced because there is no medicine to stop these bacteria that killed and maimed thousands of children. Now, these third-world diseases are on the rise again. In NSW it is Whooping Cough. In Queensland it is Measles.

Do you want to live in a country where we are too scared to have friends or family visit our babies or we won’t leave our homes?

As has become a brief tradition of late we might consult the work of Judy’s supervisor Dr. Brian Martin. Dr. Martin accuses opponents of the AVN of launching “attacks”, even inventing his own list of “attack modes”. He writes in the conclusion of When Public Health Debates Become Abusive:

Debates  over  health-related matters  are  often  extremely  bitter. Usually,  though, more attention  is  given  to  the  content  — the  facts,  which  position  is  correct,  and  policy implications  — than  to  the  way  a  debate  is  carried  out.  Yet  the  methods  used  are important.  Heavy-handed  and  abusive  techniques  can  discourage  participation  and distort outcomes, affecting health policies and practices. […]

Science,  as  a  model  form  of  truth-seeking,  is  based  on  rational  assessment  of evidence. Health policy disputes can only partly follow the science model because they also involve differences in values. […]

The  question  then arises: what can be done to shift debates towards more participatory, respectful modes of engagement? […] The next question is, what should be done about those who engage in personal  abuse  and  who  attempt  to silence  opponents? A  first step  is  to  expose  and criticise  these  sorts  of  methods,  especially  when  used  by  those  on  one’s  own  side

Certainly then, more and more of Dr. Martin’s work can be seen as applying not to those who raise dissent about the privileged status of the AVN, but to members of the antivaccination movement itself.

The University of Wollongong did respond, striving to distance itself from Ms. Wilyman. I have no issue with their general position although I would hope immediate steps have been taken about Wilyman signing the letter to the AHRC as PhD Candidate. This of course is not the only example of egregious conduct on Wilyman’s part bolstered by her affiliation with UOW. From The Mercury:

The UOW issued a statement distancing itself from Ms Wilyman’s comments.

“Articles and associated comments published by Judy Wilyman on the internet, on vaccination issues, are her own personal views and not those of the university,” the statement said.

The larger problem includes the academic succor given to the evidence denial on her part, the extensive involvement of Dr. Martin that raises a clear conflict of interest and the ethical and moral obligation that UOW has to public health. To support and legitimise antivaccination propaganda is not a reflection of academic integrity. To continue to label Wilyman a “researcher” is absurd. She is a reviewer, admitting to “scouring peer reviewed research for ten years”, simply twisting selected material to her own aims.

As with parents who claim to have “researched” the science of vaccination and decide to deny vaccination, questions must be asked about evaluation. Exactly how does one conclude vaccination is entirely dangerous or that it is responsible to deny ones children protection if they have actually engaged in “research” as we understand the term?

What if Wilyman been informed by the university that claims of vaccine induced diseases have been utterly debunked? That if she wants to persist arguing that aluminium adjuvants and ethyl-mercury are causing autism and asthma she must produce compelling evidence? Where would she be today? Clearly still blaming conspiracies for the lack of that evidence but not under the banner of “PhD researcher at the University of Wollongong”. This lends false credence to misinformation and the university must take it’s responsibility to academic truth as absolutely paramount.

Finally we get more Meryl Dorey channeling Brian Martin these days. The main article notes:

AVN president Meryl Dorey said the McCafferys had chosen to go public and had to expect comments from both sides of the debate. “If one side has the right to say something and the other doesn’t, then we are not a democratic society,” she said.

Let’s check that. “Something to say” can include just about anything. For someone who labels her critics as fascists, pond scum and communists with a vendetta Ms. Dorey seems to hold a strange view of both “commentary” and democracy.

Yet again this looking glass model of dissent and attack can be clearly identified.

Manufacturing dissent: double standards in defending vaccine denial

If you happen to pop past the AVN Facebook page you might notice this entry:

Pretty straightforward. A post with three comments. The three comments are…

Oh. So there seems to be a comment missing. In fact it was the original comment, and here it is:

A paying member was censored. In fact their comment was deleted so that a fairly basic request to have emails answered could be hidden. The issue at play is that the AVN owe over $180,000 in magazines for which they have already taken fees. 11 magazines have not been delivered. Already 2 this year on the back of 5 last year. Yet this member appears to have sent at least two emails requesting clarification and they have clearly been ignored. Still the AVN website censors the fact it is in trouble. It is brazenly seeking new members claiming:

Membership includes 6 editions of Living Wisdom magazine (either hard copy or digital or both if you choose) and there are discounts available for 12 and 18 issue memberships.

If you pay extra as a “professional member” you get a “free listing” in the AVN magazine that does not exist.

In the conclusion of Making Censorship Backfire, co-authored by AVN supporter and full member, Dr. Brian Martin, we read:

An examination of cases where censorship backfires provides some valuable lessons in how to make this happen. The first important point is that the censorship should be exposed to audiences who will be outraged by the act of censorship itself or by the disproportion between the act (speaking out) and the censoring response (a heavy-handed attack). It is essential to have solid documentation, which means that only some cases of censorship can be exposed in this way.

It is important not to be intimidated. Censorship is often backed up by threats of what will happen if those who are censored do not acquiesce. It can be rewarding to see these threats as potential opportunities. By exposing the threats, the backlash can be made all the stronger. Targets of censorship need to be prepared for further attack – including personal invective – should they challenge the censorship.

It is unlikely wide exposure of this would help the member Dorey has ripped off. The information quoted above is interesting in that the best response would be to politely reply arguing that Meryl has had ample time to respond. Furthermore you have serious concerns about the AVN selling magazine subscriptions when overdue issues are now clearly unlikely to eventuate. This raises questions of Fair Trading and advertising under false pretences. It would be in the interests of all concerned if members could discuss this in an open forum fashion.

Of course, as has happened many times before, this member would be banned (if that hasn’t happened already) and the entry deleted. What follows is touched upon in the quote from Dr. Martin above. Dorey writes scathing and vicious reviews of individuals and her loyal members swoop in to attack them on other social media. Claims of being threatened and bullied and having to hire security to defend herself from bullies who don’t believe in free speech, health choices and your right to choose gradually take on a life of their own. The “backfire” works to Meryl’s advantage.

Dr. Martin’s writings on censorship are part of his much larger body of work on dissent, including struggles for autonomy and democratic rights for citizens oppressed by malignant governments. His work often has an artistic choreographed appeal that whilst interesting reveals an untested work in progress.

What is of interest to this article is his defence of antivaccination lobbyists censoring information in order to convey a fallacious and sometimes dangerous message of authority and accuracy to unsuspecting readers. As I suggested recently extremely serious questions can be asked about Dr. Martin’s moral and ethical conviction. This is only reinforced in finding that altruism is not a feature of his work yet saying and doing what one wants, when one wants regardless of the consequences, are features of those he willingly assists.

Muddying the waters further are his attacks upon community volunteers who have themselves raised dissent. The failure of government regulators to challenge what is a litany of legislative transgression, charity scams and antisocial behaviour by Australia’s so-called Australian Vaccination Network is undeniable. Devoted to attacking conventional medicine and vaccination, the group continued unimpeded for 17 years until individual activists raised dissent with government agencies.

Dr. Martin holds his PhD in physics but does not work in any related area. Apart from being president of Whistleblowers Australia, he is presently Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong. Thus use of the term “Doctor” is quite misleading in qualifying his skill as a social scientist. It is unclear if he has any requisite understanding of ethics or moral responsibility as it pertains to social sciences and indeed, society as a whole.

One may venture to suggest it is of course unsurprising then, that Martin also writes about “dissident scientists” who work in dissent of what he terms “paradigms”, disagreeing as to what theories are correct. We are left only to ponder how a physicist has found himself well versed in the mechanics of “scientific dissent” whilst at the same time defending the denial of evidence as if it were dissent.

In startling misunderstanding of the scientific method and the value of evidence he notes incorrectly in Grassroots Science:

Dissent is central to science: the formulation of new ideas and the discovery of new evidence is the driving force behind scientific advance. At the same time, certain theories, methods, and ways of approaching the world – often called paradigms – are treated as sacrosanct within the professional scientific community. Those who persist in challenging paradigms may be treated not as legitimate scientists but as renegades or outcasts. […]

For example, there are many individuals who have developed challenges and alternatives to relativity, quantum mechanics, and the theory of evolution, three theories central to modern science. […]

Western medical authorities at first rejected acupuncture as unscientific but, following demonstrations of its effectiveness, eventually accepted or tolerated it as a practice under the canons of western biomedicine, rejecting its associations with non-Western concepts of the body. […]

At the same time, some mainstream medical practitioners and researchers are hostile to alternative health. This is apparent in pronouncements that taking vitamin supplements is a waste of money or in police raids on alternative cancer therapists, the raids being encouraged by mainstream opponents.

Many proponents of alternative health say that mainstream medical science is distorted by corporate, government, and professional pressures. In this context, grassroots medical science presents itself as being truer to the ethos of science as a search for truth unsullied by vested interests.

Whilst one is grateful to Dr. Martin for seeking to identify certain dynamics it is apparent that his reinterpretation of the facts serves evidence denial and pseudoscience very well. Arguably “dissent” as he terms it here may well prove valuable to science. But one might venture to add it’s primary value has been in provoking the need to examine dissenting theories such that they ultimately bring about their own demise.

He has misrepresented vitamin therapy and acupuncture, falsely accused scientists of holding “paradigms” sacrosanct and completely ignored the value of randomised controlled trials in revealing the validity or not of “outcasts” theories. I think it’s fair to accept the final paragraph as an observation, whilst also noting it’s inexcusable to omit that the evidence favours this as a distorted conspiracy. Alternatives to medicine have flourished in Australia, crept into educational institutes and been subsidised by health insurance for many years.

It would be pointless to continue with examples, which go as far as criticising the dismissal of anecdotal evidence by mainstream science. For the purpose of this article this would include vaccines causing autism, SIDS, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and diabetes. I have chosen those examples deliberately. Whilst The Australian Immunisation Handbook specifically states research has constantly replicated no link Martin is supervising a PhD student conducting a literature review, but no research, who continually states vaccines have been shown to cause these conditions.

What is clear from the errors above and the Grassroots Science article in general is that Dr. Martin either has no grasp on the concept of evidence and it’s importance to science, or seeks to misrepresent application of the scientific method to the extent of devaluing it to the status of merely discerning an opinion. One cannot ignore the parallels between the tone of his writing and that of his PhD student Judy Wilyman.

Many have sought to have Brian Martin answer how he can ignore the devastating impact of his support of the AVN. As I noted recently this goes as far as making excuses for Ms. Dorey’s refusal to engage in scientific discourse with those who seek to challenge many of her claims. A substantial amount of his work claims to expose censorship and the tactics of those who refuse to accept “dissident” or “grassroots scientists”.

Thus it is deeply troubling that he defends Ms. Dorey’s censoring of material. More troubling is his making excuses for Dorey’s refusal to accept to enter into discourse as a “grassroots scientist”. Yet most bizarre is his championing of Dorey actually censoring material to sabotage engagement as a “grassroots scientist” – and actually blame this on those who were censored despite them offering Dorey an avenue to provide evidence.

Consider this recent censorship by Dorey. It served to censor the truth and defend several demonstrable errors. In Martin’s view Dorey has no need to engage because people have “attacked” her. Despite this being a self serving interpretation, what it demonstrates is the perpetuation of misinformation. This is exactly why individuals have raised concern about overlap as an academic, an advocate for truth in evidence, the supervisor of Judy Wilyman and defender of Meryl Dorey.

This post below appeared on AVN’s Facebook page with the following comments. The first from Dorey makes the head spin. There is only one type b strain of Haemophilus influenzae (called Hib). Yet she informs readers that the Hib vaccine caused an increase in diagnosis of other types of Hib caused by yet even more Hib strains. Later she mentions “Hib (all strains)”:

Later this reply was added:

And yes, it was part of the thread:

Now if you pop back you’ll find it has been deleted and the other poster to take issue with Ms. Dorey’s creativity has now taken issue with Tristan’s rather divisive “us” reference.

The individual censored is also a member of the AVN and yes, is also wondering whatever happened to the magazines promised so long ago. Is this honestly how paying members are treated by Meryl Dorey? If so then one must begin to wonder exactly how Dorey and Dr. Martin are so certain that anonymous threats apparently come from people who have not been schemed, dismissed and discarded.

In Suppressing Research Data: Methods, Context, Accountability, and Responses, Martin writes:

Censorship, fraud, and publication biases are ways in which the availability of research data can be distorted. A different process is distortion of the perception of research data rather than distortion of the data itself. In other words, data is openly available, but efforts are made to shape people’s perception of it.

There appears to be little doubt of a significant conflict of interest. Martin is well aware of and extremely deft with tactics used to deflect the problems noted above. He is defending censorship and fraud at the AVN and his student has an exclusive history of publication bias. More recently Martin himself has distorted data by selectively using a misrepresentation of usual chatter on the Stop The AVN Facebook page. The aim – as he himself offers above – is to shape the public perception of those who challenge Ms. Dorey in such a way as to vilify and defame them.

As time passes I’ll endeavour to look closer at Martin’s work attacking those who essentially accept the overwhelming evidence on vaccination. Already we can dismiss his defence of impartiality. Yet so blatant and unethical is his present state of evidence denial a close look at parallels between defending antivaccination groups and his earlier work is warranted.

Given that Judy Wilyman and Meryl Dorey rely almost entirely on imagined conflicts of interest, this very conflict of interest within a conflict of interest to bolster manufactured dissent from outright denial and censorship is beginning to look very tacky indeed.

I do hope the University of Wollongong have a clear conscience.