Friday, December 15, 2006
The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority -- Circumcision and AIDS Prevention
There has been a lot of hoo hah in the press and blogosphere regarding a recent study purporting to show that circumcision significantly reduces the infection rates of HIV. Based upon the study proposals have been avanced advocating mass circumcisions of men throughout the developing world.
Don't believe it! John Hawks has gone over the original figures and shows that they were presented in such a way as to make the reduction in infections seem much, much larger than it actually was. The study claimed a 53 percent reduction in infections and an uncritical press trumpeted that figure, but the actual reduction was only 1.8 percent. Moreover, the stories did not consider the complications and infections that might result from circumcision. It also appears that the researchers stopped the study before completion because they had gotten satisfactory results -- in other words, as soon as they got figures they wanted they stopped, thus guaranteeing the results of the study. Prof. Hawks notes that it is quite likely that those results would have disappeared had the study been continued. In other words both the conduct of the study and the manner of its reporting present a false and potentially dangerous conclusion.
If such malfeasance, duplicity, and incompetence were not so wildly rampant in medical [and environmental] research I would suspect an agenda on the part of the researchers. Instead, it is likely that this crap is just par for the course.
Read Hawks' critique here.