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Brazilian President says COVID-19 vax and HIV go hand in hand

Tuesday, October 26th 2021 - 08:59 UTC
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Bolsonaro knew he could face censorship from Facebook Bolsonaro knew he could face censorship from Facebook

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro had a video posting removed from Facebook after the social media administrators labelled it as “fake news” for linking COVID-19 vaccination to AIDS' HIV.

“Our policies do not allow arguments that vaccines kill or can cause serious harm,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

During a live video stream Thursday, Bolsonaro connected those vaccinated against COVID-19 with the possibility of developing AIDS, which resulted in angry users posting their objections to the content.

Bolsonaro, who has had COVID-19 and has not taken any immunizer, also opposes vaccination mandates for the reopening of the economy. He said that “those vaccinated against Covid-19 are developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” and quickly clarified that he was not going to continue with the issue for fear of being taken off the air.

“Our policies do not allow arguments that vaccines kill or can cause serious harm,” a Facebook spokesperson in the São Paulo regional office told Brazilian media

Bolsonaro's remarks were considered hazardous because coming from a president could put the health of thousands of people at risk since the alleged link between the coronavirus and HIV has already been denied by specialists around the world.

The Brazilian president had already been sanctioned by networks after defending ineffective remedies against Covid-19, a case that was typified by charlatanism by the accusation of the report of the Senate committee that investigates his management in the face of the pandemic.

Senator Alessandro Vieira, from the centre-right Citizenship Party, requested that the Facebook case be sent to the Supreme Federal Court, which is investigating Bolsonaro for participating in the dissemination of fake news about the pandemic. The report will be voted Tuesday by the commission and charges the president with eight other crimes, including those against humanity.

The video was taken off the air Sunday night. It is the first time that the media corporation founded by the American Mark Zuckerberg removes a video of the Brazilian president, which is broadcast live every Thursday. In March 2020, Facebook had removed a Bolsonaro posting recommending the antimalarial chloroquine to be used against COVID-19, but Sunday's was the first case of censorship of audiovisual material.

The idea of a connection between COVID-19 vaccines and HIV was also shared by South African and Namibian authorities, where the Russian Sputnik V drug was rejected on those grounds. The Russian vaccine “may increase the risk of vaccinated men contracting HIV,” said South Africa, the African country most affected by Covid-19. Namibia, where AIDS is very present, followed suit.

Five days after South Africa's decision, Namibia suspended the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Russia's Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), because it may increase men's risk of contracting the HIV, local health authorities announced.

On October 18, the South African government rejected the Russian anticovid vaccine for fear that it could increase the risk of HIV infection among men: “The use of the Sputnik V vaccine in South Africa, where the prevalence and incidence of HIV are high, it can increase the risk of vaccinated men contracting HIV,” stated the local drug agency (Sahpra).

South Africa administers the vaccine from Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson laboratories, as well as the messenger RNA vaccine from Pfizer / BioNTech, but has stood firm in its decision not to use Sputnik V, which has not officially received a green light from the WHO so far. According to Sahpra, some studies suggested that the administration of vaccines with the adenovirus Type 5 vector, such as Sputnik V, “was associated with increased susceptibility to HIV in men.”

South Africa is the country most affected by the pandemic in the continent, with more than 2.9 million cases and 88,600 deaths. It also has the highest number of HIV carriers in the world. Until now, the country had many problems finding enough doses for its population of 59 million, of whom just over a quarter have been immunized to date.

The Namibian Ministry of Health, which had about 30,000 doses of Sputnik V after receiving a donation from Serbia, announced Saturday it would not apply them and added in a statement that it would follow the example of South Africa, with an immediate suspension of injections: “The reason for the interruption of the administration of the vaccine is because of a precaution that men who received Sputnik V may have an increased risk of contract HIV when exposed to it,” the ministry said.

The Russian Gamaleya centre, which developed the vaccine, said it will provide proof that South Africa's concerns are “completely unfounded.” The results concerning populations at risk of HIV “are based on small-scale studies,” they argued. Gamaleya also insisted Sputnik V was one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against Covid-19 in use worldwide, backed by more than 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications.

“Although adenoviruses, including ad-5, are one of the most frequent causes of mild common flu ..., there is no evidence of an increased risk of HIV infection among the human population after the common cold,” Gamaleya pointed out. It further said that a meta-analysis of six clinical studies and their long-term follow-up in 7,092 participants showed that there was no statistically significant increase in HIV-1 infection among recipients of the adenovirus type 5 vector vaccine.

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