It’s quite amazing to see the advances made in AIDS treatment since I was a student in the 1980s: then HIV usually meant a life expectancy of less than six months, now another study in PLoS One shows that combination antiretroviral therapies as well as treatments like HAART (highly-active antiretroviral therapy) means when treated early, HIV infection is now a chronic but treatable disease – and one that will see you into your seventies like the rest of us.

But there’s more. Many claim that intercessory prayer helps treatment outcomes for AIDS patients (and every bugger else) but most of the published data suggests not. Until now.

CID, one of the higher impact journals out there, has found that churchgoing men who have sex with men have different treatment outcomes to those not given to God-bothering.

We demonstrate an interdependent relationship between sexual behavior and church attendance on timing of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis and presentation for care.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) and who attend church are more likely to present with lower CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts than MSM who do not attend church.

Whether this correlates with actual belief is not controlled for, but generally a low CD4 count isn’t a good look. So, for those that say prayer makes a difference, it does in the case of HIV. It makes your prognosis worse.

Perhaps we should look to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine – a whopping great oxymoron if ever there was one – which has published a study claiming an Association between Yang-Deficient Constitution and Clinical Outcome of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy on People Living with HIV.

This is Tooth Fairy Science of the first order.

That’s where you study a non-existent phenomenon then claim statistical significance from the results. For example, you can study the distribution of funds by the Tooth Fairy based on socioeconomic grouping, age, sex, which tooth and generate proper statistics – but none of these data make the Tooth Fairy any more real.

Couldn’t happen here? Don’t be so sure. The NHS spends up to £12m a year on homeopathy and the Health Secretary claims his three NHS Homeopathic hospitals are ‘valuable national assets’ rather than the more accurate description:

“white elephants for middle-class hypochondriac hippies”

What’s next? A transport secretary who believes in broomsticks? Where’s that bottle of Evian? Time for a homeopathic overdose.