Christine Maggiore has died
January 5, 2009 2:52 PM   Subscribe

HIV/AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore has died.

Maggiore, who tested HIV+ in 1992, was a prominent skeptic of the scientific consensus that HIV causes AIDS. In 2005, she sparked a debate on parental medical obligations after her 3-year-old daughter was found to have died of AIDS-related pneumonia. Orac at Respectful Insolence mourns both the personal tragedy of the Maggiore family and the larger public health tragedy of HIV/AIDS denialism. Sympathetic journalist Celia Farber, who defended Maggiore in 2005, offers a personal recollection. (previously)
posted by lalex (206 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
...?

!
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2009


I feared for her life, always. I feared the battle would kill her, as I have felt it could kill me, if I couldn’t find enough beauty to offset the malevolence. This is a deeply occult battle, and Christine got caught in its darkest shadows.

What a lunatic Celia Farber is. I'd like to feel sorry that Maggiore is dead, but I don't. Her daughter would almost certainly be alive today if not for her mother's narcissistic insistence that she knew better than all the doctors in the world.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:06 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have a dog in this fight - both my parents died from complications due to AIDS.

I'm generally very sympathetic to iconoclasts but not in this case. Duesberg's hypothesis is just wrong. Spreading wrongness like this kills people.

No . for you, Ms. Maggiore.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:06 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


This woman made me very, very, angry and sad. It's terrible that she died, but it's also terrible that she contributed to an anti-science movement that puts people, especially children, at risk.
posted by Biblio at 3:07 PM on January 5, 2009


It's just a flesh wound!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ya know stupidity is also a selection criterion.
posted by MrLint at 3:09 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Something must have really motivated her to not only deny her condition, but deny medicine to her daughter. I have a guess, but would prefer not to speculate. I hope her family finds some measure of peace.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really did think it said "HIV/AIDS dentist Christine Maggiore has died" for a minute then.
posted by hnnrs at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I feel sorry for this woman's family. But I gather her ability to do harm was relatively limited. Compare Thabo Mbeki, which has a lot of infected blood on his ignorant hands:
A new study by Harvard researchers estimates that the South African government would have prevented the premature deaths of 365,000 people earlier this decade if it had provided antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients and widely administered drugs to help prevent pregnant women from infecting their babies. ... The Harvard study concluded that the policies grew out of President Thabo Mbeki’s denial of the well-established scientific consensus about the viral cause of AIDS and the essential role of antiretroviral drugs in treating it.

— New York Times November 26 2008.
posted by Nelson at 3:12 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Here's Maggiore on the cover of popular crunchy mom mag Mothering. (It's probably on the rack at your local Whole Foods). Note the crossed out AZT on her stomach. Truth is, odds are, Eliza Jane was born without HIV. But Maggiore breastfed her daughter as well. Mothering editor Peggy O'Mara is actually on the board of Maggiore's foundation Alive and Well.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:15 PM on January 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yeah, she's no Mbeki. Still, Mbeki fought the multinationals on cheap AIDS dugs.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on January 5, 2009


But Maggiore breastfed her daughter as well.

...
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on January 5, 2009


Darwin at his best. I feel bad for her daughter, but the world is a better place now that she is no longer walking around spreading misinformation. I have little to no sympathy for those who choose to deny obvious truths.
posted by Mr_Zero at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Summary: embracing ignorance is not a survival trait. Science just seems to scare some people to death. In this case, literally, albeit slowly.
posted by jamstigator at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll be sure to throw on some Foo Fighters in her memory.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


A tragic inability to internalize Occam's Razor.
posted by mrnutty at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2009


I had... NO idea that there was a movement denying that HIV lead to AIDS. I'm completely stunned.
posted by shmegegge at 3:22 PM on January 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


I first learned about Maggiore via this otherwise innocuous thread about the Foo Fighters.

It's probably fair to assume that denial about her own diagnosis--perfectly understandable--just festered and snowballed into something utterly deplorable. The story's sad as fuck, but the ending's all too predictable.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:23 PM on January 5, 2009


Sys Rq: this post just had me wondering if the Foos (well, Dave largely I suppose) ever backed away from some of that nonsense. It always struck me as a bit odd of a crusade for them to attempt waging.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:26 PM on January 5, 2009


I want to rend my garments and tear people's hair out when narcissistic gasbags like this are referred to as "skeptic"s. Bullshit. Someone who says the sky is yellow is properly termed "nuts".
posted by notsnot at 3:29 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Our children have excellent records of health,” Maggiore said on the Air America program when asked about 7-year-old Charlie and 3-year-old Eliza Jane Scovill. "They’ve never had respiratory problems, flus, intractable colds, ear infections, nothing. So, our choices, however radical they may seem, are extremely well-founded."

Seven weeks later, Eliza Jane was dead.

The cause, according to a Sept. 15 report by the Los Angeles County coroner, was AIDS-related pneumonia.


That sound you hear is the steel teeth of the bear-trap that is tragedy-in-action slamming shut.

And how intractable to you have to be to not rethink your assessment of condition you have after it's claimed the life of one of your children?
posted by quin at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maggiore's friends said she underwent a holistic "cleanse" last month that left her feeling ill.

Oh yeah. That's the ticket. The bullshit and branchwater enema cure failed her.

She was obviously in deep denial about something, or insane. Or both.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2009


A tragic inability to internalize Occam's Razor.

Ouch.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:36 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have to leave the internet now. It is shining waaay too much light on things that I don't want to see today.
posted by nosila at 3:37 PM on January 5, 2009


"Here's your harp and your wings. In you go. Next! Name, please?"

"Christine Maggiore."

"Welcome to the Gates. It'll just be one second while I check you in. Mag... Mag... Mag..."

"Two Gs, St. Peter."

"Ah, thank you. I'm still getting used to this whole T9 thing. Let me bring up your record here and copy the information over. Two Gs, there we go. Cause of death--"

"Bus accident."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Bus accident. I died in a bus accident."

"But it says on the scroll you died of complications due to--"

"A bus accident."

"Hold on, then. I'll have to cross-reference your injury history with buses. It takes a little bit, but I always tell people to have patience. You've been waiting your whole life to get up here, certainly a few more seconds won't hurt. Get it? Do you see what I did there?"

"Yes, it's quite funny."

"Everybody always thinks so. Well, here we are. I'm afraid the only bus-related injury I see in your history happened in 1988, when you stepped off a curb and nearly got swiped by a crosstown express."

"It was a very traumatic experience, St. Peter. Never got over it."

"...that was two Gs, wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir. Two Gs."

"Ah! Here come Mr. Moore and Mr. Cook. We'll let them write the rest of the sketch from here on out."
posted by Spatch at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2009 [18 favorites]


This is the same mindset of the non-immunizers. They refuse to actually refute the logic, but simply look at their cherubic angels and declare their remarkable health will defend them from illness should it befall them. You can't fight it anymore than any other cult.
posted by docpops at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


Know who else denies HIV/AIDS? Seriously, you'd never guess.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:47 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ya know stupidity is also a selection criterion.

But she reproduced, no?
posted by The World Famous at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Something must have really motivated her to not only deny her condition, but deny medicine to her daughter. I have a guess, but would prefer not to speculate.

No such qualms here, I'm afraid. The desire to deny our mortality is a powerful force for the best of us. If you've infected one of your children with a fatal disease, a disease you've contracted as a consequence of being engaged in some kind of hedonistic activity, then the urge to find an explanation that gets you off the moral hook is a powerful one. For some people, the fact that viruses and microbes don't select for the sinners amongst us doesn't appear to have any purchase.

Combine that with the huge tolerance for woo-woo new age pseudo-science voodoo that seems completely out of control in places like California and you've got a perfect recipe for AIDS denialism.

You've only got to read the links, and particularly some of the comments in the links, to see how powerful this tendency is. Almost everybody is commending this nut job for her rigorous evaluation of the scientific evidence with regard to HIV and AIDS which is a bit like saying that 'black is white'. There was a very short period when scepticism of the HIV hypothesis could be engaged in with some kind of justification. However, that hasn't been the case for almost twenty years now, and so this woman's obtuse ability to continuously ignore evidence that demolishes her hypothesis, while embracing the most spurious and tenuous contradictions in the HIV/AIDS data in the fallacious belief that these things somehow undermine that model is a classic example of the kind of intellectual dishonesty and lack of rigour that underpin a huge range of internet conspiracy theories.

For example, one of her supporters claims that there's a huge range of distinguished experts who support their views vis a vis HIV and AIDS. That's the equivalent of saying something like there's a huge number of expert biologists who reject evolution and support intelligent design. In order to believe such a claim, you have to be either a moron, a kook, or engaged in superhuman levels of wishful thinking and denial.

I suppose her other potential motivation for this stuff is likely to be status. Who would invite a non-scientist who didn't really understand the issues but supported the HIV/AIDS hypothesis to come and speak at their event? Who goes on incessantly about what brave heroes *those* people are?

Nobody, is who.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


This is the same mindset of the non-immunizers.

I seem to recall that I wanted to like the aforementioned Mothering but got put off because they were pretty supporting of the non-immunizers. There's being a granola-loving hippie and then there's being a science-denying idiot.

It is indeed too bad that this woman's mental issues killed her daughter. Who knows why she so dearly clung to her beliefs.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on January 5, 2009


Pseudoscience kills.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder if, towards the end, she may have had her own nagging doubts in secret:

Friends said that Maggiore never fully recovered after the death of her daughter and that she had trouble even sleeping and eating.

(from the first link.)

But yeah....breastfeeding? If there were just the slimmest chance that I could be wrong about something in a way that might kill a child, I think I'd buy some goddamned formula, or use a human milk bank.
posted by availablelight at 4:02 PM on January 5, 2009


I'm also in the camp that had no idea that there was a 'denialist' movement until I read this. It's rare to get sad and stupid together (normally the stupid is kind of funny so it cancels out the sad) but that's where I think we are with this.
posted by ob at 4:04 PM on January 5, 2009


Just insane.

There's nothing else to say.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:04 PM on January 5, 2009


Know who else denies HIV/AIDS? Seriously, you'd never guess.

Shocking. And disappointing, given the group's history.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:05 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The desire to deny our mortality is a powerful force for the best of us. If you've infected one of your children with a fatal disease, a disease you've contracted as a consequence of being engaged in some kind of hedonistic activity, then the urge to find an explanation that gets you off the moral hook is a powerful one.

I would actually be curious to know if denialist movements are more prevalent with diseases whose sufferers have been the target of moral condemnation and social stigmatization.
posted by lalex at 4:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


First time I've heard of the Foo Fighter's connection. That's depressing.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:13 PM on January 5, 2009


More about ACT UPs in San Francisco:
In San Francisco, ACT UP Golden Gate split from the original ACT UP San Francisco in 1990. ACT UP Golden Gate concentrated on issues involving treatment and treatment access while ACT UP San Francisco focused on broader social issues involving public policy and politics. Over the next several years the two ACT UP chapters worked separately and together on local and national AIDS issues.

Over time ACT UP San Francisco became controlled by individuals who had a different philosophy concerning AIDS treatment. This in itself was not a problem. The problem was that any one who disagreed with them on this one issue was shouted down, intimidated and driven out of the group. Long term members, seeing the original ACT UP mission and philosophy destroyed, were forced out of the group in disgust.

This new ACT UP San Francisco chapter harassed and stalked members of the AIDS community who disagreed with them about AIDS treatment strategy, first locally, then at national AIDS events. As time went on their tactics became more violent, culminating in physical assaults, which runs counter to the ACT UP philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience.

At present, ACT UP San Francisco has aligned itself with groups that believe HIV does not cause AIDS and that it is the use of anti-HIV medications which make people get sick and die. Those of us who are taking these drugs can accept that the drugs may not work for everyone, that we often experience negative side effects, and that the long term consequences of taking the drugs are unknown. But the reality is that many of us would have died along time ago without anti-HIV therapy and prophylaxis medications. HIV would eventually win the battle.
posted by rtha at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


HIV/AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore has died.

No she didn't!
posted by limon at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2009 [30 favorites]


Color me stunned. I've run across people who think AIDS is punihment from God, people who think it was invented by the CIA, and in one memorable case, a teenage buddy of mine who saw the "organ donor," stamp on my drivers liscence and said "You shouldn't do that, you can get AIDS that way." This particular one I'd never encountered.
posted by jonmc at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2009 [10 favorites]


Know who else denies HIV/AIDS? Seriously, you'd never guess.

Shocking. And disappointing, given the group's history.


It should be pointed out that it's only the San Francisco chapter of ACT UP that has taken up a denialist position; it's my understanding, though others may correct me, that the other chapters remain strongly sane. There's a little about this in the ACT UP wikipedia article.
posted by monocyte at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2009


Maggiore might have been wrong but the scientific community did not do its part to answer questions that did not add up. How many of you actually know that what AZT is? It is marketed as an anti-retroviral drug by way of reverse transcriptase inhibition, but it was really designed as a mutagen to kill the most resistant form of cancer cells (fast growing cells). It was also known that reverse transcriptase activity was not restricted to HIV, telomerases which are VERY important to cell survival are also reverse transcriptases. The toxicity of AZT is well-known throughout the scientific literature. Below are just a few of thousands of published scientific studies to demonstrate its associated toxicity (1, 2, 3)

Look, I don't know if HIV has anything to do with AIDS. There are certainly holes in the current working theory. Even if HIV is the definitive agent that causes AIDS, better treatment options need to be made available. Currently, the available FDA approved drugs are more or less the same as AZT since they are designed based on the same principles and are generally not well-tolerated for long-term consumption.

So, please respect Ms. Maggiore's courage to stand up to the establish in trying to figure out the real causes of AIDS even at the cost of her life.

Critical thinking is lacking in the field of HIV research. If the HIV uberlords are so certain that their theory can withstand true scientific scrutiny, then here are my questions:

1) Why did Gallo made the claim of HIV being the cause BEFORE the data was looked at by other fellow experts, a process called peer-review that is required for any scientific publication?
2) Why are the NIH uberlords refusing to fund Peter Deusberg to systematically study other possibilities of AIDS causation? What is the worse that can happen? Peter Duesberg being wrong???? Wouldn't that support their hypothesis even more?

If the HIV/AIDS supporters had not so selfishly denied these studies, Ms. Maggiore and her daughter along with many other may still be alive. Like the title of her book...."What if EVERYTHING we thought we knew was wrong?"

Be kind to others. Examine all evidence.
posted by watercressprincess at 4:24 PM on January 5, 2009


So, please respect Ms. Maggiore's courage to stand up to the establish in trying to figure out the real causes of AIDS even at the cost of her life.

And her daughter's life, and the lives of [large number here] of people who buy into or, out of desperation and despair, fall into this shit.

You know what HIV-infected AIDS denialists die from? AIDS-related complications. I mean, unless they get hit by a bus or something.

2) Why are the NIH uberlords refusing to fund Peter Deusberg to systematically study other possibilities of AIDS causation?


Because they aren't required to fund nuts?
posted by rtha at 4:30 PM on January 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


Be kind to others. Examine all evidence.

I can't help but imagine that if your imperatives applied to Mrs. Maggiore's own children then there'd be less of an uproar. Just sayin'.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:32 PM on January 5, 2009


E pur si muove muere!
posted by phrontist at 4:33 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


docpops has it. These people are cultists for whom science is anathema.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2009


Look, I don't know if HIV has anything to do with AIDS.

It's the causative agent, FYI.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2009 [18 favorites]


Neither of your questions is about the science.

And how many iterations of "examine all the evidence" is enough? There are still people who believe there is an active civilization on Mars. There are still people who believe there is an invisible man in the sky who causes football players to score points. There are still people who believe the Earth is flat. Every time "all the evidence" is examined they find some loophole that allows them to keep believing as they have. There is only finite time and resources--we can't afford infinite loops.
posted by DU at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


To: rtha
Because they aren't required to fund nuts?

Just so you know, Peter Duesberg was being considered for the Nobel Prize before he made those claims about HIV/AIDS.

Peter Duesberg has since moved on has again made SIGNIFICANT discoveries in the field of cancer research and is AGAIN being considered for the Nobel Prize.

Where are the nuts and the ignorant? Go read the links I posted before you call someone nuts.
posted by watercressprincess at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2009


Critical thinking does not demand the serious consideration of transparently idiotic ideas. Jesus Christ.
posted by Epenthesis at 4:37 PM on January 5, 2009 [10 favorites]


Also, Peter Duesberg is a douchebag.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:37 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ya know stupidity is also a selection criterion.

But she reproduced, no?


Yes, and killed one of her children.

If the HIV/AIDS supporters had not so selfishly denied these studies, Ms. Maggiore and her daughter along with many other may still be alive

The difference between your brand of idiocy and flat-earthers or young earth creationists is that yours kills people.

She would be alive if she wasn't an idiot. I hope the hundreds of thousands of dead in Africa as a result of the denialist holocaust you're helping enable rest heavily on your conscience.
posted by rodgerd at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


To: Mr. roboto
Look, I don't know if HIV has anything to do with AIDS.

It's the causative agent, FYI.

Where is the definitive proof? Science is about proof, not allegories.
posted by watercressprincess at 4:39 PM on January 5, 2009


Always a good read: Quackwatch on AIDS-related quackery and fraud.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:39 PM on January 5, 2009


Did she have a position on climate change?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:39 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, MAN. Something something wendell.
posted by JHarris at 4:41 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look. If any you can actually read. I did not deny anything. I only ask that proof be shown.

While I have posted scientific links, and provided basis for my questioning. None of you have done so. All you have done is call me a retard, and idiot.

Why not show proof from your sides? I am open to genuine discussion.
posted by watercressprincess at 4:42 PM on January 5, 2009


Wow, so people with fears about medicine are insane narcissists? She was wrong, folks, she wasn't a
douchebag.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:42 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Critical thinking is lacking in the field of HIV research.

That's laughable.

If the HIV uberlords are so certain that their theory can withstand true scientific scrutiny, then here are my questions:

Those are not scientific questions.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow, so people with fears about medicine are insane narcissists? She was wrong, folks, she wasn't a
douchebag.


She killed her daughter.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Did she have a position on climate change?

Science is about questioning. Science evolves. How long ago did we all think the world was flat and what did end up finding out?

For all those of you are just mocking, I challenge you find me one piece of scientific literature that denies the existence of telomerase, a reverse-transcriptase, in EVERY cell.

In case this assignment is too overwhelming, I will start you off with a wikipedia link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomerase
posted by watercressprincess at 4:46 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gamien Boffenburg! Gamien Boffenburg's back!

(You may now return to your regularly scheduled trainwreck.)
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I struggle to be sympathetic to AIDS denialists. Regardless, I'm sorry for her family's loss. I always hope such dangerous ideas are stamped out in less unpleasant ways.
posted by edd at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2009


It has always baffled me that a smart guy like Duesberg could believe these things.

Look at his hypothesis. It says that there's no AIDS at all! It says that it's a syndrome caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices like drugs and promiscuous sex and there is no infectious agent.

But this accounts for nothing! Why would such a syndrome suddenly appear? People have been taking drugs and having promiscuous sex for years. Why would it suddenly spread? It's devastating Africa - they aren't doing nitrate drugs or cocaine. How did my parents catch it? How did Isaac Asimov (notorious teetotaller and monogamist) catch it? If it's a hoax, why do the retrovirals work at all?

Forget about the science, just common sense would seem to tell you this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


Where is the definitive proof? Science is about proof, not allegories.
posted by watercressprincess at 6:39 PM on January 5


The CDC: In 1984, 3 years after the first reports of a disease that was to become known as AIDS, researchers discovered the primary causative viral agent, the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1).

For more information, try Google.
posted by theroadahead at 4:50 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Science is about proof
you've got some studyin' to do my friend. science can falsify but it cannot prove in the strict, binary sense.

i'd just like to point out that it's probably no coincidence that this woman was into "alternative medicine" and then duck out for the ensuing flame war.
posted by klanawa at 4:51 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yes. Douchebag she was.
posted by agregoli at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2009


watercressprincess: Sorry, we're not going to play this game. You don't get to bat your eyes, feign innocence and then ask for proof while intimating we're all just reactionary meanies for not having an 'open conversation'.

People don't need to provide you with the proof of HIV/AIDS for the same reason they don't need to prove the Earth is round. You want proof? Google it yourself. Because the next step when some poor bloke provides proof is that you'll deny or question parts of it, all part of the reducing game until you're wanting links to proof of the most absurdly basic things.
posted by Vaska at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2009 [24 favorites]


watercressprincess: You clearly haven't looked so hard, here's the first link from the Wikipedia.

You also have to understand the history of the whole disease. It wasn't that doctors were sitting around trying to invent a new disease - it's that a small subpopulation started dying of a disease, a disease so unusual that doctors sat up and took notice, a disease with very specific symptoms like Karposi sarcoma (that was previously only seen in old people) - and that it became very very clear from the epidemiology and from sociology that it was transmitted sexually (and basically just through anal sex - the death rate amongst gay males who didn't do anal was much, much smaller, though of course there's definitely a correlation between drug use and heavier sex of course...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2009


She was wrong, folks, she wasn't a douchebag.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:42 PM


Simply being wrong about something doesn't make one a douchebag; however, willfully denying facts that lead to the death of a child makes one something far worse.
posted by theroadahead at 4:58 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here are some scientific questions I hope to get some answers to for those who care rather than just calling me names.

Classic Immunology (can be found in any immunology textbook).
Immunization is way to let the immune system generate a defense against a possible microbe that might infect us. Once we are immunized, we generate antibodies and T cell that will protect us. One example is chickenpox caused by VZV infection. The first time we are exposed to VZV, we get sick, but then we are protected for life because we now have antibodies (IgG) to fend it off.

In the case of HIV, antibody positivity is used as a diagnostic marker. Why do HIV patients get sick 10 to 20 years after they've developed antibodies against the virus?

Laboratory Paradox:
Some may then argue that people with HIV get sick because the virus kills their immune cells, especially CD4+ T cells which HIV infects. Why is it then that ALL HIV research labs use CD4+ T cells to propagate high concentration of virus? These CD4+ T cells are not killed by the virus?

Bonus Question:
AZT's toxicity to fast growing bone marrow cells is well-known. B cells which produce antibodies to protect us develop in the bone marrow. Why is AZT, a known chemotherapy agent, used to treat patients who are immunosuppressed?

No quackery here, just seeking answers to contradictory scientific studies.
posted by watercressprincess at 4:59 PM on January 5, 2009


Know who else denies HIV/AIDS? Seriously, you'd never guess.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:47 PM on January 5


Wow, what the fuck. You're right, I never would have guessed that.

"To that end, ACT UP San Francisco encourages a healthy lifestyle through vegetarianism, medical marijuana, and questioning the medical orthodoxy."

Pardon me for repeating myself, but wow, what the fuck. Weed, guys? Weed? Really?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:00 PM on January 5, 2009


No, that throbbing pain in your face wasn't caused by me hitting you. You had the flu while you were pregnant, and that's why you experience what is colloquially known as The Slaps.
posted by klangklangston at 5:04 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thoughtful scientific responses? Anyone?
posted by watercressprincess at 5:05 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thoughtful scientific responses? Anyone?

Sorry, Dr. Ron Paul isn't answering his pager.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why do HIV patients get sick 10 to 20 years after they've developed antibodies against the virus?

The same thing can happen for syphillis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease and a ton of other infectious diseases.

Why is AZT, a known chemotherapy agent, used to treat patients who are immunosuppressed?

AZT is an antiretroviral drug. It is fairly toxic - that's why they don't use it so much any more. The modern retrovirals are much safer. It's famous just because it was the first thing they found that prevented the replication of the virus and got used a lot.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thoughtful scientific responses? Anyone?

I posted this a few posts before that comment. Rebuttals welcome.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:10 PM on January 5, 2009


Tenure is a bitch, eh?
posted by NikitaNikita at 5:10 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


syphillis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease work by completely different mechanisms.

New drugs such as Tenofovir or trade name Vired are also DNA chain terminators like AZT.
posted by watercressprincess at 5:14 PM on January 5, 2009


If your hypothesis is that AZT is what actually kills people with HIV, then why has life expectancy after diagnosis increased so dramatically since the introduction of drug-cocktail therapy?
posted by penduluum at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


She had it since 1992 -- that's a pretty powerful denial she had going there. Too bad her ignorance didn't help her kids any.

Denial + strong immune system = recipe for disaster.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2009


Some may then argue that people with HIV get sick because the virus kills their immune cells, especially CD4+ T cells which HIV infects. Why is it then that ALL HIV research labs use CD4+ T cells to propagate high concentration of virus? These CD4+ T cells are not killed by the virus?"

Uh, that one'd be easy for anyone who's ever cultured anything, or grown anything…
posted by klangklangston at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Watercressprincess --

1) Why shouldn't it start having effects 10 to 20 years later? Antibodies don't necessarily mean you're magically immune to a disease for all time. They are your body's attempt to fight the disease. Over a long period, this attempt can fail. Especially when the disease is attacking, you know, the immune system your body is using to fight the infection. Also, bear in mind that AIDS sufferers die of secondary infections brought on by a weakened immune system. So first your immune system needs to lose the fight, then you need to catch another disease.

2) Um, what? Seriously, what? Viruses infect cells. Eventually, they kill them, after reproducing for a while. It's not like the virus hits the cell and the cell immediately catches fire. So you culture viruses using the cells that they infect, using enough cells that the virus breeding outpaces the cell death for long enough. How the heck would you culture viruses *without* the cells they breed in? Magic? That's where viruses breed.

3) Er, yes, AZT is a drug which has dangerous side effects. Has anyone anywhere ever denied this ever? For a while, it was the only drug available.
posted by kyrademon at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


syphillis, tuberculosis, Lyme disease work by completely different mechanisms.

I'm sorry, I fail entirely to see your point. These are infectious diseases, right? You can get these infectious diseases and sometimes months, years or even decades will pass before you notice any symptoms, right? So doesn't that completely refute your original argument, which was:

"Why do HIV patients get sick 10 to 20 years after they've developed antibodies against the virus?"

inasmuch as there are "classic" diseases that also display similar properties?

And: New drugs such as Tenofovir or trade name Vired are also DNA chain terminators like AZT.

Yes, they work on the same principle as AZT, but with less toxicity. They "block reverse transcriptase, an enzyme crucial to viral production in HIV-infected people." Again, I don't see how this helps any argument you have, quite the reverse...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2009


I did not say AZT kills people with AIDS. I simply don't understand how AZT or similar drugs are helping AIDS patients based on its mechanisms of action which are contradictory to how we think HIV does.

If you click on the link posted by lupus_yonderboy on anti-retroviral therapy, the page actually says the mechanisms:

1) reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (but reverse transcriptases are NOT specific to HIV).

2) DNA chain terminator (prolly not something you want to take for a long time)
posted by watercressprincess at 5:21 PM on January 5, 2009


She killed her daughter and I think, helped kill perhaps millions in South Africa. I can't find the link now-- but I read somewhere that she personally helped convince Mbeki not to provide AIDS meds to nursing and pregnant women.

The completely absurd idea that in Africa, AIDS is caused by malnutrition and stress and other diseases and in addicts, it's caused by drugs and in gay men, it's caused by too much sex and everyone else is just lying about not being gay or a drug user or they got AIDS from taking AZT is what she tried to sell to people. Occam's razor, anyone?

The dance the denialists did after the PI's and the cocktail came out to try to pretend it wasn't working was astonishing. In the early 90's, you could argue that the way HIV produced AIDS was not clear. Any time after that -- particularly once the viral load tests were available-- was willful ignorance.

Stupidity and denial kill. This is a clear-cut case where promoting bad ideas is deadly.

And btw, Duesberg's work in other areas is still respected but whenever he publishes even on that in places like Scientific American they run a disclaimer saying that publishing him on cancer does not imply any endorsement of any of his ideas about HIV. I notice too that he's never volunteered to be injected with it.
posted by Maias at 5:21 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy

Telomerase, enzyme hailed as Fountain of Youth = reverse-transcriptase. Not specific for HIV anymore...
posted by watercressprincess at 5:23 PM on January 5, 2009


Why do HIV patients get sick 10 to 20 years after they've developed antibodies against the virus?

Why is this surprising? The varicella zoster virus can remain dormant and asymptomatic, for decades between initial infection (chicken pox) and symptomatic episodes of shingles. Do you dispute the etiology of these diseases as well?

Why is it then that ALL HIV research labs use CD4+ T cells to propagate high concentration of virus? These CD4+ T cells are not killed by the virus?

They are. They are then subsequently replenished from immortalized cell lines.

Why is AZT, a known chemotherapy agent, used to treat patients who are immunosuppressed?

Because it inhibits HIV replication.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:23 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Actually CD4+ T cells use to propagate HIV are very healthy. They don't die from loads of HIV inoculum. I know from culturing them day in and day out.
posted by watercressprincess at 5:24 PM on January 5, 2009


Metafilter: embracing ignorance is not a survival trait.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:25 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


"I would say that you live a dark age if this is the attitude you have toward the unknown..."

Actually, it's a pretty great age, and that's not really his attitude toward the unknown. That's his attitude toward fatuous questioning from a Paultard (sorry, ad hom, but fits) who is acting as if Socratic reasoning was universally applicable. It's called argument from ignorance, and it's a fallacy.

You know what? I don't know why HIV can cause AIDS ten years out. I'd bet that there's a coherent mechanism, and more to the point, my not knowing isn't an argument that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. Right now, HIV is our best guess and it's supported by an assload of evidence (the brief mention of the doctrine of falsification above may help you if you research it). NOT HIV doesn't have any real support regarding alternate pathways for AIDS causation. Sorry, that science can't answer every question yet doesn't mean that our theories are wrong. That's the same bullshit that crops up from creationists and global warming "skeptics."
posted by klangklangston at 5:26 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Watercressprincess, I think the reason most people are being dismissive of you is that denial that HIV is the causative agent of AIDS requires the following leap of logic:

1) People start dying of a syndrome characterized by a severely weakened immune system.

2) These people are shown to be infected with a virus that attacks the immune system.

Therefore:

3) The cause of the disease must be something else. Maybe drug use, or malnutrition. Or perhaps the medicine that was introduced several years after the syndrome was first identified and is not taken by all the people who die of it.

Surely you can see why there is a healthy skepticism towards this point of view.
posted by kyrademon at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


You cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into.
posted by Xoebe at 5:28 PM on January 5, 2009 [35 favorites]


watercressprincess, as someone whose oldest brother contracted HIV and then died a horrible death from AIDS-related causes (before retroviral drugs were widely available), please keep your crazy-ass, half-baked, pseudo-scientific "ideas" to yourself.*

Christ, what a depressing day in the comments on metafilter.

* Please add as much vitriol to this statement as you need in order to heed it.
posted by maxwelton at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


also, all reverse transcriptase is not the same.

and, AIDS treatment didn't start to be truly effective until you combined reverse transcriptase inhibitors (nuke and/or non-nuke) with a protease inhibitor.

If HIV doesn't cause AIDS, how do you explain the massive drop in deaths that coincided exactly with the spread of use of the cocktail in people with HIV and the use of preventative drugs in pregnant HIV positive women? If it doesn't cause AIDS, how would you explain the success of needle exchange?

Duesberg argued that recreational drugs destroy the immune system and that's what was killing addicts-- but addicts using needle exchange don't stop using drugs but they don't get HIV or AIDS either as long as they avoid needle sharing and unsafe sex.
posted by Maias at 5:30 PM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


watercressprincess: I don't think the scientific community needs critical thinking lessons from someone who apparently labels any organization they disagree with as "uberlords."

Your argument, as I read it, is thus:
1. The scientific community has not answered all questions about the safety and efficacy of antiretrovirals.
2. Therefore, they must be afraid of what those answers might reveal and are collectively trying to squelch dissenting thought.

This, obviously, ignores several entirely probable explanations that involve no malice whatsoever, including the possibility that existing information makes HIV/AIDS denialist theories wholly unlikely, despite being unable to address every edge case.

More pointedly: Critical thinking is good. Skepticism is healthy. But both need to be moderated by good sense, or they devolve into conspiracy-seeking that's exactly as worthless as mindless conformity.

That's the answer to your original second question, by the way... funding someone pursuing a crusade wouldn't prove anything beneficial in the "worst case" that he's wrong, and it would obviously cost money that isn't exactly overflowing in the coffers these days.

But worst of all it would set a precedent that being critical is more important than being right, on those occasions that the two are mutually exclusive.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:30 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Denialist? Wasn't she a denier?
posted by fixedgear at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


mr_roboto
Many studies have demonstrated that shingles develop while you are immunosuppresed, that's why it is more prevalent in old people. This immunosuppression is associated with a DECREASE in anti-VZV antibody. However, in the case of HIV, your anti-HIV titer does not drop BEFORE you become sick. Therefore, it is surprising to me. Do you agree that in most cases, once you've developed chickenpox, you don't get it again? Why?

HIV infected CD4+ T cells are minimally cytopathic unlike herpevirus infections.

Does AZT inhibit HIV replication or does it only inhibit reverse-transcriptase activity?
posted by watercressprincess at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2009


watercressprincess: I really have troubles following your arguments at all.

For example, why does it surprise you that a drug to cure one retrovirus also works on other retroviruses? Why does it surprise you that some diseases have a very long period from production of antibodies to gross symptoms when many well-known diseases do just that?

The article on the Duesberg Hypothesis that I posted had easily half-a-dozen strikes against the theory - like, why did hemophiliacs suddenly start getting AIDS? It's not like hemophilia is at all new, or badly understood. There are more there - but I didn't see you address one of them.

Here's a question for you - do you believe that people are healthier today or 100 years ago?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dude:

HIV infects and kills CD4+ T lymphocytes in vitro, although scientists have developed immortalized T-cell lines in order to propagate HIV in the laboratory (Popovic et al., 1984; Zagury et al., 1986; Garry, 1989; Clark et al., 1991).

Several mechanisms of CD4+ T cell killing have been observed in lentivirus systems in vitro and may explain the progressive loss of these cells in HIV-infected individuals (reviewed in Garry, 1989; Fauci, 1993a; Pantaleo et al., 1993a).

These mechanisms include disruption of the cell membrane as HIV buds from the surface (Leonard et al., 1988) or the intracellular accumulation of heterodisperse RNAs and unintegrated DNA (Pauza et al., 1990; Koga et al., 1988). Evidence also suggests that intracellular complexing of CD4 and viral envelope products can result in cell killing (Hoxie et al., 1986).

In addition to these direct mechanisms of CD4+ T cell depletion, indirect mechanisms may result in the death of uninfected CD4+ T cells (reviewed in Fauci, 1993a; Pantaleo et al., 1993a).

Uninfected cells often fuse with infected cells, resulting in giant cells called syncytia that have been associated with the cytopathic effect of HIV in vitro (Sodroski et al., 1986; Lifson et al., 1986).

Uninfected cells also may be killed when free gp120, the envelope protein of HIV, binds to their surfaces, marking them for destruction by antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity responses (Lyerly et al., 1987).

Other autoimmune phenomena may also contribute to CD4+ T cell death since HIV envelope proteins share some degree of homology with certain major histocompatibility complex type II (MHC-II) molecules (Golding et al., 1989; Koenig et al., 1988).

A number of investigators have suggested that superantigens, either encoded by HIV or derived from unrelated agents, may trigger massive stimulation and expansion of CD4+ T cells, ultimately leading to depletion or anergy of these cells (Janeway, 1991; Hugin et al., 1991).

The untimely induction of a form of programmed cell death called apoptosis has been proposed as an additional mechanism for CD4+ T cell loss in HIV infection (Ameisen and Capron, 1991; Terai et al., 1991; Laurent-Crawford et al., 1991).

Recent reports indicate that apoptosis occurs to a greater extent in HIV-infected individuals than in non-infected persons, both in the peripheral blood and lymph nodes (Finkel et al., 1995; Pantaleo and Fauci, 1995b; Muro-Cacho et al., 1995).

It has also been observed that HIV infects precursors of CD4+ T cells in the bone marrow and thymus and damages the microenvironment of these organs necessary for the optimal sustenance and maturation of progenitor cells (Schnittman et al., 1990b; Stanley et al., 1992). These findings may help explain the lack of regeneration of the CD4+ T cell pool in patients with AIDS (Fauci, 1993a).

Recent studies have demonstrated a substantial viral burden and active viral replication in both the peripheral blood and lymphoid tissues even early in HIV infection (Fox et al., 1989; Coombs et al., 1989; Ho et al., 1989; Michael et al., 1992; Bagnarelli et al., 1992; Pantaleo et al., 1993b; Embretson et al., 1993; Piatak et al., 1993).

One group has reported that 25 percent of CD4+ T cells in the lymph nodes of HIV-infected individuals harbor HIV DNA early in the course of disease (Embretson et al., 1993).

Other data suggest that HIV infection is sustained by a dynamic process involving continuous rounds of new viral infection and the destruction and replacement of over 1 billion CD4+ T cells per day (Wei et al., 1995; Ho et al., 1995).

Taken together, these studies strongly suggest that HIV has a central role in the pathogenesis of AIDS, either directly or indirectly by triggering a series of pathogenic events that contribute to progressive immunosuppression.
posted by kyrademon at 5:32 PM on January 5, 2009 [72 favorites]


No quackery here, just seeking answers to contradictory scientific studies.

You aren't *really* though, are you watercressprincess? In all areas of science and medicine you see contradictions and contradictory responses. Generally, this is because once you've come up with a hypothesis that's sufficiently robust to allow you to make predictions and develop treatments that actually work, you can plough your resources and energies into focusing on problems that actually need that time and attention.

Arguing with people like you is always a waste of time because no evidence is ever good enough and you'll always ignore the overwhelming weight of evidence that supports the thesis, while you obsess about those insignificant edge cases that allow you to cling to the doubt that you find so soothing.

But readers who may be in danger of buying into your hypothesis might wish to ponder the on how, if HIV isn't the cause, then:

a.) why do people no longer get infected from blood transfusions since we began screening blood?
b.) why has combination retroviral treatment been able to indefinitely extend the lives in a treatment population that previously was dying in their thousands every year?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:32 PM on January 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


At this point, obviously, the current model we have regarding HIV/AIDS is clearly the best one. Rational, ethical people should base their actions on it.

That said, watercressprincess has raised some valid questions. Yes, we should not fund absolutely crazy things, but our understanding of vector borne illness and autoimmune disorders are, regardless of what many might assume, still fairly nascent. Why not study alternative theories? It is, after all, basic science and who knows what might come of it even if it's incorrect.

You don't have to throw the real research out with the, um, crazies, in the bathwater [low marks for bad metaphor use noted]. Lots of otherwise kooky, even further-out-there ideas (plate tectonics anyone?) proved correct against all prevailing wisdom. As watercressprincess said, "It can't hurt*"

* so long as we have the money and people are following the current, conventional life saving wisdom until proven otherwise.

And, n.b. and somewhat OT, anyone who thinks the boys (almost all boys) at CDER/CBER are anything but a narrow minded club with their own, formerly or soon-to-be corporate axes to grind, is ignorant of the current state of things at the Agency. This I know firsthand.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:33 PM on January 5, 2009


[a few comments removed - spirited discussion okay "fuck off" talk needs to go elsewhere, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:35 PM on January 5, 2009


2) Why are the NIH uberlords refusing to fund Peter Deusberg to systematically study other possibilities of AIDS causation? What is the worse that can happen? Peter Duesberg being wrong???? Wouldn't that support their hypothesis even more?
As Wolfgang Pauli would say, Deusberg is not even wrong, and that is why his ilk will not be funded by the NIH, the NSF, or even the local HOA.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


If HIV doesn't cause AIDS, how do you explain the massive drop in deaths that coincided exactly with the spread of use of the cocktail in people with HIV and the use of preventative drugs in pregnant HIV positive women? If it doesn't cause AIDS, how would you explain the success of needle exchange?

The original studies which examined the efficacy of each of the drugs used in the cocktail did not show promising results. So, as the head of my department chair put it..."so, they threw a cocktail of crappy drugs together at lower dosages"...and it seemed to have work. However, I think it remains to be determined whether lower doses of toxicity drugs prolong survival compared to one toxic drug at high concentration, or if these drugs are truly working as we believe.

Effect of needle exchange also needs to be dissociated from other infectious causes that can cause immunosuppression as well... hepatitis for ex.
posted by watercressprincess at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2009


Can someone elaborate on what she means by 'occult forces'? Does she think that demons killed her?
posted by empath at 5:42 PM on January 5, 2009


I'm confused, how does a person develop AIDS if being infected by HIV is totes irrelevant?

And then if HART is so bad for patients, how to explain the massive drop off in death in the US around the time drug therapies started to work while prevalence increases at a steady slope?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2009


O hai, preview, someone already posted that.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:43 PM on January 5, 2009


watercressprincess: I would also like to say that people here have been pretty polite - considering that many of us have lost people we cared about due to this disease. As I pointed out above, I lost my parents to it a decade ago and I still miss them every day.

Now, if you were presenting any sort of reasonable argument, this would not be an issue at all. But the fact is that you are not. You're asking, "If science now knows how AIDS work, how come they don't know every tiny detail." But you're missing the point that your pet theory doesn't explain one fact, even one tiny fact, about the disease and that your theory hasn't produced one treatment that objectively helps people whereas our science has produced treatments that have reduced AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic but mostly-manageable condition.

So as far as we can see, you're promulgating a lot of fantasy that if people believed it would kill some of them. You certainly haven't made one post that seems to indicate you know anything about medicine. You've ignored huge flaws in your theory to niggle at tiny, inconsequential details in ours.

And for a lot of us, this is deeply personal.

So frankly, I'd believe we're being a lot politer than you deserve. I understand where you're coming from - doctors are very much in love with their system and deserve a great deal of skepticism - but I have to say that I believe your stance stems from a complete lack of knowledge of the field and a complete lack of interest in really finding out about it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:45 PM on January 5, 2009 [36 favorites]


watercressprincess, what is the specific assertion you are making?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:47 PM on January 5, 2009


Yikes, talk about your not even wrong arguments.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:49 PM on January 5, 2009


mandymanwasregistered : I don't know the exact mechanisms of how AIDS develops. But better drugs can be developed if understood more about it.

AIDS patients don't usually die of "HIV infection" per say. They die from AIDS-related complications...all of them are complications that existed before HIV came to our knowledge...pneumonia, dementia for example, this is even apparent in the name AIDS. Acquired Immunodeficiency syndromes. Not a "true" disease, but syndromes. Why can't there be more than one cause for these syndromes?
posted by watercressprincess at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2009


"It can't hurt*"

Some years ago, I attended the funeral of a man who used urine therapy to treat his AIDS. (There was a lot of tension because quite a few people were very angry about this and the therapists were there - but people were very civilized.)

It was in the early days of retrovirals. Quite possibly he'd have died anyway. But there are a lot of HIV-positive people from those days who are still alive.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2009


God, you're in a lab and have a department chair (I did like the mental image of the "head of the department chair" spouting off, like his body couldn't control him) and you don't know how science works?

I'm a pornographer, for God's sake, and I've read Popper!
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 PM on January 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


watercressprincess, if you culture HIV all day, and are so certain it's not the cause of the disease, please inject yourself with it.

you could prove in one fell swoop your theory. Or you could die just like everyone else who gets infected. I think the world will be a better place either way.
posted by nomisxid at 5:58 PM on January 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


Please stop feeding the troll.
posted by maxwelton at 6:00 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why can't there be more than one cause for these syndromes?

Occam's Razor.

Suddenly many people get sick. They all are immunocompromised. They all have antibodies to a newly-discovered virus. There are three very clear epidemiological vectors, boiling down to "sharing blood". While the specific diseases that they get vary, there are certain common opportunistic diseases like cytomegalovirus or Kaposi that were only previously seen in old (i.e. immunocrompromised) people. Science discovers a series of treatments for this virus that dramatically increases the lifespans of infected individuals.

Now it could be that this single virus causes it.

Or it could be that a group of unrelated, undiscovered diseases drawing from a common set of symptoms happened to target San Francisco male homosexuals and that the wrongly-conceived of treatment happens by an astonishing coincidence to work on all of these undiscovered diseases, for some unknown reason.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:01 PM on January 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


kyrademon: I agree with you on the general attitude. However association does not equal causation. For example, Girls with red bicycles get cancer is an observation. But does red bicycles cause cancers in girls?

The human genome sequencing project showed that 1.5% of our genome codes for functionally relevant genes, but 8% of our genome is laden with retroviral sequences. Retroviruses are within us. Just finding them, and people happen to get sick does not absolutely show causation.
posted by watercressprincess at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2009


What department are you speaking of, watercressprincess? You seem to posit yourself as a researcher active in an academic or medical research capacity, so I'm curious as to whether you would be willing to share what institution you're at, or what at least your area of expertise is with regards to virology/immunology/microbiology. If I am mistaken, forgive me -- I'm only going on your statements above.
posted by ltracey at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2009


I agree with you on the general attitude. However association does not equal causation. For example, Girls with red bicycles get cancer is an observation. But does red bicycles cause cancers in girls?

You could have at least completed the stupid analogy by referencing a car.

Anyone asking that question should be given as much credence as you're getting...
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:06 PM on January 5, 2009


Here's an article about HIV denial on the Internet, written by Tara Smith and Steven Novella. Smith is at the University of Iowa, is an epidemiologist and blogs at Scienceblogs (as does Orac.)
posted by ltracey at 6:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, who wants to get a nice syringeful of cultured, HIV-laden cells and have a nice jab? Put your money where your mouth is, folks.
posted by adipocere at 6:08 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well ... if it was observed that essentially 100% of girls who had a particular type of cancer had a particular kind of red bicycle, and there was a plausible mechanism by which that kind of red bicycles could cause the disease -- the red paint was demonstrated to be strongly carcinogenic and accumulate in ovarian tissue, let's say -- and it was also demonstrated that taking away the red bicycles greatly diminished the incidence of the disease, and preventing them from getting a red bicycle in the first place kept them from getting it at all ...

Then yes, I would argue that red bicycles cause cancer in girls. And I would regard people who argued that the jury was still out on the matter in much the same way that you are being regarded here.
posted by kyrademon at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2009 [31 favorites]


It is, after all, basic science and who knows what might come of it even if it's incorrect.

Once proved wrong to all reasonable doubt, it's time to abandon the theory. Koch's postulate has been fulfilled for AIDS years ago via dead dentists and lab workers.

Duesberg et al. are the crazies in the bathwater.

HIV != HERV watercressprincess.
posted by benzenedream at 6:10 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Things to clarify--no one here seems to be arguing that we don't need to develop better drugs with fewer side effects. Pretty much every presentation I've sat through on current drug therapies has said as much as well and talks about other sorts of drugs that might work that attack at different points than we do now. So why are you harping on that?

Secondly, no shit people don't die of AIDS, they die from opportunistic infections that resulted from their weakened immune system, AIDS related complications or whatevs. That's why we call it acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, no?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:12 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Angels in America:
Roy Cohn: And what is my diagnosis Henry?

Henry: You have AIDS, Roy.

Roy Cohn: No. AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer.
posted by ericb at 6:14 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


At this point, obviously, the current model we have regarding HIV/AIDS is clearly the best one. Rational, ethical people should base their actions on it.

Yes, this. My main criticism of Maggiore is not her "skepticism". Is it possible that we will one day learn that HIV does not cause AIDS? I guess so, and if evidence ever arises to support that hypothesis then a new model will evolve.

In the meantime, I tend to think it's morally irresponsible at best to subject those in your care (Maggiore's daughter, the citizens of Thabo Mbeki's South Africa) to the deadly consequences of beliefs that fly in the face of the near-unanimous consensus of the worldwide scientific community.
posted by lalex at 6:15 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good riddance to Maggiore.

Although, at least Maggiore had the courage to murder her daughter and kill herself for her convictions. Until watercressprincess mainlines a nice shot full of HIV, she counts as a coward in my book.
posted by OmieWise at 6:15 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


AZT as the "real" cause of AIDS death doesn't even pass a simple logic test, never mind needing scientific proof.

GRID was first diagnosed in 1981. In 1982, GRID was re-named AIDS.

AZT was introduced as an AIDS drug in 1985.

Tell me, watercressprincess, what killed AIDS patients prior to 1985?
posted by FfejL at 6:17 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Look. I need to go back my own virus research. I posted my opinion and my own understanding of HIV because most people were just calling Ms. Maggiore a retard, a killer...etc. and I felt that
1) we don't know enough about the science to definitively judge she was wrong
2) the poor woman just died, where is the compassion?

You don't have to believe any of the stuff, Peter Duesberg or Ms. Maggiore believed in. But at least examine them, research them, before dismissing them.

The first time I was exposed to their ideas, I was outraged. I wrote emails to my friends denouncing them because like many of you, I believe they are spewing out non-sense. It was against everything and anything I have heard in my studies. I stuck through the initial introduction, and began to see the contradictions in the current theory. Being a scientist who does research on a similar retrovirus discovered by the same person who discovered HIV, I started studying more about the immunology, the virology, and also read many scientific literatures on HIV pathogenesis. None of those studies fully account for the many questions I have, some of the less technical ones, I shared with you all.

So, if the current anti-retroviral therapies work well, that's good. But simply dismissing other ideas particularly because the current one does not explain all the pieces of the puzzle is not a healthy direction.
posted by watercressprincess at 6:18 PM on January 5, 2009


For all those of you are just mocking, I challenge you find me one piece of scientific literature that denies the existence of telomerase, a reverse-transcriptase, in EVERY cell.

On the other hand, I'm also unable to find any literature that denies the existence of lipids. So I guess that proves HIV causes AIDS after all, in your weirdly non-sequitous logic.
posted by DU at 6:18 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the article to which tracey links:
"Of all the characteristics of deniers, repeatedly nudging back the goalpost—or the threshold of evidence required for acceptance of a theory—is often the most telling. The strategy behind goalpost-moving is simple: always demand more evidence than can currently be provided. If the evidence is then provided at a later date, simply change the demand to require even more evidence, or refuse to accept the kind of evidence that is being offered."
posted by ericb at 6:20 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Many studies have demonstrated that shingles develop while you are immunosuppresed, that's why it is more prevalent in old people. This immunosuppression is associated with a DECREASE in anti-VZV antibody. However, in the case of HIV, your anti-HIV titer does not drop BEFORE you become sick. Therefore, it is surprising to me. Do you agree that in most cases, once you've developed chickenpox, you don't get it again? Why?

HIV infected CD4+ T cells are minimally cytopathic unlike herpevirus infections.

Does AZT inhibit HIV replication or does it only inhibit reverse-transcriptase activity?
posted by watercressprincess at 5:31 PM on January 5 [+] [!]


This is unreal. WCP, if you were stamping tickets in a Greyhound station in Muncie I wouldn't feel so hyperbolically antagonistic toward your stupidity, but you apparently have some sort of working knowledge of bench science and possibly virology. Yet you've gone from dropping ignoramus troll-grenades to asking questions that would be answerable by any first-year med student.

Stop.
posted by docpops at 6:21 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Being a scientist who does research on a similar retrovirus discovered by the same person who discovered HIV...

And who was that?
posted by ericb at 6:24 PM on January 5, 2009


Watercressprincess, I think I understand what you're suggesting - but I'm sure you can see that there won't be any productive discourse (at least, not the kind you're looking for) here. The response from kyrademon was probably the most informative so far, but it's going downhill fast.
posted by HopperFan at 6:25 PM on January 5, 2009


docpops: I train many medical students. Many of them do not have answers, let alone thought about those inconsistencies in our current theory.
posted by watercressprincess at 6:25 PM on January 5, 2009


Um, for those that are interested, some clever googling will turn up many research papers on virus's authored by WCP, so she is who she says she is.
posted by empath at 6:26 PM on January 5, 2009


Her supporters expressed shock Monday over her death but were highly skeptical that it was caused by AIDS. And they said it would not stop them from questioning mainstream thinking.

No she didn't die of AIDS it must have been something else. Dead at 52, the truth will set you free. Also did you know smoking is really good for you, it's true. Cancer is a myth. *spits tobacco juice*

highly skeptical that it was caused by AIDS.

What the hell kind of proof do you people need, I ask you? A child is dead, from what? A mother dead, from what?

highly skeptical that it was caused by AIDS.

I'm highly skeptical that they are rational.
posted by nola at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


watercarrierprincess: If someone of your stance wanted to dramatically demonstrate how correct you are, why not inject yourself with some HIV positive cells? If many of you did this, wouldn't the public finally sit up and take notice of the absurdity of the mainstream view? This isn't like UFOs or something, you can falsify the HIV/AIDS connection theory very easily...
posted by phrontist at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2009


One of the doctors at Institute Pasteur who discovered lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV) or Dr. Robert Gallo who discovered HLTV-III?
posted by ericb at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2009


I don't think she is saying that HIV doesn't cause AIDS only that the picture may be more complicated than that.
posted by empath at 6:28 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a pornographer, for God's sake, and I've read Popper!

Just to be sure, you mean Karl, not "Cherri", right?
posted by qvantamon at 6:34 PM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


ericb: Dr. Luc Montagnier at Institute Pasteur discovered lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV). Dr. Gallo borrowed that strain that was name HTLV-III from Montagnier and claimed it to be his because... I don't know...HIV was like so difficult to find in his AIDS patients...so he resorted to borrowing. This sparked a huge international controversy which caused HTLV-III to be re-named HIV and Dr. Gallo who was running one of the biggest laboratories at the NIH was asked to seek other positions. The Nobel community recently awarded Dr. Luc Montagnier the nobel prize for discovering HIV. They did not give this honor to Dr. Gallo...
posted by watercressprincess at 6:42 PM on January 5, 2009


HIV uberlords
NIH uberlords
per say


Just...just stop. You're giving me douche chills.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:43 PM on January 5, 2009


Telomerase, enzyme hailed as Fountain of Youth = reverse-transcriptase.

Um what? This doesn't make sense. This isn't correct, they don't equal one another. There are lots of reverse transcriptases besides telomerase and your comments about both don't make a lot of sense. What exactly is the point you're even trying to make?

It's clear from your comments that your understanding of immunology and virology and just general molecular biology is terrible, to the point that arguing with you right now is futile. Your passive attitude is even worse, there's no reason why you can't go learn this stuff if you tried. Your comment about culturing cells makes me think you may work in a lab which worries me. Uneducated, narrow minded people don't have a place in research and I hope that's not where you're at.

If you really do want answers then go do some reading. You've been given more than enough info in just this thread to get started and a small amount of time with google scholar following the peer reviewed mainstream literature in this field will give you plenty more. Forget the denalist literature for a while, it's all self referencing and incestuous and written clearly to support it's one agenda. Proper science looks for answers whatever they are (and however messy they are) rather than works to support a predefined idea. Also do some reading about what it actually means to do science, how it is that we build ideas and make discoveries. Because the one clear answer you seem to expect doesn't exist for anything, it's not how science works. Once you've got some clue what you're talking about, learnt some rational thinking skills and put some effort in actually finding answers rather than falling for the pseudoscience bullshit, then maybe an open and useful discussion is possible.

Critical thinking is good. Skepticism is healthy. But both need to be moderated by good sense, or they devolve into conspiracy-seeking that's exactly as worthless as mindless conformity.

I agree with this. But they also need to come from an place of education and information rather than just ignorance. Actually finding out the facts of what's going on rather than latching onto the easiest sounding thing is necessary. You certainly don't need to be an immunologist to understand and believe that HIV causes AIDS but a basic acquaintance with the mainstream literature in the area certainly would help when trying to think more deeply about the matter.

(I don't work with HIV or other viruses but do work in an immunology-based field and right now should actually be reading innate immunity textbooks rather than playing around on the internet)
posted by shelleycat at 6:52 PM on January 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


(I signed up with MeFi just to post a comment about this)

watercressprincess, it seems you have some sort of agenda here. What exactly do you think causes AIDS, if not HIV?

Please, enlighten us with YOUR THEORY of AIDS and where it comes from. I think it's fairly clear that you have an opinion on the issue but you haven't expressed it openly to us.

This is how quack medicine lives on: you ask "damning questions" that sound SO scientific (loaded with lots of jargon that laypersons do not understand) but then do not offer your own theories straight up. Instead, you introduce doubt into the minds of gullible folks who then are open to suggestion, where you lead them down the path just enough so that people who THINK they are being clever and doing independent research find "alternative theories" that are pure bull, and latch onto them like gospel. Even if that's not your intention, that's exactly what you are doing: opening the door for those not versed in the science to latch onto "alternative" (read: dangerous) theories about AIDS.

I'm all for healthy scientific skepticism but there are certain places where it's pretty clear what's going on, even to the layperson. I can understand and respect your position of being one knowledgable with virology, but it's far too easy to get "buried in the details" when working with complicated sciences, and sometimes one can get too caught up in the nuances behind the scenes that you're unable to see the "big picture". Maybe that is the case here, I don't know.

Even some of the most brilliant people can be gullible.

I'm all for free speech, and I will defend your right to spout b.s. until the day I die, but damn if I'm going to let that b.s. go unchallenged.

Science rules. Where's Bill Nye to set the record straight?
posted by autobahn at 6:53 PM on January 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


I just wanted to doff my hat to those here taking the time to write such detailed and informative responses to what looked to me like a pretty trollish set of questions.

And while I'm a fervent supporter of people's right to hurt themselves, I will never be able to understand how people can deny treatment to their child. Do what you wish to your own body, but take the most conservative and nurturing approach possible with your child.

What a sad story, in so many ways.
posted by Forktine at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2009


Watercressprincess, setting any arguments of whether HIV causes AIDS completely aside, there are a huge range of errors in fact and in understanding of basic molecular biology, biochemistry, immunology, pharmacology, and in basic 'nuts and bolts' topics like the design of experiments present in the posts you've put up above. These are not on relatively abstruse concepts which require advanced scientific or medical training to comprehend, but on facts and concepts which should be accessible to an undergraduate or advanced high school student who has completed the basic freshman biology course sequence and has access to basic textbooks or Wikipedia. I'm not picking on you here because you're making the argument that HIV doesn't cause AIDS (OK, fine, I am), but because in effect, your arguments are incoherent to the point where they're harming your cause; they're "not even wrong" as Wolfgang Pauli famously said.

It's the immunology stuff in your arguments which pains me the most. Well, the maybe medicine stuff, but I think I'll address immunology here. So, let's work on that! Your question above references "any immunology textbook", but let's get specific: I'm fond of Abbas and Lichtman's Cellular and Molecular Immunology, which is available in a condensed form as well (Basic Immunology). There's also a textbook by Janeway of which one edition is freely available online, though in an inconvenient format.

These aren't easy books, but the majority of their content should be accessible to someone who has completed an AP Bio-style freshman biology sequence. When reading, even feel free to ignore the excellent synopses of HIV given in chapter 20 of Abbas or chapter 11 of Janeway. If you want to to cut it down, read chapters 1-3 in Abbas, then read chapter 15, "immunity to microbes", referring to earlier stuff as needed- I think this is less than 100 pages in total. These parts of the book only talk about HIV indirectly and will help give you the basic tools needed to make the arguments you seem to want to make. Granted, I'm hoping that in the light of what you learn a lot of these arguments won't make sense to you anymore, but even if not it'll make you a little more cutting as you make them.
posted by monocyte at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


watercressprincess -- I am familiar with the issues/controversy regarding the "discovery" of HIV, hence my question.
posted by ericb at 7:01 PM on January 5, 2009


I see watercressprincess is a working scientist (apparently). I sure as hell hope you express yourself better when writing scientific literature and teaching med students than you are here because I sure wouldn't have picked it from any of this.

2) the poor woman just died, where is the compassion?

The 'poor women' killed her child and was implicated in the death of many thousands of others thanks to the dangerous ideas she was spreading. What's to be compassionate about?
posted by shelleycat at 7:03 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, if we're doing that, let's get monocyte's stuff out there, too.
posted by HopperFan at 7:23 PM on January 5, 2009


I train many medical students.
posted by watercressprincess at 8:25 PM on January 5 [+] [!]


So do I. I recently had to explain to them that microwave ovens don't cause brain cancer. But it still very much concerns me if some university somewhere is letting you teach, no less planning to give you a degree, based on the sort of disregard for the scientific process you've displayed here. I understand a certain desire to defend your dignity in the face of disagreement, but if you resort to this style of argument in academia I don't think you'll last very long.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:24 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


the poor woman just died, where is the compassion?

An even better question may be: Where was her compassion?

By announcing his hypothesis to the media without providing substantiating data, Gallo violated a fundamental rule of the scientific process.

From the Alive & Well website. The word "hypothesis" is in bold type, which is almost laughable, given that there is nothing in any of Alive & Well's literature that admits that what it is pushing is also a hypothesis (and a thin one at that).

I don't think antiretoviral drugs are a panecea, but touting herbal therapy and detoxification and cleansing as substututes for treatment with antiretrovirals is about as responsible and trustworthy as Gambia's dictator Yahya Jammeh insisting that AIDS can be cured by eating bananas and drinking herbs and spices on Thursdays.
posted by blucevalo at 7:31 PM on January 5, 2009


For those curious about the bonafides
Well, consider my mind blown. I have to say that I'm having trouble reconciling that publication record with the quality of argument demonstrated here.
posted by monocyte at 7:35 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


And monocyte, my link wasn't to be snarky, just to point out some proof that you know what you're talking about. Er, if I got the right person, that is.
posted by HopperFan at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2009


How many of you actually know that what AZT is? It is marketed as an anti-retroviral drug by way of reverse transcriptase inhibition, but it was really designed as a mutagen to kill the most resistant form of cancer cells (fast growing cells).

If you've got to have cancer, you want to discover an aggressive tumor early. Cells division is an exploitable weakness. Slow growing tumors are far more resistant to these kinds of non-targeted treatments because now you have to worry about killing off the fast growing cells that you are using (bone marrow, stomach lining, etc.) Giving your body more time to recover gives the tumor more time to recover.

One of the first products I worked on that was going to be big big big was all about convincing your bone marrow to grow back quickly after you'd been pounded with high dose chemotherapy so that you could handle more chemo, more often. Let's just say it didn't exactly kick Neupogen's ass in clinical trials and "No worse than brand X" doesn't get you very far in the marketplace. Here's a paper.

Either way, I don't think you can describe any molecule made in 1964 as "designed".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:49 PM on January 5, 2009


So for anyone who believes that AIDS is caused by lifestyle factors, how much promiscuous sex and wild drug use do you believe that Ryan White was engaging in?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 PM on January 5, 2009


Also, no . for Maggiore.

More like ..|.,
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:52 PM on January 5, 2009


[a few comments removed - please do not turn this into a witch hunt linking to people's real name stuff, it's pretty well against the rules]
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 PM on January 5, 2009


Okay. I'm not going to weigh in on whether HIV causes AIDS, as I'm siding with the majority on this one. However, while I think denialism is both crude and irresponsible, the following issues are raised by way of its allegations. Unlike deniaism itself, they may bear consideration:

1) Because AIDS rings some major alarm bells in the popular consciousness, the epidemic has had more success in garnering attention and funding than have other crises (such as malaria). To some extent, AIDS even shut out other issues. This raises important questions about modes of non-profit advocacy and coordination, and dangers inherent in faddish (though legit) fundraising.

2) Based on the above, there may have been an incentive to overdiagnose. Farber has repeatedly alleged that, for a long period of time, AIDS diagnosis in Africa was based on symptoms, and done according to vague 1985 WHO guielines, instead of by Wesern blot or other HIV testing. If that's true, some people were likely misreated, which blows. This highlights the fact that, when it comes to some illnesses, donors should prioritize not just remedies, but on the ground diagnostics and medical expertise.

3) Duesberg or not, it would be great to have a multiplicity of solid, non-governmental funding streams for large-scale basic research. Were this the case, Duesberg could do independent work without whinging or taking government funds away from far more promising avenues of investigation. We'd have the opportunity for greater critical analysis, and less danger of either in-place regimes limiting research, or outsiders attempting to hijack agency priorities.

Disclosures:
-I have fact checked Celia Farber in the past, and once or twice, had the opportunity to speak to her about her articles. I do not agree with her, and can recognize the dangers inherent in the concepts she promotes. At the same time, I don't think of her as some kind of horrible monster.
-I grew up in downtown Manhattan in the 1980s. My childhood memories include a lot of walls covered in stickers, posters, and graffiti reading "Silence=Death"; as such, AIDS has always held a special seat in my consciousness. Just so y'all know, ACT UP SF stands alone among the ACT UPs of the world.)
-I highly recommend Richard Rodriguez's "Late Victorians", if you can get your hands on it. It's not about denialism. It's just a short story. But it is pretty, and sad, and wonderful.

posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2009


monocyte: And what exactly do you have against the scientific questions I raised? You did not specify at all. I have Janeway, Abbas, and Paul in front of me right now. All, I have read. I don't claim to understand every word but basic immunological principles cannot be overturned without examining the causes.

I appreciate your suggestions, and obviously you know something about the immune system since you called yourself "monocyte". Currently, there are many speculations on how HIV works and monocyte is an important cell type that has recently gained center stage among the HIV researchers.

However, the HIV/AIDS hypothesis turns classic immunology which are clearly stated in Janeway, Abbas and Paul, completely up-side down. These inconsistencies are blatantly ignored by most researchers. While I and others who are skeptical about the current theory may very well be wrong, most rebuttals provided are not based on new theories that can reconcile these differences, but focus on attacking those who question.

I don't claim to know anything. Maybe you all do. You all have implied that I don't believe HIV causes AIDS, but that is clearly not my point. I don't know if it does or not, further direct proofs are necessary, not the exhaustive round about ones that are presented over and over again.

Perhaps, my goals are different than most. I desire a cure which according to the current working principle has not given us an effective preventative strategy nor a cure. I am only suggesting that alternative theories also deserve as much attention. HIV/AIDS hypothesis has had 20+ years to solve this condition, but progress has been slow...at least solutions that can make patients less dependent on toxic drugs. And this can only come from understanding of what causes the condition.

Even well known HIV researchers are showing signs of desperation in hopes for something that will stick. For instance, Dr. Fauci has a recent in Nature paper which suggests that Tysabri may be a potential therapy. However, Tysabri, which is an anti-VLA inhibitor is associated with immunosuppression and caused 3 autoimmune patients who were on therapy to develop PML, a fatal demyelinating disease often associated with immunosuppressed individuals, like those with HIV. Two patients actually died from this treatment and the drug was voluntarily recalled from the market by the company. After evaluating the risk/benefit of the drug for autoimmune conditions, generally thought of as a hyper-immune reactivity, the drug came back on the market with a black-box label. However, it appears to me that, as Dr. Fauci suggested, using an immunosuppressive agent on patients who are already immunosuppresssed--is not exactly a rational argument.

Anyway, as I am not getting any constructive feedback on how the current working hypothesis of HIV/AID can work with well with our most basic understanding of immunology. I am going to STOP.

Good night and good luck.
posted by watercressprincess at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2009


It is sad that Christine Maggiore's willful ignorance killed not only herself, but an innocent child and any others who she persuaded.
posted by grouse at 8:03 PM on January 5, 2009


So here's a question. If HIV <> AIDS why does CCR5 Delta 32 confer AIDS immunity?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyway, as I am not getting any constructive feedback on how the current working hypothesis of HIV/AID can work with well with our most basic understanding of immunology.

And you came here for that? Not that there aren't smart people on MetaFilter, and even some Actual Experts in Their Fields, but coming here for that kind of discussion is...nonsensical. Shouldn't you be having this kind of discussion with other immunologists? And if you're not, I'm wondering why. not really.

Not to mention all the ducking and weaving you've been doing of legitimate and respectful questions put to you.
posted by rtha at 8:17 PM on January 5, 2009


This has been an interesting thread.
posted by chinston at 8:17 PM on January 5, 2009


Also, in the interest of lightening things up just a little: There is nothing quite so awesome as looking up and realizing you are in a room full of virologists and published researchers.

You guys rock.

Even if you haven't managed to cure AIDS in this thread.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:19 PM on January 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Watercressprincess --

This may come to late, as you may have already ceased to read. I hope not.

Part of the problem here, which is becoming more and more evident as the thread goes on, is that all of us here -- whether we be scientific neophytes, educated specialists, or interested laypeople -- haven't the faintest clue what you are trying to get at.

I mean this in all sincerity, in the hopes that you it will lead to some understanding here. You have been repeatedly asked what, exactly, your stance is, your argument is, your evidence is, and in general, what on earth you mean. If you have tried to answer, you have not made yourself clear. If you have not tried to answer, I urge you to do so. The fact that *I cannot tell* whether you have tried to answer or not is kind of indicative of where things are.

Because of what seems to be a lack of clarity on your part, you have been lumped in by some with theories you do not necessarily agree with -- the fringe theory that AZT itself causes AIDS, for example. At this point, I do not think that is your stance (although I am frankly not sure; it could be). But I have no idea what your stance is.

The few assertions you have made are rather baffling; you seem to state that HIV does not kill CD4+ T cells. But numerous studies indicate that it does. You seem to be making some kind of point about retroviruses. No one here is sure what that point is, other than that there are other retroviruses. Or possibly that AZT has dangerous side effects. We're not sure. You seemed to feel you made a cogent point about the symptoms of AIDS developing decades after HIV infection. No one here has any idea what that point is.

You say you have found some "contradictions" in HIV/AIDS studies which have led you to question the orthodoxy. You have not explained, with any clarity, what those contradictions are, leading the bulk of the people here to assume that they do not exist.

You hint at some points which are difficult to unpack -- "In the case of HIV, your anti-HIV titer does not drop BEFORE you become sick. Therefore, it is surprising to me." Why? What does that mean, exactly? Is that part of your point? Can you explain it to a layman? "HIV infected CD4+ T cells are minimally cytopathic unlike herpevirus infections." So? How does this support your argument? Can you offer evidence? What IS your argument, exactly? Are these the contradictions you have found? Are there others? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

In you most recent posts, you express a wish for better medicines. You seem to be disappointed with current AIDS drugs, and feel that twenty years of research has been kind of a failure. But you don't explain why any other theories -- Duesberg's or anyone else's -- would lead to better drugs, or even why they might be plausible. The only argument you have made is that AIDS might be multiple syndromes with multiple causes, a case for which you have given no evidence, presented no research, made no plausible arguments, or even pointed out why this would MATTER for drugs to treat HIV-related illnesses.

In short -- you claim you have found "contradictions" in HIV/AIDS research. Until you can clearly and comprehensibly explain what they are, why they matter, and how this should affect the future of HIV/AIDS research, we are going to write you off as a nut, despite your credentials. Because so far, you sound like one.
posted by kyrademon at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2009 [59 favorites]


Sorry about that linking to the record thing, I thought it was relevant, not cyber-stalking, but I'm happy to have that deleted if it makes folks uncomfortable.

"I don't claim to know anything. Maybe you all do. You all have implied that I don't believe HIV causes AIDS, but that is clearly not my point. I don't know if it does or not, further direct proofs are necessary, not the exhaustive round about ones that are presented over and over again."

Look, I'm not a scientist. Hell, the closest I got was minoring in political science, which totally does not count. But I know the facetiousness of a Socratic argument, and I know what rhetoric looks like.

You may be pissed off at folks misinterpreting you based on what you didn't say, but you have to bear blame too—you've had plenty of opportunities to say what you mean, and you've blithely skirted the issue with a fey solipsism.

Your logic simply does not hold—if you have questions about the mechanism of HIV and why it causes AIDS, investigate them. But don't confuse that with an argument for HIV causing AIDS not being the best current theory. That's why it's a fallacy from lack of evidence.
posted by klangklangston at 8:45 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, I've only just flicked through this thread because it's all a bit depressing, but I can only suggest this to watercressprincess: just because we might not be sure (and I'm not convinced that this is the case, but I don't read too much medical or scientific literature on viruses or diseases in general) of the exact precise mechanism by which HIV causes AIDS does not mean that the general consensus ought to be "therefore HIV does not cause AIDS".
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2009


So here's a question. If HIV <> AIDS why does CCR5 Delta 32 confer AIDS immunity?

BECAUSE YOU ARE EDUCATED STUPID.
posted by Avenger at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Once I was in Consciousness class (cog sci major), vociferously pursuing a discussion about what organism one must be at minimum to have something resembling "consciousness". All the usual suspects passed by, you know, chimps, orangutans, dolphins, whales... I remember one very oblivious but very happy bunny, which I lifted from the course matter that prompted the discussion, playing a particularly notable role in my exhortation.

At some point -- ten, fifteen minutes had easily passed and we had deviated far from the course matter at this point -- I recapped my point, namely that I found that in this particular class consciousness was treated too much as a binary factor, i.e. either you are a "conscious" being or you are not, and that I found this to be dubious in the light of evolution, which would indicate gradual development of consciousness-like properties. Looking back I may have been trolling, or at least stalling -- but given the nature of this class it was a matter that concerned me greatly at the time.

This is when one of my most vocal interlocutors dropped a beat and quietly said, "Oh. But that presupposes that one believes we evolved from simpler organisms".

--------

My point here being, I don't believe watercressprincess is or is being a troll per sé in this thread. She pretty much checks out expertise-wise (in the sense that she definitely does not come across as one of those fair-weather trolls who just paste in stuff they have only just heard about from Wikipedia).

She does seem staggeringly, dangerously misguided about the relation between HIV and AIDS; however, holding an extremely ill-informed view of an issue does not a troll make. What does reek of trollery somewhat however is what was lucidly pointed out by Vaska upthread: constant clamoring for "proof", at a sufficient degree, I feel is indistinguishable from trolling.

Moreover: last time I checked, science does not "prove" things, it merely examines hypotheses under controlled conditions and rejects them if experiments make them seem sufficiently unlikely. Scientists repeat this many, many times, inform others so they can repeat and build upon earlier work, and after a while a corpus of research emerges that pretty much points in the same direction, as kyrademon illustrates.

So I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, watercressprincess, in that you seem sincerely willing to engage others, stay very civil by Internet standards and seem to show some knowledge of the matter, and thus very well may not be a troll.

However, you strongly seem to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is and does, which probably does make you a bad scientist, if you really are one. Find comfort in knowing you are not alone: I have heard laymen and career scientists alike refer to things being "proven" by science -- and much worse -- and some of them end up getting tenure.

But as for your position on this particular issue: I feel (especially considering your civility) that some of the contributors' vitriol directed at you in this thread is inappropriate, albeit understandable considering their personal backgrounds and experiences: OmieWise in particular strikes a chord with me.

And I am forever in praise of critical thought, even in your case. But know that in the eyes of most, including me, you are perpuating a myth, a dangerous untruth that, through misinformation and trust in authority (which arguably you might hold as a scientist among laymen), could potentially cost lives.

So, should you continue to vocally call a very well-documented mechanism into question, have at it, I feel you are entitled to your criticism. But be prepared for a lot more vitriol down the road -- and, most of all, prepare to be very, very alone.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


a teenage buddy of mine who saw the "organ donor," stamp on my drivers liscence and said "You shouldn't do that, you can get AIDS that way."

Hilarious.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with individuals deciding to kill themselves in interesting ways. If you want to believe you're immune to AIDS, step right up and off yourself in the trying. I can only applaud your dismissal from the human race.

What I do have a problem with are people who, through ignorance or fraud, convince others that their insane and insanely stupid ideas are more correct than those proven through science and math.

Hoards of University-educated research scientists with real credibility state their agreement with the leading hypothesis in their field of study, be it virus theory, evolutionary theory, or climate theory. The dissenters are scarce and fail to present a researched counter theory.

If you're as sharp as tacks, but don't have any fundamental understanding of a field, why on earth would you assume yourself to be smarter than the hoards of people who are in a position to make a qualified judgement?!

Worse, how do these people have the balls to convince others that their ill-informed, hazardous thinking should be taken seriously, and contrary to the advice of one's doctors, priests, or family? I mean, it's one thing to spout off shit on MeFi about the topic de jeur, but to convince others to put their lives on the line? Getouttahere!

Smart ignorant people can be dangerous creatures.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 PM on January 5, 2009


Worst thread ever. Seriously. I am so disappointed that you guys took the bait over and over. You gave that self-obsessed little ninny the windfall of attention she craved.
posted by Mister_A at 9:53 PM on January 5, 2009


So for anyone who believes that AIDS is caused by lifestyle factors, how much promiscuous sex and wild drug use do you believe that Ryan White was engaging in?

Were the Pacers playing the Lakers at home? The presence of Magic Johnson may be a key factor here. Sorry, couldn't help it.
posted by MikeMc at 10:03 PM on January 5, 2009


hordes.
posted by speedo at 10:19 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyway, as I am not getting any constructive feedback on how the current working hypothesis of HIV/AID can work with well with our most basic understanding of immunology.

On the contrary: I've seen people offer links and cite actual research explaining how HIV leads to AIDS. I've seen them maintain a very polite demeanor, especially considering quite a number of these people have lost loved ones to AIDS. I think what you meant by "constructive feedback" was "people agreeing with me". To which, I'd offer that shaming a group of people who quite naturally react with disgust at someone who's killed their own child is not the best way to kick off this discussion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:19 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


So a quick thought experiment, expanding on turgid dahlia's comment above: Lets say that tomorrow it is demonstrated that HIV is not the cause of AIDS at all. Should those who are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy be taken off? From my understanding of evidence-based medicine, hell no. For damn sure HIV is still correlated with AIDS, and it has been proven exhaustively in clinical trials that antiretroviral therapy reduces the development of AIDS in HIV positive individuals. Whatever the antiretrovirals are doing, they work in preventing AIDS in this population. So, for right now, we're not changing a thing.

This line of logic is one that would break several scientists I know, even some who work in the Department of Medicine. Science is very concerned with mechanism: making models that reflect the true state of things. The goal is to ultimately make that model perfect. In many ways, it doesn't have the doctor's (or engineer's) tolerance for 'good enough'.

Of course, knowing what's really going on is also important for going in the other direction, and generating rationales for trying new diagnostics or therapeutics; obviously, if we've just gotten lucky by trying to develop drugs targeting HIV, then barking up that alley further is probably not going to be a much better approach to developing therapies than blind groping in the dark. Understanding what's going on is important to making medicine better.

Although others have said it better, I'm finding watercressprincess's specific concerns hard to parse. However, I feel like anxiety about the current model is what's driving a lot of her objections:

However, the HIV/AIDS hypothesis turns classic immunology which are clearly stated in Janeway, Abbas and Paul, completely up-side down. These inconsistencies are blatantly ignored by most researchers. ... I am only suggesting that alternative theories also deserve as much attention.

I hope I'm not misinterpreting her concern here. (and I'd like to apologize for seeing her obliquity as naivete in my earlier post.)

My interpretation, which I think is pretty mainstream, is contrary to this: HIV is well explained by present immunological principles, though a great deal about how it generates AIDS is still yet to be understood. To consider alternate theories, I'd want counterevidence to the existing theory of similar magnitude as the evidence used to establish it. The model doesn't have to be perfect for there to be excellent support for the HIV->AIDS paradigm, and to date there is no good evidence refuting it, though there remain serious questions about what's going on in that ->. For example, what drives the transition from chronic HIV infection to the AIDS syndrome is probably the biggest open question, and one referred to obliquely by wcp above in the discussion of titers.*

I'll put it another way: the 10 or so page summary in Abbas does a good job at showing the core of what is known, and is probably mostly truth. The hundred thousand pages in the literature get closer, but still aren't there. This paradigm has generated whole classes of drugs: beyond NRTIs and NNRTIs which you mention there are the protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, and a number of drugs currently in evaluation or development. In the gaps left over are hundreds more avenues to pursue towards treating the disease, some of which we may even discover at some point.

I desire a cure which according to the current working principle has not given us an effective preventative strategy nor a cure.
I'd like a cure or a vaccine too. But, perhaps it is not the principle, but we ourselves...
A clear admission to make here is that the immunology tracks behind virology in terms of treatments developed. The repeated failure of vaccine approach after vaccine approach has been seriously disheartening, but again I do not consider it counterevidence for present theories as evidence that HIV is a pretty good virus and we are pretty bad immunomodulators; the problem is less our observational skills than our engineering ones.

* wcp, I will bet you five dollars that CD8+ exhaustion will ultimately be found to be the primary cause. I'm feelin' lucky.
posted by monocyte at 10:36 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


A denialist died? Not buying it.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:23 PM on January 5, 2009


I do enjoy how this whole fracas started out:

Maggiore might have been wrong but the scientific community did not do its part to answer questions that did not add up. How many of you actually know that what AZT is?

More than you thought.

[She's a troll. Classic moving the goalposts, refusing to answer any direct assertions, followed by leaving the room with a whiff of indignation at being handled with brusque logic.]
posted by benzenedream at 11:35 PM on January 5, 2009


Well, it looks like everyone else has already said it better than I, but jeez, I feel pretty conflicted about this. As many folks have already mentioned, if this woman's antics make you angry, just read about the stuff Mbeki and his team have/had been doing in South Africa. Gah.
posted by LMGM at 12:52 AM on January 6, 2009


A large prospective study followed a group of 715 homosexual men in the Vancouver, Canada area; approximately half were HIV-seropositive or became so during the follow-up period, and the remainder were HIV-seronegative. After more than 8 years of follow-up, despite similar rates of drug use, sexual contact, and other supposed risk factors in both groups, AIDS developed only in those patients who were HIV-seropositive. Similarly, CD4 counts dropped in the patients who were HIV-infected, but remained stable in the HIV-negative patients, in spite of similar rates of risk behavior.[14] The authors concluded that "the risk-AIDS hypothesis... is clearly rejected by our data", and that "...The evidence supports the hypothesis that HIV-1 has an integral role in the CD4 depletion and progressive immune dysfunction that characterise AIDS."[14]

Similarly, the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) — which between them observed more than 8,000 Americans — demonstrated that "...the presence of HIV infection is the only factor that is strongly and consistently associated with the conditions that define AIDS."[15] A 2008 study found that recreational drug use (including marijuana, cocaine, poppers and amphetamines) had no effect on CD4 or CD8 T-cell counts, providing further evidence against a role of recreational drugs as a cause of AIDS.[16]^
posted by MythMaker at 12:58 AM on January 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I can understand why someone who has the disease would deny the mechanism, but I can't understand why someone with no stake in the matter would even bother. I had no idea there were "AIDS deniers," and I still don't understand why someone would believe such a thing.
posted by Eideteker at 1:32 AM on January 6, 2009


AIDS Denialists Who Have Died Of AIDS
posted by PenDevil at 2:48 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


MythMaker, if you're going to crap verifiable, factual information in a reasoned manner in here, I just don't know what we're going to do with you.
posted by maxwelton at 3:28 AM on January 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


max: I'm for buying him a beer the next time he's in town. What were you thinking?
posted by heeeraldo at 4:09 AM on January 6, 2009


Sic semper stultis.
posted by moonbiter at 4:20 AM on January 6, 2009


I don't believe that she is actually dead. She's just sleeping very, VERY soundly.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:53 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


the hills are alive with the sound of quacking.........
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:59 AM on January 6, 2009


I knew about the dead kid. What I didn't know until I read the articles about her death is that she was married and that she claimed that she and husband had unprotected sex. I'm trying to imagine how she managed to convince her husband to go along with her delusions, especially after their kid's death.
posted by rdr at 5:28 AM on January 6, 2009


Just to correct an error of fact made earlier, VZV antibodies do not rid the body of VZV. VZV can remain as a latent infection for decades, reappearing as shingles in a significant minority of cases. For that matter, both HSV and HPV can persist as latent infections for decades in spite of antibody reactions. To say that HIV's latency and persistence contradicts known facts of immunology strikes me as very short-sighted. The immune system isn't perfect and multiple diseases have developed effective strategies for getting around it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2009


Warning: epic post ahoy! I've tried to respond to most of watercressprincess' points, insofar as I understand them.

watercressprincess:
I’m a virologist who drifted into oncology, so please forgive me if I’m a bit rusty. I’ll try to pitch my responses at “educated layperson” level – if I seem too simplistic please forgive me; I’m trying to be understandable to everyone, not to patronise. Anyway:

“The toxicity of AZT is well-known throughout the scientific literature. Below are just a few of thousands of published scientific studies to demonstrate its associated toxicity…”

. Absolutely true, and entirely typical of many medicines. Antiviral drugs, like anticancer drugs, tend to have nasty side-effects because the drug is trying to destroy or disrupt a target that’s very similar to what you find in healthy cells. Viral enzymes (especially polymerases and (reverse)transcriptases) tend to look like human ones, so it’s difficult to hit one without hitting the other.
. With medicines we talk about their “theraputic index” – a ratio of the dose required to treat the infection against the dose that causes unacceptable side effects. AZT’s theraputic index is pretty poor, and – because AIDS is eventually lethal – the definition of an “unacceptable” side-effect is pretty loose. Some predictable toxicity and discomfort is considered to be better than just letting the patient die (there’s a fascinating philosophical argument to be had here about where the line should be drawn, especially in cancer research - a course of chemo might save your life but "feels like [you]'ve been hit by a truck").

“1) Why did Gallo made the claim of HIV being the cause BEFORE the data was looked at by other fellow experts, a process called peer-review that is required for any scientific publication?
2) Why are the NIH uberlords refusing to fund Peter Deusberg to systematically study other possibilities of AIDS causation? What is the worse that can happen? Peter Duesberg being wrong???? Wouldn't that support their hypothesis even more?”

1) It’s bad practice to do that, but not too uncommon. The key, though, is that the overwhelming concensus among scientists agrees with him after his and thousands of other papers have been reviewed.
2) Politics? As far as most of the scientific community is concerned, it’s a long-closed question. There’s no conspiracy here, just why spend money asking a question we (think we) already answered, when it could be spent developing a cure instead?

“Where is the definitive proof? Science is about proof, not allegories.”
This page and this one provide far better summaries and links to peer-reviewed articles than I can write in the time. If I was feeling picky, I’d argue that biology – especially epidemiology – is more about evidence than proof: the systems are so complex that it’s nigh-impossible to provide absolute proof for many things. The evidence here is pretty overwhelming though.

“For all those of you are just mocking, I challenge you find me one piece of scientific literature that denies the existence of telomerase, a reverse-transcriptase, in EVERY cell.”
“Telomerase plays a primary role in the maintenance of telomeres in immortal, germ, and tumor cells in humans but is lacking in most somatic cells and tissues.”
Every cell carries the gene (very roughly: the recipe) for telomerase, but not the active enzyme. Cells can (and do) go through a limited number of replication cycles without it, with the telomeres shortening each time. Once they get too short, the cell either stops dividing or commits suicide (apoptosis). This is one of the big hurdles cancer cells have to overcome to keep dividing out of control. So most cancer and stem cells express telomerase but not much else. Telomerase is more commonly referred to as hTERT – there are plenty more references on pubmed, including some articles with really cool PET-scan images of mice showing exactly where telomerase is being expressed (the bones and tumours light up). If you have access to a decent library, telomerase, its expression patterns and its functions are explained very clearly in “The Biology of Cancer” by Weinberg, starting on page 373. As a side-note, an anti-cancer technique in development at the moment relies on delivering treatments (dyes that can be seen by a PET scanner, chemodrugs or modified viruses) exclusively to cells that express telomerase. Damages your stem cell population, but targets cancer cells all over your body amazingly accurately.

“In the case of HIV, antibody positivity is used as a diagnostic marker. Why do HIV patients get sick 10 to 20 years after they've developed antibodies against the virus?”
For the same reason that we keep getting colds and flu over and over again: the immune response is directed against a tiny part of the virus and recognises its shape and charge. Like cold viruses, HIV has a high mutation rate: every generation of viruses inside your body produces thousands (millions?) of subtley different progeny. Basically, HIV is able to change so rapidly that the immune system can’t keep up.
As you know, HIV kills immune cells, weakening the response so the virus is never killed off completely. If you infect an immunocompromised patient (say, someone with leukaemia) with a cold, you see exactly the same thing: the infection is never quite eradicted before it manages to evolve a new “escape mutation.”

“Some may then argue that people with HIV get sick because the virus kills their immune cells, especially CD4+ T cells which HIV infects. Why is it then that ALL HIV research labs use CD4+ T cells to propagate high concentration of virus? These CD4+ T cells are not killed by the virus?”
Broadly correct. HIV can infect a given cell for a long time and produce a lot of progeny before it dies. Meanwhile, you give the T-cells growth signals so there are constantly new cells in the culture. Biology is fuzzy, remember: death isn’t instant and not all cells are infected.

"AZT's toxicity to fast growing bone marrow cells is well-known. B cells which produce antibodies to protect us develop in the bone marrow. Why is AZT, a known chemotherapy agent, used to treat patients who are immunosuppressed?”
Because further suppressing the immune system in a controllable manner is considered better than letting the virus run rampant and doing even worse damage. We’re back to “theraputic indices” here: the cure is better than the disease, but only just (you get a lot of this in cancer medicine, for the same reasons).

“Does AZT inhibit HIV replication or does it only inhibit reverse-transcriptase activity?”
Er, both. HIV needs the RT enzyme to replicate. Have I misunderstood your question here? I can't believe that a virologist - especially one working on retroviruses - asked this.

“Why can't there be more than one cause for these syndromes?”
There obviously can be, lots of things allow secondary infections. HIV infection and subsequent immunosuppression is definitely and incontravertably one of them. So when the virus is present and the symptoms are present I think we're on a pretty safe bet that, in that case, it's HIV/AIDS.

“Retroviruses are within us. Just finding them, and people happen to get sick does not absolutely show causation.”
I’d argue that finding the same retrovirus in diseased patients and only in diseased patients and having epidemiological evidence that symptoms follow infection over and over again, does begin to hint at causation. HERVs are really interesting, but I don't really see the relevence to what I think your point is. Could you clarify what this point was supposed to demonstrate?

“HIV was like so difficult to find in his AIDS patients”
Isolating an unknown virus that’s found at low titre and only has a small % of viable particles before PCR was invented and before antibodies could be easily made to order? Actually yes, that sounds pretty difficult to me.

Er... I've no idea whether watercressprincess will respond, but hopefully what I've said makes sense to any non-biologists still reading. Oh, and to the biologists who got here before I did: awesome stuff. I love seeing internet debates with actual evidence and civility.
posted by metaBugs at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2009 [93 favorites]


Scientists rock.
posted by swift at 10:03 AM on January 6, 2009


Scientists rock.

Good scientists rock.
posted by nomisxid at 11:17 AM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


metaBugs, that was great. Thank you.
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on January 6, 2009


Older article on SF ACT/UP. Personally I'm surprised they are still around, I figured they had be run out of this town years ago.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:57 PM on January 6, 2009


ACT UP/SF really doesn't exist anymore. As best I know, all of the guys quoted in that article have died. Bellefontaine, Pasquerelli, and Burk, certainly. No surprise, really. For some time, their primary activity was running a medical cannabis dispensary, but that's not open anymore.

I have a lot of very personal beefs with the denialists, and what they did to ACT UP/SF is one of the biggest. I was part of it for years until they came along, and I've had some nasty run-ins with them. Not nice people at all.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:00 PM on January 6, 2009


Science is about questioning. Science evolves. How long ago did we all think the world was flat and what did end up finding out?

I'll ignore the tortured turn of phrase and get straight to the point. The notion of widespread belief in a flat earth among medieval Europeans -- I think that covers the "we" you are speaking of -- is wrong. It is a notion popularised by Washington Irving in a fictionalised biography of Columbus written in 1828.
posted by Chuckles at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2009


Fixing metaBugs excellent smackdown link: Telomerase plays a primary role in the maintenance of telomeres in immortal, germ, and tumor cells in humans but is lacking in most somatic cells and tissues.
posted by nicwolff at 4:13 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is exactly why it took two hundred years between Redi's experiments in spontaneous generation and Koch's germ theory. I'm really glad that HIV tests are around and my doctor isn't measuring my various organs to ensure proper flow of the animus and that my liver maintains its proper geometric alignment to my heart.
posted by geoff. at 4:29 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


kyrademon: if you and I are ever within ten miles of each other, I will personally walk said distance in order to buy you seventeen large drinks of your choice.

Then stiff you for the bill and cadge the bus fare home. But it's the thought that counts.
posted by aihal at 5:02 PM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


metaBugs rocks my socks.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on January 6, 2009


metaBugs: Like most people, I don't know crap about crap-for-crap, and your commentary still sunk into my addled brain. You are masterful.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:53 PM on January 6, 2009


In related news -- Rick Warren's much touted "work on AIDS in Africa" has been exposed.
"In a must-read piece in The Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal notes that, '[Rick] Warren’s defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa.'

Blumenthal looks deeper into Warren's activities in Africa in the name of AIDS, his ties to anti-gay Anglican religious figures, and his tacit endorsement of condom-burning and anti-gay 'witch hunts' in Uganda."*
posted by ericb at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


nice post metaBugs.

it seems like people get into this because HIV/AIDS confuses them, since it's a disease of the disease-fighting system. I remember when I was a kid and it was just starting... I don't remember when it was still "gay cancer" but I remember when it was "Gay Related Immune Deficiency" (I grew up in the west village). There was a stigma about it being caused by promiscuity, and this movement does seem to have a bit of that flavor to it, at least that Nobel researcher's theories... I'm not saying people should be stupid about what they do, and there were always other STD's to be careful about even when AIDS was unknown but to suggest that immune systems spontaneously collapsed in the late seventies, and that this virus that so many AIDS patients have doesn't have any consequences... (- or has other consequences? Or what...?)

Still, the problem these folks seem to have with HIV/AIDS is that AIDS isn't a proper disease with one clear course. But of course, that was always the problem - which is why it was named "auto immuno-deficiency syndrome" - it's a syndrome, which is what we call those broader, clearly related but still sort of hard to see how, kinds of things. In fact, "AIDS" is probably the sillier part - HIV is what actually matters. But we named it AIDS first, before we discovered a cause. We could see there was some kind of immune deficiency that was allowing people to get sick, very sick, sick enough to die, from things that they really shouldn't die from. HIV tied everything together - there is one virus they all have, that targets the immune system.

So, yes, not everyone who has it immediately suffers, but once HIV is there, the possibility for this immune deficiency is set. Now they have to be extra careful not to tax the immune system, but at the same time, drugs have been developed that will hurt the virus itself - as the scientists discussed above, perhaps it sounds counter-intuitive to take toxic drugs when you need to keep your immune system strong, but intuition is probably not finely tuned enough for this one. Presumably the drugs are targeted specifically enough to make the risk worth the benefit - etc.
posted by mdn at 10:59 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm flattered, but really embarrassed that none of my links worked. Apparrently there's something about mefi's handling of href tags that I don't understand. Ho hum.

Anyway, the first two should be:
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/Factsheets/evidhiv.htm
http://www.avert.org/evidence.htm

And the telomerase was supposed to be http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18480423?dopt=Abstract
...which nicwolff has already found and linked to (thanks!). You need an account to see the full article (or try accessing it from within a university library's network), but the line I quoted is from the abstract, which is free.

@mdn: "it seems like people get into this because HIV/AIDS confuses them"
I think you're probably right. I've ended up in quite a few debates with creationists, people who think vaccines cause autism and a few other odd causes. The unifying theme is that the issues people are worried about are complex and counterintuitive, and that they simply dont understand the mainstream argument. As an example, one creationist had heard that "simple plants" preceeded animals but thought this meant things like ferns and dasies just sprang into being from nowhere, which he rightly regarded as preposterous. Another creationist once asked me, with a fantastic rhetorical flourish, "so what did a monkey have sex with that made it give birth to a human?" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

In these and other cases, people hear a grossly distorted version of the mainstream theory and rightly reject it. Unfortunately, instead of trying to understand the complexities of the truth, they've grasped on to an easy lie. I can't guess whether this is the case for watercressprincess as I'm not totally convinced I understand what her overall argument was, but it certainly applies to most of the people I've argued with. I'm not saying that this applies to everyone -- evidence is open to interpretation and mavericks are occasionally right -- but it does seem very common.

This is why I think we scientists should work much harder at engaging with non-scientists. Even those who don't agree that we owe it to the wider public (after all, it's mostly government and charities' money we're spending to do our work) should see it as a matter of self-preservation. If we can't explain and let the public benefit from the results of our work it'll be seen as pointless and the funding -- and therefore our jobs -- will disappear. But now I'm getting all political, which probably no-one wants to read. Instead, I'm off to find a link about kitte-- er, do some work.
posted by metaBugs at 2:57 AM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


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