December 1, 2000 3:27 AM   Subscribe

AIDS? SHMAIDS! Have you heard the news? "A growing group of bio-medical scientists claim the cause of AIDS is still unknown. These heretics do not believe in a lethal AIDS virus. They claim that the virus is indeed harmless. Most of them think AIDS is also not sexually transmitted; it probably has toxic causes. People die because they are poisoned to death by antiviral drugs. Part of the AIDS dissidents even question the existence of a virus entity. These skeptics say that the AIDS virus has never really been isolated, and the AIDS tests are worthless..." Yeah. And my childhood dog really did go live on a nice farm after he was hit by a car.
posted by kristin (16 comments total)
A while back, I posted a list of resources you can use to deal with AIDS denialists; you should keep most of them bookmarked, as you'll never find them quickly when you do need them.
posted by delfuego at 5:36 AM on December 1, 2000

Arrrgh! While I can understand skepticism, especially when it is used to question theories and hypotheses using scientific methodologies, I have little patience for general bloody-mindedness when it comes to public officials attempting to "educate" the public. The South African public policy towards AIDS seems to be utterly without focus and fed by misinformation. (I came across the Tshabalala-Msimang interview in Harpers Magazine, which is still without a decent online edition. sigh...)
posted by Avogadro at 6:30 AM on December 1, 2000

Gah! Don't you see the wool is being pulled over your moniters, mefi'ers? You people probably still believe in the Holocaust, too!
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:15 AM on December 1, 2000

Did you guys actually read the site before you dismissed it? It's doesn't seem to deny that AIDS exists, it simply questions HIV as the cause. I don't know whether it's right or wrong, but why so quickly and adamantly dismiss the stance of doctors and scientists who have studied the subject just because it doesn't jibe with what you were told by TV and lots of well-meaning activists? Or have your personal studies provided the HIV proof that no one else in the world has been able to demonstrate?
posted by evhead at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2000

Hmm.. wow, how courageos, I was thinking of posting something earlier in the day, but chickened out at the last minute. Is there any evidence that hiv causes aids? Why would they say it doesn't?
posted by tiaka at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2000

evhead, I agree that scientific inquiry requires questioning causality (as these scientists seem to be doing). However, I am bothered that the Rethinking AIDS website carries a petition asking for support for President Mbeki, who seems to be saying that the causes of AIDS should be investigated thoroughly, but at the same time denied anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant women despite studies that indicate that they prevent transmission of AIDS to newborns. That, combined with his own health minister's distribution of "educational material" culled in part from highly spurious sources makes me a bit skeptical of the website's legitimacy.
posted by Avogadro at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2000

Exactly. The scientists and researchers quoted on the site seem, for the most part, to be making honest inquiries into the causes of AIDS. The webmaster, however, leaves me queasy and uneasy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2000

I was really surprised to see this on the Foo Fighters site a while back from the Alive and Well organization. They contend that HIV doesn't have a link to AIDS!

"We question the HIV = AIDS = Death paradigm based on a growing body of scientific, medical, and epidemiological data, and promote informed choice and open dialogue regarding all issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. "

Very strange.

posted by jasonshellen at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2000

If you listen to the CBC Ideas show I put on the front page, you can hear a lot about the AIDS = HIV + Syphilis theory. For those of you who aren't go to read or listen, the basic contention of a lot of researchers:

Genetic analysis of HIV and relatives suggests that it has been present in humans for a few thousand years. Many HIV infected people never develop AIDS. Ergo, there are now, and have been in the past, "benign" forms of HIV. Some suggest there is no non-benign HIV — that the bad kind of HIV is really just benign HIV + some other agent (perhaps also individually benign, but most often believed to be a new form of syphilis).
posted by sylloge at 1:24 PM on December 1, 2000

SPIN magazine used to give excellent coverage of the HIV skeptic community's more reasonable end (thanks to Bob Guccione, Jr., and IIRC Celia Farber). I believe their dissent and hard-nosed questioning has helped. Nevertheless, they've also provided fifth-columnist support to the nuttier AIDS denialist community. Tough call.
posted by dhartung at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2000

Evan, while I respect what you're trying to say, you're saying things that aren't true, and that's why I originally decided to post the link to the resource list I've put together. In it:

-- an article by Stephen O'Brien and James Goedert explaining that the link between HIV and AIDS has been proven to fulfull Koch's postulates. (Koch's postulates make up the long-respected test for causation in medicine, and are the same postulated which have been used to demonstrate the link between group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal infections and rheumatic heart disease, poliovirus and poliomyelitis, H. pylorii colonization and gastric ulcers, and B. bergdorferi infections and Lyme disease.)
-- an NIH fact sheet explaining all of the evidence amassed to date that HIV is the cause of AIDS, all of which is as undisputable as it gets.
-- a five-part series published in Science magazine that thoroughly examines and dissects the arguments of the dissenters. (Note that Science generally doesn't provide free access to its archives, but has made these articles available free-of-charge in perpetuity because of the immense public health implications of people believing the dissenters' arguments.)

Other things I'll note:

-- there's not a single scientific citation since 1994 on the controversy pages that questions the link between HIV and AIDS; there's not a single scientific citation after 1998 on the pages at all.
-- most of the quotes on the controversy pages are taken wildly out of context; for example, the quote from Alfred Hassig about AIDS no longer being a death sentence is presented as a refutation of the HIV/AIDS link but is instead a notice of how our medical therapy for HIV and AIDS has drastically changed the prognosis of the disease.
-- it's a bit disingenuous for the site to claim that the HIV/AIDS link is promulgated by a conspiracy supported by big pharm and scientists with financial interests, yet do so on a website supported by a few of the biggest denialist organizations and publications around (Continuum, HEAL, Meditel).

Oh, and yes, my personal experience in HIV research has led me to believe the masses of evidence causally linking HIV and AIDS.
posted by delfuego at 8:11 PM on December 1, 2000

Evhead said it well. It's irrational to accuse a person of being anti-scientific unless you can personally demonstrate -- at least in outline -- why the science undermines that person's beliefs. Nonspecialists should hestitate before they sound off.

>>I am bothered that the Rethinking AIDS website carries a petition asking for support for President Mbeki...

President Mbeki is actually one of the sanest commentators on the subject of AIDS in Africa. At the time of the AIDS conference, there was a crude attempt by the pharmaceutical companies (and their servants) to smear Mbeki as deranged. It seemed like transparent propanganda to me, so I'm puzzled to see so many normally rational and liberal-minded people unreflectively swallowing it.
posted by johnb at 8:23 PM on December 1, 2000

>>it's a bit disingenuous for the site to claim that the HIV/AIDS link is promulgated by a conspiracy supported by big pharm and scientists with financial interests, yet do so on a website supported by a few of the biggest denialist organizations and publications around

I don't understand why that is "disingenuous". More importantly, financial corruption undoubtedly does exist within the medical establishment ("conspiracy" is not necessary), so the claim that the epistemic status of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis has been inflated by financial pressures cannot be dismissed so casually. What's needed, given the structure of financial incentives, is evidence of barriers to corruption.
posted by johnb at 8:43 PM on December 1, 2000

Speaking of AIDS in Africa, here is a Salon article about AIDS in Swaziland, and how denial is causing an enormous death toll. Note that this is a different sort of denial. Instead of "HIV doesn't cause AIDS", it seems to be "AIDS is a shameful thing, and we must pretend it doesn't exist". It's quite sad.
posted by Potsy at 10:27 PM on December 1, 2000

Okay, here is a question I am hoping someone can answer. How was the HIV-AIDS link first established? All of the above references leave little doubt that HIV causes AIDS, but the problem is, all the studies were done in the 1990s. Yet the HIV-AIDS link has been accepted as fact since the 1980s. Where was the original study that started the whole thing? Kary Mullis talks about how she looked and couldn't find it. How can it be established as fact first and experimentally proven later? I'm not trying to be a conspiracy theorist here, I'm genuinely curious.
posted by Potsy at 11:43 PM on December 1, 2000

I remember when someone pointed out the virusmyth site to me. I thought of some lunatic wacko doctors with some far-tout weird theory. I must admit I was shocked when you have some eminent scientists talking about, Peter Duesberg, he isolated the first cancer gene through his work on retroviruses in 1970. His site is also much better than the virusmyth site. You also have two Nobel Prize winners and lots of other scientists.

I am not a M.D, and not have medical training. I also do not necessarily believe what Peter Duesberg and others say is true, but shouldn't we at least look at what they are saying. Read Yale Scientific's Editorial Note. It is almost like anyone who does not believe HIV causes AIDS is some kind of heretic and should be silenced. Some much for debating issues. At least AIDS patients can take their AZT knowing that they are not enriching some big corporate company.
posted by jay at 5:02 AM on December 2, 2000

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