AIDS and HIV: Connie Howard follows in Neville Hodgkinson’s footsteps
Vue Weekly’s Connie Howard, who I took issue with here over her Jan 15th article urging “respect” for Christine Maggiore’s position on HIV and AIDS, has made some comments on this blog in response.
She also recently penned another article for Vue, in which she claims that:
One friend, who asked to remain nameless (for obvious reasons), tells me he has watched all but one of his HIV-positive friends die over the years—friends who did as they were told, who took their antiretroviral meds. He, also HIV-positive and so far refusing treatment, is alive and well… As my friend said, what set Christine Maggiore apart was her willingness to be unflinchingly realistic about the risks and toxicities of treatment, the unanswered questions and the potentially relatively lower risk of non-drug approaches. Does that not sound reasonable?
The implication of Howard’s piece seems to be that taking AIDS medications carries a grave health risk, while the dangers to those with HIV of refusing conventional treatment are “potentially relatively lower”. This is quite a big claim to make, as it appears to run counter to what the overwhelming majority of experts on AIDS believe, and could have serious impacts on public health if taken seriously.
Like the former Sunday Times medical correspondent Neville Hodgkinson (and the authors of Continuum Magazine), Howard’s argument centres on an HIV-positive individual who, she claims, remains in good health despite his refusal to take anti-retroviral medications, and has managed to outlive others who accepted conventional treatment. Unlike Hodgkinson, Howard declines to give any identifiable details about the case, citing “obvious reasons”.
The risks of journalists basing a serious public health claim on an un-named, unverifiable source should also be “obvious”.
Jody Wells – the seemingly-healthy HIV-positive medication refusnik presented in Hodgkinson’s article – was dead within a few years of the piece being published. So too, tragically, was Sylvie Cousseau, and many of the other cases cited in Continuum Magazine. Because these claimed counter-examples to the conventional science on AIDS and HIV were named, it was possible to verify the details, and follow what happened to them afterwards. But as the case presented by Howard is wholly anonymous, there is no way of independently checking the facts, whether Howard has reported them accurately, or even whether the person she cites actually exists.