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Posts Tagged ‘Christine Maggiore

Christine Maggiore’s last podcast

with 37 comments

howpositive

Yesterday I listened, in growing disbelief, to the last episode of HIV-positive AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore’s regular podcast, “How Positive Are You?”. The programme is dated December 6th, just 3 weeks before Maggiore’s sudden death from pneumonia, although comments in the podcast itself suggest it was recorded the previous month.

The discussion is co-presented by David Crowe, who early in the programme recounts with pride some of the comments he has received via email. He’s particularly pleased about one from an HIV-positive listener who reads the “Alive and Well” website every day, and who has chosen to disregard his doctor’s advice, forgoing anti-retroviral drugs in favour of eating lots of nutritious food and breathing plenty of fresh air.  “Wow, that’s beautiful”, Maggiore gushes.

Later on, Crowe and Maggiore conduct a phone interview with AIDS clinician Dr. Jocelyn Dee, who had (along with several colleagues) advised the makers of the TV drama “Law and Order SVU”. In October last year, the programme featured a fictional tragedy strikingly similar to that which hit Maggiore’s family in 2005, when her young daughter died suddenly from what a coroner later determined to be AIDS-related pneumonia. Maggiore, who was HIV positive, had refused to take medications that would have reduced the risk of transmission to her unborn child, and also declined to have her tested for HIV once she was born. Maggiore disputed the coroner’s report, and insisted that her daughter had in fact died from an allergic reaction to antibiotics. All of these details were echoed in the ostensibly-fictional TV show.

During the interview, Dr. Dee is initially unaware of Maggiore’s background, and of the final shape of the programme for which she had been an adviser; she explains that she found the show too difficult to watch because the subject matter was so close to the situations she saw every day through her work with HIV-positive people. When Maggiore finally reveals the full facts, Dee seems shocked yet sympathetic.

To hear Maggiore calmly recount the details of a programme so obviously based on her own life is chilling enough. But the most painful moment comes when she ridicules the fact that, in the fictionalised version of her life, the story ends with the denialist mother dying suddenly from an AIDS-related illness. Maggiore wonders aloud whether this might have been some kind of ‘wish fulfilment’ on the part of those who despise her refusal to accept the conventional view of HIV and AIDS.

Throughout the programme Maggiore seems lucid and eloquent. She was clearly a highly intelligent person who believed passionately that she was doing the right thing – which of course made her all the more dangerous. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a starker illustration of how far a well-structured, well-intentioned, well-expressed, and internally consistent argument can take you, even when your basic facts are nonetheless catastrophically flawed. Tragically there are some facts that no amount of nuanced, intelligent argument can refute, or psychoanalyse away.

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

Comedian Bill Maher on Maggiore’s book “What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?”

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One of the most striking features of the tragic life of AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore was her success in gaining high-profile support, perhaps most famously from Dave Grohl’s iconic band the Foo Fighters.  Less well-publicised, if equally surprising, was the resounding endorsement given to Maggiore’s book, What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?, by the outspoken libertarian comedian Bill Maher.

From Aliveandwell.org

“This is a book everyone should read, and not a moment too soon! One of the most corrosive flaws in America is our tendency toward conformity; in the quest to understand AIDS, it has been stifling. Christine Maggiore prompts the kind of questioning that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry.”

The book has been described elsewhere as “unscholarly, misleading in its presentation of existing evidence and data”, and “based on speculation with no solid evidence to back up claims”.

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

“Children must never play with matches”: Ophelia Benson on the folly of amateur medicine

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From Butterflies and Wheels

It’s good to question conventional wisdom, except when it isn’t. Conventional wisdom holds that a bridge designed by engineers and built by reputable builders is safer to drive across than one designed by shamans and built by hairdressers. Questioning that conventional wisdom is not really all that productive, and if anyone listens to the questioning, it’s downright lethal.

So with Christine Maggiore.

Until the end, Christine Maggiore remained defiant.On national television and in a blistering book, she denounced research showing that HIV causes AIDS. She refused to take medications to treat her own virus. She gave birth to two children and breast fed them, denying any risk to their health. And when her 3-year-old child, Eliza Jane, died of what the coroner determined to be AIDS-related pneumonia, she protested the findings and sued the county.

That’s the risky kind of questioning conventional wisdom – and it risks other people as well as oneself. That’s why Prince Charles makes me angry when he indulges his passion for denouncing non-alternative medicine, and it’s why Juliet Stevenson made me angry when she used her celebrity to denounce the conventional wisdom about the MMR vaccine and autism, and it’s why Christine Maggiore makes me angry even though she’s now dead. It makes me angry that she breast-fed her children and it makes me angry that she went on television to denounce research showing that HIV causes AIDS. People shouldn’t do that. People shouldn’t take on life and death medical issues when they have no training or expertise in the subject. People shouldn’t trust their own judgment that completely.

For years, the South African government joined with Maggiore in denying that HIV is responsible for AIDS and resisting antiretroviral treatment. According to a new analysis by a group of Harvard public health researchers, 330,000 people died as a consequence of the government’s denial and 35,000 babies were born with the disease.

It’s not a subject for hobbyists or cranks or princes or actors. Children must never play with matches.

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

Celia Farber responds

with 3 comments

From Dean’s World

I don’t want to bring anything loud or contentious to Christine’s memory, or provide a feeding ground for those few vultures whose egos remain tied up in their insatiable death wishes, not only those they projected onto Christine, but onto all HIV positive people they wish to enslave with their cult of fear, and deprive of the fundamental human right to make their own choices.

Christine lived with a (fluctuating) positive HIV status for almost 17 years, not only healthy, but as leader for those who felt voiceless and powerless. She represented, and stood for the highest ideals of truth-seeking, life, love, health, and freedom from tyranny. She represented herself in all that she wrote, said, and enacted, each day that she lived. I defy anybody to find one instance of Christine Maggiore communicating malevolence or ill-will toward any human being, no matter what they had done to her. I also defy anybody to find one example in which her attackers chose to treat her with respect, fairness, dignity, or decency. Find one.

Our actions and words define us. We all get to draw the image of our own face, slowly, into the world around us, and by the time we die, that face will be defined, and it we’re lucky, we will be loved and missed and remembered for who we really were, and wanted to be. We live on in the memory of others. I have been deeply moved by the floods of letters and emails and calls I have been getting from people all around the world who Christine inspired and touched and helped.

Written by Richard Wilson

January 8, 2009 at 1:20 am

Seth Kalichman on Christine Maggiore

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From Denying Aids

In her life, Christine Maggiore was a visible and vocal advocate for a propaganda campaign that undermines the prevention and treatment of HIV infection – among the greatest threats to global public health. In life she was a voice for pseudoscience. Christine Maggiore spread conspiracy theories and ‘deconstructed AIDS’ to disinform and confuse people who are in desperate need of accurate information.

In her death, she has stirred the controversy she helped create. Those who looked to her for inspiration as the person who tested HIV positive and was alive and well without treatment must now confront what it means that she has died an uncommon death from an infectious disease. For some in denial, the death of Christine Maggiore will mean a snap back to reality. But for many others it will not…

The legacy of AIDS denialism is seen in the same desperation of other people who were led by denialism to feel good only to be shattered as they fell ill. Here are a few such stories accessed at the AIDS Myth Exposed Message Board.

Hi there I am new to this site and have been a member of HEAL Toronto and am a great supporter of Aliveandwell.org and Christine Maggiores work. I consider myself a dissident and am trying to find out the answers to this mystery called HIV/Aids. I tested positive in 1998 and on no treatment and in good health until Apr of this year when I came down with mild case of KS. At this time I unfortunately had to forgo treatment and started treatment at that time and its been ongoing ever since. I must admit that the short treatment did alleviate the symptoms I had within a short period of time. My concern now (knowing what I know about alternative discussions on whether or not hiv is the cause of aids) is that im wondering how long I should stay on the meds. My gut feeling is to stop now but my inner fear dictates otherwise.

………………..

I have been a dissident for seven years. I am now being pressured to take an antiretroviral called Atripla starting next week. If anyone might have some advice for me on this topic I welcome it. As a dissident, I stopped having my surrogate markers checked several years ago and because I seemed to be enjoying good health I did not feel it was necessary. Last month I went to the doctor complaining of headaches sinus problems and general malaise which had been plaguing me since November of last year. Because I was supposed to leave on a trip the next week I wanted to get myself well. I was given a CAT scan and put in the hospital after the CAT scan revealed lesions on my brain attributable to Toxoplasmosis. I was in the hospital a week and I am only now returning to work after an absence of three weeks. My family came to see me in the hospital and I was able to avoid the AIDS issue somehow. Strangely enough I was HIV negative two years ago on a test. Anyway, my surrogate markers were 25 for CD4 count and 185,000 for viral load. According to my partner and my doctors, if I had been monitoring my numbers all of the could have been avoided. I do feel somewhat sheepish about what happened to me. I am now left with wondering what to do. I truly never thought that I would end up with an AIDS diagnosis in the hospital...

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

Written by Richard Wilson

January 7, 2009 at 9:55 pm

David Gorski on the wider issues raised by the death of Christine Maggiore

with one comment

From Science Based Medicine

I have no doubt that Maggiore suffered horribly from the grief that comes from losing a child, and I’m not unsympathetic to that. She suffered a loss that no parent should have to suffer, made all the more tragic because it was potentially preventable…. However, the clear preventability of Eliza Jane Scovill’s death is why my sympathy for her mother only goes so far. While my sympathy for Eliza Jane for having had her young life snuffed out prematurely by AIDS is enormous, my sympathy for Eliza Jane’s mother ended at the point that she allowed an antivaccine and HIV/AIDS denialist hack to try to whitewash her daughter’s autopsy report and try to spin the cause of death as being from an antibiotic reaction… My sympathy also bumps up against Maggiore’s prominent role in spreading a denialist philosophy that has arguably led to the deaths of an estimated hundreds of thousands in Africa…

HIV/AIDS denialism is a delusion that kills. It kills by encouraging HIV+ individuals not to take antiretroviral drugs, which have been shown unequivocably to prolong life and forestall progression of HIV infection to AIDS. It kills by encouraging quackery over effective antiretroviral therapy, as has happened in Africa, particularly under Thabo Mbeki’s regime in South Africa. Indeed, it has been estimated that the delay in introducing HAART therapy into Africa, which was in part due to denialist policies, resulted in the potentially preventable deaths of over 300,000. In the case of Christine Maggiore and her family, it has claimed at least one life and likely two lives, devastating a family. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS denialists will continue to use logical fallacies, pseudoscience, and cherry picking of data and studies to argue otherwise.

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

Written by Richard Wilson

January 7, 2009 at 1:00 am

AIDS sceptic Celia Farber on the death of Christine Maggiore

with 4 comments

From Dean’s World

The news has been shattering to all who loved her around the world. Speaking for myself, I can say that Christine Maggiore was one of the strongest, most ethical, compassionate, intelligent, brave, funny, and decent human beings I have ever had the honor to know. I spoke to her in great depth about all aspects of life, death, love, and this battle we both found ourselves mired in, and I will be writing about her and about those conversations here, in the future. No matter what she was going through, and it was always, frankly, sheer hell–every day of her life, since 2005, she faced, acute grief, sadistic persecution, wild injustice, relentless battle, and deep betrayal–she was always there for her friends, and she never descended to human ugliness. She always tried to take the high road. She always tried to be stronger than any human being could ever be asked to be. 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.

She had apparently been on a radical cleansing and detox regimen that had sickened her and left her very weak, dehydrated, and unable to breathe. She was shortly thereafter diagnosed with pneumonia and placed on IV antibiotics and rehydration. But she didn’t make it.

Those who loved her, as I did, have our own interpretations of what ultimately killed her–a combination of unrelenting heartbreak and the effect of being subject to a constant, unrelenting media driven hate campaign, despite the complete legal clearing of her name in the death of her daughter Eliza Jane in 2005, who died after taking an antibiotic, and whose cause of death has been tortuously debated. Christine and her husband Robin were denied the right to adopt a child, or foster a child, due to a single article in the L.A. Times which cast her as a murderer.

Written by Richard Wilson

January 6, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Ben Goldacre on the death of Christine Maggiore

with 3 comments

From The Guardian

Maggiore’s views on HIV were driven by the work of Peter Duesberg, a well-known Aids denier. He was unable to persuade other scientists that his views on HIV were correct, but he did very well with journalists, most notably Neville Hodgkinson, former science correspondent of the Sunday Times.

Over two years in the early 1990s the paper published a series of lengthy articles rejecting the role of HIV in causing Aids, calling the African Aids epidemic a myth. It was all a scam to make money and defend reputations, they said.

Things got so bad that Nature, probably the world’s most important academic journal, published an editorial describing the Sunday Times coverage as “seriously mistaken, and probably disastrous”.

Duesberg went on to great things, including South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous presidential advisory panel on Aids. It was here that the country’s Aids-denialist policies were set into play, with tragic consequences. One demographic modelling study estimates that if the South African government had used antiretroviral drugs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape, around 171,000 new HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007.

Aids is the opposite of anecdote: three million people died of it last year. Hundreds of thousands of lives, perhaps millions, have been lost because of a stupid idea, promoted by stupid people. To the best of my knowledge, not one has either apologised or clarified their stance. Just don’t let anyone tell you pseudoscience is harmless.

Written by Richard Wilson

January 4, 2009 at 8:17 pm

More reaction to the death of Christine Maggiore

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From the Los Angeles Times

Christine Maggiore, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, waged a long, bitter campaign denouncing the prevailing scientific wisdom on the causes and treatment of AIDS. She fiercely contested the overwhelming consensus that the HIV virus causes AIDS, and that preventive approaches and antiretrovirals can help thwart the disease’s spread and prolong the lives of those who suffer from it. Her campaign ended this week with her death at age 52. Her challenge, however, continues, as Maggiore’s argument — that scientific consensus, no matter how established, remains subject to objection — runs through debates with profound public policy implications. Does smoking cause cancer? Do human activities contribute to climate change?

It is admittedly difficult to spot the moment when a scientific theory becomes an accepted fact. It took hundreds of years for the Catholic Church to acknowledge the work of Galileo, and it still flinches at Darwin. Meanwhile, the rest of the sentient universe long ago accepted that the Earth orbits the sun, and all but the most determined creationists see the undeniable evidence of evolution at work. Still, science is a discipline of questions, and rarely is a fact established so firmly that it will silence all critics. At the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, the exhibit guides visitors “to the dawn of time” — just 6,000 years ago. That makes for some startling conclusions, not the least of which is that dinosaurs and humans were created by God on the sixth day and lived side by side. Call it the Flinstones theory.

Of course, new questions inevitably emerge from new inquiry and new data. How, then, to judge when a theory becomes fact, when it slips beyond legitimate objection? The test lies in balance: A preponderance of evidence accumulates on one side or the other. Those who contest that evidence must demonstrate the plausibility of alternatives and produce evidence to support them. If the alternatives are implausible, they melt away. Eventually, there is nothing left to uphold the view that the sun is circling the Earth or that natural selection is a secular myth.

In some instances, these debates are interesting but not terribly consequential. But sometimes they are of staggering significance. When the theory in question is about the cause of climate change or AIDS, misplaced skepticism, whether cynical or well-intentioned, can lead to grave results. For years, the South African government joined with Maggiore in denying that HIV is responsible for AIDS and resisting antiretroviral treatment. According to a new analysis by a group of Harvard public health researchers, 330,000 people died as a consequence of the government’s denial and 35,000 babies were born with the disease.

Determined to reject scientific wisdom, Maggiore breast-fed her daughter. Eliza Jane died in 2005, at the age of 3. The L.A. County coroner concluded that the cause of death was AIDS-related pneumonia. Maggiore refused to believe it.

Written by Richard Wilson

January 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm

An “unmitigated tragedy”: Los Angeles Times reports the death of leading HIV-positive AIDS-denialist Christine Maggiore

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From the Los Angeles Times

Until the end, Christine Maggiore remained defiant.

On national television and in a blistering book, she denounced research showing that HIV causes AIDS. She refused to take medications to treat her own virus. She gave birth to two children and breast-fed them, denying any risk to their health. And when her 3-year-old child, Eliza Jane, died of what the coroner determined to be AIDS-related pneumonia, she protested the findings and sued the county.

On Saturday, Maggiore died at her Van Nuys home, leaving a husband, a son and many unanswered questions. She was 52…

Jay Gordon, a pediatrician whom the family consulted when Eliza Jane was sick, said Monday that Maggiore’s death was an “unmitigated tragedy.”

“In the event that she died of AIDS-related complications, there are medications to prevent this,” said Gordon, who disagrees with Maggiore’s views and believes HIV causes AIDS. “There are medications that enable people who are HIV-positive to lead healthy, normal, long lives.”

Diagnosed with HIV in 1992, Maggiore plunged into AIDS volunteer work — at AIDS Project Los Angeles, L.A. Shanti and Women at Risk. Her background commanded attention. A well-spoken, middle-class woman, she was soon being asked to speak about the risks of HIV at local schools and health fairs. “At the time,” Maggiore told The Times in 2005, “I felt like I was doing a good thing.”

All that changed in 1994, she said, when she spoke to UC Berkeley biology professor Peter Duesberg, whose well-publicized views on AIDS — including assertions that its symptoms can be caused by recreational drug use and malnutrition — place him well outside the scientific mainstream.

Intrigued, Maggiore began scouring the literature about the underlying science of HIV. She came to believe that flu shots, pregnancy and common viral infections could lead to a positive test result. She later detailed those claims in her book, “What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?”

Maggiore started Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a nonprofit that challenges “common assumptions” about AIDS. She also had a regular podcast about the topic.

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…

Scienceblogs and Neurologica have more background on this tragic case.

See also: “Against the evidence”