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Posts Tagged ‘aids denial

The HIV patient who died after his denialist “friend” persuaded him to stop taking his medications

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Of all the tragic individual stories I’ve come across recently about the impact of AIDS denialism, this has to be among the very saddest:

From Denying Aids

Maniotis claims that Lambros was like a brother to him. With such brothers, who needs enemies? The two men became friends, and Maniotis visited Lambros often in the last few years, his influence growing stronger and stronger, ultimately convincing him that HIV did not exist. Lambros stopped taking his medication and the result was devastating. After his death, Lambros’s family and friends found his medication in his refrigerator, untouched since 2007. Instead of his life-saving doctor prescribed medicine, Lambros was convinced to consume Maniotis-promoted vitamins…

HIV ultimately landed him at Howard University Hospital under unclear circumstances. The most likely scenario is that he was found confused and disoriented and was taken to the closest emergency room. He had developed encephalitis, a common outcome of end-stage HIV infection. He was later transferred to Georgetown Hospital, where he died of encephalitis. During his more lucid moments at the hospital, Lambros told his friends he was dying of AIDS…

Written by Richard Wilson

December 5, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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“Debunking Denialism” event on HIV/AIDS in South Africa at Amnesty International UK, November 11th

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From Amnesty International

Debunking denialism and the fight for treatment: Campaigning for the rights of people with HIV & AIDS in South Africa.

Date: Wed 11 November 2009

Vuyiseka Dubula is General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a leading voice on HIV/AIDs campaigning in South Africa. She is a dynamic young woman leader of TAC, who lives openly with HIV, and who has been at the centre of most of their campaigns over the last 10 years.

Vuyiseka will share the story of TAC, the importance of activism in achieving their goals, the campaigning techniques that they have found to be effective and some of the challenges they have faced along the way – including debunking the myths that have been promoted about HIV and AIDS.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a hugely informative talk followed by a question and answer session.

Entry is free but booking is essential. Please contact aikta.hancock@amnesty.org.uk or call 020 7033 1677 if you would like to attend./

Written by Richard Wilson

October 30, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in AIDS denialism

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Charity commission says it has no powers to act against a UK charity putting out dangerous misinformation on AIDS

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I recently blogged about a UK registered charity called the “Immunity Resource Foundation”, whose official objectives include:

“To advance the education of the public in the fields of medicine, health care and medical science”

and

“To relieve sickness and assist sick and disabled persons… by providing them with access to information concerning diseases and medical conditions (and in particular AIDS)…”

But the information promoted on the charity’s website includes the claim that “the AIDS edifice is built upon a false hypothesis”, that AIDS “is not an infectious disease” and that “HIV cannot cause AIDS”. The charity also provides links to a range of AIDS denialist websites, including “Living Without HIV Drugs” – which urges HIV-positive patients to stop taking conventional medications.

As has been well-documented elsewhere, this kind of misinformation around HIV and AIDS has already done enormous damage, with a grim roster of HIV-positive AIDS denialists dying after refusing to take medicines that could have saved their lives, and many thousands more deaths resulting from the application of AIDS denialist ideas by the South African government.

Far from advancing the “education of the public”, any organisation which promotes these ideas is disseminating dangerous misinformation. And far from relieving sickness, the promotion of AIDS denialism under the guise of providing health information can have deadly consequences.

The Charity Commission exists to ensure that charities registered in England and Wales benefit the public interest and act in accordance with their stated objectives.  However, when contacted about the activities of the Immunity Resource Foundation, the Commission stated that:

We do not have the remit or expertise to judge whether they are providing the correct advice. We can only become involved in matters where our regulatory powers permit us to intervene and unfortunately this issue falls outside of that remit.

The upshot of this seems to be that a registered charity is free to make false, misleading and dangerous scientific claims about a major public health issue – even where this runs directly contrary to the charity’s official objectives – because the government body that regulates charities does not have access to the technical expertise necessary to evaluate such claims.

This seems like quite a big loophole, and also something of a double-standard. Whereas a private business that makes false scientific claims about its products is answerable, at least in principle, to the Trading Standards Institute, it would appear that UK registered charities are currently free to disseminate pseudo-science more or less with impunity.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

UK registered charity is an AIDS denial front group

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The Immunity Resource Foundation (UK charity 1105986)  says that its aims include:

“(I) TO ADVANCE THE EDUCATION OF THE PUBLIC IN THE FIELDS OF MEDICINE, HEALTH CARE AND MEDICAL SCIENCE; AND
(II) TO RELIEVE SICKNESS AND ASSIST SICK AND DISABLED PERSONS …BY PROVIDING THEM WITH ACCESS TO INFORMATION CONCERNING DISEASES AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS (AND IN PARTICULAR AIDS) AND THE TREATMENTS, THERAPIES AND RESEARCH STUDIES RELATING THERETO, AND WITH ADVICE AND SUPPORT;”

But the scientific claims about AIDS published on the organisation’s website are dangerously inaccurate. On this page, Joan Shenton, the organisation’s “Founder and administrator”, suggests that AIDS “is not an infectious disease” and that “HIV cannot cause AIDS”.

The articles linked to on this page all lean in the same direction, and many of them are by known AIDS denialists, notably the discredited virologist Peter Duesberg and the journalists Neville Hodgkinson, Celia Farber and John Lauritsen.

A Harvard study published last year concluded that the adoption of AIDS denial in South Africa by the government of Thabo Mbeki in the early part of this decade had contributed to more than 365,000 preventable deaths. In a speech in 1999, Mbeki had cited “the huge volume of literature on this matter available on the Internet” in support of his position on HIV and AIDS.

Written by Richard Wilson

July 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Simon Jenkins, (lapsed?) AIDS denialist…

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In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I highlight the campaign by Sunday Times journalist Neville Hodgkinson during the early 1990s to deny the link between HIV and AIDS.

What I wasn’t aware of until recently (credit to Gimpy for the tip-off), was that loud-mouthed columnist Simon Jenkins (latterly of the Guardian) was also a participant, announcing in the Times in December 1993 that “no causal chain has been proved” from HIV to AIDS, citing the work of discredited virologist Peter Duesberg, and attacking the journal nature for allegedly engaging in a “propaganda war” around the disease.

Whereas Neville Hodgkinson has since largely been exiled to the journalistic wilderness, Jenkins (like Hodgkinson’s editor and champion, Andrew Neil) appears to have walked away more or less unscathed from his romantic entanglement with one of the world’s deadliest ideologies.

Today, Jenkins continues to share his unique brand of lay expertise on topics as diverse as the folly of prosecuting war criminals (“it is always better for a nation to seek atonement within itself”) to the tyranny of smoking bans (“Next the anti-smoking Guardianistas will be coming for dogs and cats”)…

Written by Richard Wilson

July 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Exclusive: Interview with Prof Seth Kalichman, author of “Denying Aids”

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Professor Seth Kalichman’s excellent new book, Denying AIDS, is the most comprehensive account yet of the origins and development of a toxic ideology – AIDS denialism. In this e-interview, Seth discusses the book, and the urgent issues that it seeks to address.

RW: Why does AIDS denialism matter?

AIDS denialism matters because it kills people. I know this sounds like drama and hyperbole, but it is true. AIDS denialism creates confusion about the cause of AIDS. when people who need accurate information about HIV/AIDS are exposed to AIDS denialism they might actually believe that there is a debate among doctors and scientists about the cause of HIV when there is no such debate. AIDS denialists tell people that they should avoid HIV tests because they are invalid. In fact, HIV tests are extremely accurate and only rarely misdiagnose people with HIV. Being HIV infected and not knowing your HIV status means that you may not take measures to keep from spreading the virus. In many countries the majority of HIV infected people do not know they are infected. Huge resources are dedicated to getting people at risk for HIV tested. AIDS denialists undermine these efforts. Finally, AIDS denialism matters because it persuades people who have tested HIV positive to refuse HIV treatments. Denialists say that HIV treatments are toxic poison. In fact, HIV treatments are responsible for extending the lives and improving the health of people living with HIV/AIDS. In the US and UK, entire hospital wards that were once for AIDS patients are no longer needed. People with HIV are returning to work and living healthier lives because of treatments. AIDS deniers are trying to reverse this trend and return to days when there were no treatments.

RW: What was the inspiration for “Denying AIDS”?

I have been conducting HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment research in the US since 1989 and in South Africa since 2001. I have known for years that AIDS denialists exist, but like most people I thought that ignoring them would make them just go away. I also thought that very few people were AIDS denialists and that no one would listen to them. I suppose you could say I was denial about AIDS denialism. Like many others, I was very wrong about AIDS denialism. While working in South Africa I became aware of the devastating effects that AIDS denial was having in that country. The former President Thabo Mbeki had enlisted AIDS denialists among his advisors and bought into the idea that scientists are debating the cause of AIDS. Mbeki’s misguided AIDS policies resulted in over 330,000 senseless deaths and 35,000 babies who were needlessly infected with HIV. I was aware of the failure to offer treatment for South Africans living with HIV/AIDS and I knew that AIDS denial was to blame. In 2006 I also became aware of AIDS denialists in the US and UK. I received an email correspondence from someone I knew to be a well trained social psychologist in a teaching position at a respected university. She had written a very positive review of an old AIDS denialist book by Professor Peter Duesberg in California, the most notorious AIDS denialist. This psychologist had posted the book review at the RethinkingAIDS.com website. I was absolutely dumbfounded to learn that someone who I knew to be educated and who I believed to be intelligent had not only bought into AIDS denial but was actively propagating the myths. I started to look at the AIDS denialist literature and found it disturbing and also fascinating. I wanted to learn more about how seemingly intelligent people would come to believe absolute rubbish. So I decided to write Denying AIDS.

RW: What kinds of people become AIDS denialists, and what motivates them?

All kinds of people become AIDS denialists. Most visible are the fringe scientists because they write books and have websites. They are following in the footsteps of Peter Duesberg. Still, AIDS denialists who have academic positions do considerable harm because they create an impression of credibility. There are also rogue journalists who write about conspiracy theories and other sensational pseudo-news. AIDS denialist journalists do considerable harm because they bring AIDS denialism into the public eye. AIDS denialism also has its activists, typically people who have tested HIV positive and buy into denialism as a maladaptive coping strategy. These denialists also have credibility because they appear to be living healthy with HIV and not taking medications. There are even celebrities who support AIDS denialist activism, including the popular rock band the Foo Fighters and comedian Bill Maher. Tragically, AIDS denialist activists have infected their children and others and they themselves die of AIDS earlier than they may have if they accepted treatment. Then there is a large group of people who are prone to conspiracy theorizing, anti-government sentiments, and simply wanting to make mischief. These people are typically Internet bloggers with way too much time on their hands. Many seem not to realize the harm they are causing and most others just do not seem to care.

RW: Who are the key figures in the AIDS denial movement, and what are their ideas?

In my opinion, the key figures include the following people:

Peter Duesberg is the single most important figure in HIV/AIDS denialism because he is the only credentialed scientist who has worked with retroviruses, although not having worked with HIV, to propose that HIV does not cause AIDS. The rock star of AIDS denialism, he holds fast to his flawed ideas. What makes him unique is that he was once a respected scientist and now shows utter disrespect for science by refuting facts in the service of self-promotion.

David Rasnick is Peter Duesberg’s right hand man. Quite literally, in public Rasnick appears to be Duesberg’s personal assistant. At one time, he had a visiting scholar appointment with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley (1996-2005), where he worked with Duesberg, although the university retracted his appointment. Rasnick is a conspiracy theorist, claiming that the US government propagates the ‘myth’ that HIV causes AIDS to allow the pharmaceutical industry. Rasnick served with Duesberg on the now infamous panel of AIDS experts and denialists convened by South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2000. In fact, Rasnick is credited, or blamed, with convincing Mbeki that there is a need for a scientific debate on the cause of AIDS. He also worked with Matthias Rath in conducting what are now ruled unlawful vitamin studies in South Africa.

Kary B. Mullis was a Nobel Laureate and is now among the who’s who of AIDS pseudoscientists. In 1994, Mullis co-authored the essay “What causes AIDS? It’s an open question” and he has appeared in several interviews in which he clearly questions whether HIV causes AIDS. Mullis said, “If there is evidence that HIV causes AIDS, there should be scientific documents which either singly or collectively demonstrate that fact, at least with a high probability. There is no such document.” Mullis is widely held as an eccentric who has shared his experiences, including his abduction by extraterrestrials.

Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, a medical physicist based at the Royal Perth Hospital published a paper in 1988 declaring that HIV had never been correctly isolated as a distinct ‘pure’ virus. Along with Valendar Turner and John Papadimitriou, this group proclaims that HIV does not even exist! Like Duesberg, they say that drugs, poverty, and HIV medications cause AIDS. They also broaden their view by claiming other sources of immune suppression can lead to AIDS, such as repeated exposure to semen among gay men, although seemingly not women. They propose that an oxidation process occurs in response to HIV/AIDS risk factors, such as drug use, malnutrition, and exposure to semen that causes immune suppression and ultimately AIDS.

Etienne de Harven retired from the University of Toronto and having been a Professor of Cell Biology at Sloan Kettering Institute New York from 1956 to 1981. de Harven isolated and conducted electron microscopic studies of the murine (mouse) friend leukemia virus. He was also a member of the 2000 South Africa’s Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel and is a recognized leader among AIDS Rethinkers. He worked as a scientist in his field from the 1950’s until he retired. He challenged the proof that HIV has been isolated, according to the standards laid down by him. de Harven has said, “Dominated by the media, by special pressure groups and by the interests of several pharmaceutical companies, the AIDS establishment efforts to control the disease lost contact with open-minded, peer-reviewed medical science since the unproven HIV/AIDS hypothesis received 100% of the research funds while all other hypotheses were ignored.”

Christine Maggiore was the founder of Alive & Well, and was perhaps the most visible and visited HIV/AIDS denialist website. She tested HIV positive and remained untreated. Her three-year-old daughter Eliza Jane Scovill died of complications of AIDS whereas second opinions state that the death was the result of an adverse reaction to antibiotics. Maggiore founded Alive & Well in 1995 and wrote What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong? Her story was portrayed on the popular US television show “Law & Order SVU” in October 2008. Christine Maggiore died of AIDS just a couple months later in December 2008. She is no longer with us, but her harmful legacy lives on.

Celia Farber is a journalist who has chronicled the Peter Duesberg phenomenon since the late 1980s. She has a personal relationship with Bob Guccione the founder of Penthouse Magazine and owner of Penthouse Media Group, Inc. affording Farber considerable access to the publishing world. In 1987, Farber began writing and editing a monthly investigative feature column “Words from the Front” in SPIN Magazine, owned by Guccione. She has been featured in Discover Magazine, also owned by Guccione. These articles focused on the critiques of HIV/AIDS science. In 2006 she published an article “Out of control: AIDS and the corruption of medical science” in Harper’s magazine which stirred interest as the article represented a breakthrough of HIV/AIDS denialism into mainstream media. The article is also a chapter in her book, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS, a collection of her magazine articles, mostly from the 1980s and 1990s. Farber has taken Duesberg on as a cause and in so doing has engaged in several rather nasty exchanges with AIDS scientists, most notably Robert Gallo. Along with Duesberg, Farber received a 2008 Clean Hands Award from the Semmelweis Society for her speaking out about the truth in AIDS. She has most recently filed a libel lawsuit against an HIV treatment advocacy group in New York City.

RW: Some people say that AIDS denial is a fringe ideology, that only affects a tiny group of people. What would you say to that?

I would say that it is true that AIDS denialism is a fringe ideology and that a fairly small group of people are actively involved in propagating AIDS denial. However, there is considerable evidence that that significant numbers of people are affected by AIDS denial. We know that in the US over 40% of Gay men question whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. We know that a majority of people who should be tested for HIV refuse. We know that people turn to the Internet for AIDS information and find AIDS denialism on numerous websites. We know that people are vulnerable to confusing information, especially when it is something that anyone would want to hear, such as HIV is not the cause of AIDS. There is no telling how many people have been harmed by AIDS denialism or how many listen to them. Whether it be thousands or hundreds of thousands who listen to AIDS denialists, we know from the South African experience that if just one person with power to make decisions listens the results can be devastating.

RW: In “Denying AIDS” you make comparisons between AIDS denial and other fringe ideologies – could you tell us a bit more about that?

The similarities between AIDS denialism and cancer denialism, Holocaust Denial, 9/11 Truth Seeking, and Global Warming Denial are striking. All of these groups use the same tactics to create the impression that experts disagree and that the historical record is in dispute. They all use selective information taken out of context that supports their viewpoint. They ignore facts and propel myths. They include pseudo-experts. They rely on conspiracy theories to gain attention. They are persuasive in their rhetoric. They use books to circumvent peer-review, they create their own periodicals, and they produce documentary looking films. They also effectively use the Internet and have manipulated their way into mainstream media. In some cases, they are even the same people! I believe that there is a denialism prone personality that I discuss in Denying AIDS. People who approach the world from a suspicious stance, are anti-establishment, and somewhat grandiose are among those who are prone to denialism.

RW: What is the relationship between AIDS denial and alternative medicine?

Not all AIDS denialists sell alternative treatments, but some do. However, all AIDS denialists pave the path for fraudulent cures and snake oil treatments. AIDS denialist say that HIV does not cause AIDS, leaving open the question of what should be done to treat AIDS? Among the most notorious AIDS denialists are those who sell remedies, such as Matthias Rath and Gary Null who sell vitamins and nutritional supplements they have proclaimed treat HIV/AIDS. Ben Goldacre has written about Matthias Rath’s destructive profiteering in his book Bad Science. AIDS denialists have on occasion worked closely with these vitamin entrepreneurs, as was the case when American David Rasnick and South African Anthony Brink teamed up with Matthias Rath. Of course, many people make well informed decisions and choose to complementary treatments such as nutritional supplements and vitamins as part of their HIV-related health care. Indeed, people may even make informed decisions to forego anti-HIV mediations. I believe we should respect these decisions when they are well-informed. HIV treatments are not for everyone. The problem we have with AIDS denialism is that it misinforms people and steers them away from HIV treatments. People are therefore being deceived by denialism to make misinformed decisions, and that of course is not okay.

RW: What did you come across in the course of your research that especially surprised you?

It surprised me that the AIDS denialists truly believe what they are saying. I had thought that they must be blatant liars and scam artists. Perhaps some are. But I have come to realize that most AIDS denialists really believe that HIV does not cause AIDS. They tend to be paranoid and their suspicious cognitive style bends facts to fit their preconceived notions. I will never forget when Peter Duesberg looked me dead in the eyes and said “You know, there is no vaccine for this; it is not an infectious disease.” I have no question that he believes what he says, as mad as it is.

Seth C. Kalichman is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut, and the Editor of the journal AIDS and Behavior. His new book is “Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy”; royalties are donated to buy HIV meds in Africa. http://denyingaids.blogspot.com

Written by Richard Wilson

May 26, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Within days of taking office, Zuma sacks Health Minister who restored sanity to AIDS policy after Mbeki

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From The Guardian

Jacob Zuma, the new South African president, today sacked the health minister praised by campaigners for turning around the country’s disastrous policy on Aids.

Announcing his first cabinet, Zuma moved Barbara Hogan from the health ministry to the less influential public enterprises portfolio.

Hogan is replaced by Aaron Motsoaledi, a provincial education minister who is a medical doctor.

Some analysts had predicted Hogan would be ousted after she publicly criticised the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) earlier this year for barring the Dalai Lama from a conference on peace and reconciliation.

Written by Richard Wilson

May 12, 2009 at 8:17 pm

AIDS and HIV: Connie Howard follows in Neville Hodgkinson’s footsteps

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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.

Christine Maggiore’s last podcast

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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

David Crowe on the death of AIDS denialist Rob Johnston

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From the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society

Every time an AIDS reappraiser dies, people are anxious to know whether it was AIDS. Those who support the dominant paradigm are hopeful that, if it was, it will cause all the other ‘denialists’ to smarten up and get on drug therapy right away. Dissidents, on the other hand, often still have a sense of insecurity. Every time one of their number dies of AIDS they are forced to confront the possibility that they have been living a delusion. Somehow one person dying from symptoms that would not be called AIDS in non-HIV-negative people is proof that the HIV-positive person really was killed by the virus.

Rob’s father, Bob Johnston summed it up: “The chemotherapy he had between November and January for the tumour on his cheek gave him very serious side effects which were then treated with an avalanche of drugs which we are sure put more pressure on his liver. The final straw was the reaction to codeine which he was taking for pain from his Parkinson’s disease (hardly an AIDS related disease). I hope the dissidents will not take Rob’s passing as in any way weakening their serious questioning of the now ‘traditional’ way of dealing with HIV…”

Written by Richard Wilson

January 9, 2009 at 1:00 am

Michael Baumgartner on the death of AIDS denialist Huw Christie

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From Virusmyth.com

…Neither of your illnesses would have brought you down, Huw. You simply ran out of time to change gear. We both knew it did not need some ill-identified virus to explain your several symptoms. You knew the causes for your conditions and so did I. Poverty had taken its toll, and so had the no-future urban gay lifestyle you had in common with so many other gay men, especially in cities like London.

You really were too sensitive for this world, Huw, and, as you said to me one evening, ‘sensitive people die young’…

See also: The parallels between AIDS denial and Holocaust negationism

Written by Richard Wilson

January 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Celia Farber responds

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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

with one comment

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

Author Seth Kalichman offers hefty reward to anyone who can prove the existence of David Crowe

with 3 comments

From Denying Aids

Blind romantics still believe that Rethinking AIDS Society President David Crowe actually exists.

But if David Crowe has never been met in person, does he really exist?

Never met in person?

You bet!

I know there are pictures of David Crowe, but are they really him? Do they meet my standards of real photo identification?

Or is that just an actor playing David Crowe in the AIDS denialist videos we see?

David Crowe has a website, but that could be anyone.


David Crowe writes articles for online health food magazines, but there is a conspiracy among naturalists, the vitamin industry, and the herbal medicine cartel that keeps the David Crowe myth going.

Go ahead, prove me wrong.

I am offering a free copy of my book Denying AIDS to anyone who can PROVE that David Crowe exists.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 31, 2008 at 1:09 am