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HIV Denial and “Just Asking Questions”

The “just asking questions” maneuver is familiar to many skeptics. The idea is to feign neutrality, to insulate oneself from accountability or being held to answer for any specific position, but meanwhile to sow doubt about a scientific claim by raising (dubious) questions.

Sometimes the “I’m just asking questions” gambit also tries to disguise itself as sincere journalism. That’s what journalists do, right, ask the tough questions, uncover the uncomfortable truth?

I find this approach particularly deceptive. It tries to hide the fact that the journalist is working off of a particular narrative. Asking questions is, in fact, just another narrative style, one that is meant to lead the reader/viewer to a particular conclusion about the subject. The narrative determines what questions are asked and how they are answered.

A perfect example of this deceptive approach is the HIV denialist movie, House of Numbers. Here is the synopsis from the movie’s website:

What is HIV? What is AIDS? What is being done to cure it? These questions sent Canadian filmmaker Brent Leung on a worldwide journey, from the highest echelons of the medical research establishment to the slums of South Africa, where death and disease are the order of the day. In this up-to-the-minute documentary, he observes that although AIDS has been front-page news for over 29 years, it is barely understood. Despite the great effort, time, and money spent, no cure is in sight.

Hyping ignorance is one denialist strategy. Leung asks questions, pretending to be neutral, but implying that those questions are controversial or unanswered. He characterizes AIDS as “barely understood” and summarizes the current medical situation as “no cure in sight.” The summary continues:

The HIV/AIDS story is being rewritten, and this is the first film to present the uncensored POVs of virtually all the major players — in their own settings, in their own words. It rocks the foundation upon which all conventional wisdom regarding HIV/AIDS is based. If, as South African health advocate Pephsile Maseko remarks, “this is the beginning of a war…a war to reclaim our health,” then House of Numbers could well be the opening salvo in the battle to bring sanity and clarity to an epidemic clearly gone awry.

Clearly, this is a denialist movie. Rocking the foundation of conventional wisdom, bringing clarity, and being uncensored are all standard parts of the denialist rhetoric.

A brief history of HIV

HIV denial was galling in the 1990s, but it is even more so today given the stunning advances in HIV medicine.

On June 5th 1981 the CDC published a report of five cases of a rare pneumonia (PCP pneumonia) in five otherwise-healthy young gay men. In 1982 it was recognized that these and other patients were suffering from an immune deficiency syndrome and opportunistic infections. In 1983 a retrovirus was discovered as the probable cause of this new syndrome (AIDS). The virus was initially called Lymphadenopathy Associated Virus but later renamed Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In 1985 the first blood test for HIV was approved. In 1987 the FDA approved the first drug for the treatment and prevention of HIV – AZT.

Over the next 20 years scientists developed what is called highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, treatment. This is a cocktail of multiple drugs designed to interfere with HIV at multiple steps in its infection and replication. As these drugs continue to be developed, the life expectancy of those with HIV increases. Just last year, in 2013, data suggests that those with HIV who start HAART treatment early have essentially a normal life expectancy. In 30 years HIV went from a short term death sentence to a chronic illness with an essentially normal life expectancy.

There have been only a few “cures” of HIV, meaning that those with a documented infection are now virus free after treatment. One such cure was effected with a bone marrow transplant, and another with high dose HAART in an infant infected at birth. These approaches will likely not be applicable to most patients with HIV.

Research into an HIV vaccine is ongoing. The best we have done so far is a phase III trial showing 31% efficacy in preventing initial infection. This is a modest result, but shows we are making progress. HIV is particularly challenging for various reasons – it mutates throughout the infection, it evades the immune system, and it can hide in a dormant state.

In short, HIV is one of the stunning success stories of modern medicine. Science rapidly discovered the nature and cause of AIDS, we have had a steady increase in our understanding of this virus, it is now a manageable disease and we continue to make progress toward a vaccine and even possible cure.

HIV denialism

Throughout this 30 year success story, there have been those who have denied that HIV exists and/or is the cause of AIDS. Initially they claimed that the lack of clear benefits from anti-retroviral therapy was evidence that the HIV hypothesis was wrong. If that were true, then the stunning success of HAART should be considered evidence that the HIV hypothesis is correct. In fact, the success of HAART has taken the wind out of the sails of much HIV denialism, and yet it limps on.

In House of Numbers, Leung (who is just asking questions) asks: Is there really a consensus on HIV? Is the test reliable? Why do doctors ask about risk factors? Why doesn’t everyone who is exposed get the disease? Why is the disease so variable?

And, of course, the Big Pharma gambit – isn’t HIV just an invented fiction so that pharmaceutical companies can make money from selling drugs?

Jeanne Bergman over at AIDSTruth.org does a good job of answering these questions. Yes, there is a robust consensus on HIV, based upon mountains of evidence. Yes, the test is reliable. Asking about risk factors is standard practice. Not everyone exposed to an infectious illness catches the disease. The disease is actually very consistent. The opportunistic infections may vary by region, however.

Regarding the Big Pharma gambit – I suspect that someone living a normal life with a normal life expectancy on HAART medication doesn’t think the pharmaceutical industry is ripping them off. If you search for HIV on Pubmed you get 265,637 results. That is a lot of research. In there are clinical trials and systematic reviews of HAART therapy demonstrating clear efficacy. There is no controversy over the appropriateness and effectiveness of HAART therapy in those with HIV.

The response to Bergman’s deconstruction of House of Numbers by the denialists is predictable. They simply double down on the “we’re just asking questions” gambit. On the HoN Website they include this formal response by the HIV denialist Perth group:

The “legitimate scientist” and Nobel laureate Jacques Monod: “In science, self-satisfaction is death. Personal self-satisfaction is the death of the scientist. Collective self-satisfaction is the death of the research. It is restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, agony of mind that nourish science”.

Perter Abelard: The first key to wisdom is assiduous and frequent questioning…For by doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiry we arrive at truth”.

They further state:

Howard Temin, the father of modern retrovirology: “when an experiment is challenged no matter who it is challenged by, it’s your responsibility to check. That is an ironclad rule of science, that when you publish something you are responsible for it…even the most senior professor, if challenged by the lowliest technician or graduate student, is required to treat them seriously and consider their criticisms. It is one of the most fundamental aspects of science” (emphasis in original).

HIV scientists do not respond to challenges. In fact, according to the rules at AIDSTruth, “We will not engage in any public or private debate with AIDS denialists or respond to requests from journalists who overtly support AIDS denialist causes”. Apparently these “legitimate scientists” cannot stick to their own rules.

Here we see the true agenda of “just asking questions” laid bare. Denialists are not asking sincere questions with the goal of further exploration and getting closer to the truth. They have an agenda of casting doubt on established science. They will tirelessly ask questions in order to create the false impression of controversy where none exists, all the while pretending to be skeptics who just value doubt as a scientific tool.

The quote above from Temin does not apply. Even the lowliest technician who is asking questions is assumed by Temin to be sincere in their motives. This does not apply to denialists, who abuse questioning, abuse skepticism, and abuse doubt for an a priori agenda of denial.

“Just asking questions” is a win-win for denialists. If you respond, you validate the notion that there is a controversy, a question that needs answering. If you refuse to engage, then you are hiding something and not being a true scientist.

Conclusion

The medical science behind HIV/AIDS is astoundingly robust. Of course there is much more to be discovered, and we need to further develop HIV treatments. An effective vaccine and/or effective cure are greatly needed, especially if we are ever going to eradicate HIV. Eradication is possible, however, as HIV has no significant non-human reservoir.

Denialists, however, confuse consensus with being closed minded. They confuse refusal to engage with cranks with being evasive. They pretend to be just asking questions when in reality they clearly demonstrate that they are not honest brokers. Rather they are merchants of doubt and confusion with an agenda.

I don’t know if Leung came to this question a denialist, or if he is just a journalist who decided to build his career off a “man bites dog” story. A movie confirming the standard scientific view of HIV would not have been as sensational.

We also have to acknowledge the potential harm of HIV denialism. Trying to convince the public that they are not being told the true story of HIV has the potential to convince some people not to trust the system, and therefore not to get tested or take HAART medication. With serious medical issues, “just asking questions” has a body count attached to it.

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107 thoughts on “HIV Denial and “Just Asking Questions”

  1. windriven says:

    There are prices to be paid for scientific illiteracy, for shruggy thinking, for JAQing off. Prices denominated in human lives.

    “HIV/AIDS denialism has had a significant political impact, especially in South Africa under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. Scientists and physicians have raised alarm at the human cost of HIV/AIDS denialism, which discourages HIV-positive people from using proven treatments.[5][6][8][10][11][12] Public health researchers have attributed 330,000 to 340,000 AIDS deaths, along with 171,000 other HIV infections and 35,000 infant HIV infections, to the South African government’s former embrace of HIV/AIDS denialism. [13][14]” Emphasis mine.

    Sadly, those prices are not often paid by the rabble rousers themselves.

  2. goodnightirene says:

    I watched a few legitimate documentaries on Netflix and now I get recommendations for films such as House of Numbers. In fact, since discovering this blog, I find that I am ever more selective about what I watch and far more critical of the content.

    As I watch the Olympics, I look up bios of some of the “stars”. Turns out that Apolo Ohno has his own supplement line and does “motivational speaking” about “making the right food choices”. Choosing good food sounds innocent enough, but something tells me that Mr. Ohno’s advice is full of baloney, OR just common sense dressed up to somehow seem “alternative” and require supplementation for the usual conspiratorial reasons.

    Off topic: Could one of our Dear Leaders :-) or commenters address the topic of marijuana as epilepsy treatment in children? I am afraid to even attempt to google this topic. Having apparently become a quasi-expert in medical matters, I am getting phone calls about this.

    1. Michael says:

      I recall a news report late last year about the FDA approving a study at NYU of cannabidiol in pediatric epilepsy. We shall see.

      1. irenegoodnight says:

        Woo-hoo. An editorial in the NY Times today about this subject! Study is in the works, and reports clearly anecdotal at this point–which doesn’t stop the bulk of the comments being nearly incoherent in their ignorance of science or the importance of data versus anecdote.

  3. Angora Rabbit says:

    I knew Howard Temin, and he would be outraged (as I obviously am) if he knew how his words were being misappropriated to support utter quackology and pseudoscientific BS. In addition to his other fine qualities, Howard was a brave defender of Truth and Integrity. Leung and his website make a mockery of everything Howard stood for. If he were with us today, he’d be demanding to remove his misappropriated quote.

    I suspect ditto for Monod and the others – easy way out to pick dead men’s quotes?

  4. Jeremy Praay says:

    If I may “just ask a question,” I have watched that documentary, and learned a great deal about AIDS denialism as a result. However, one of the points of the film was that HIV alone will not produce AIDS, but rather, requires a cofactor (or cofactors). I found that concept quite intriguing, and it may explain why some, like Magic Johnson, have not developed AIDS even after being HIV positive for more than 2 decades.

    I truly have no position on this issue, so I am honestly curious if this is also just smoke and mirrors, or if there may be some truth to it. Has this been disproved? Google U wasn’t very helpful.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      However, one of the points of the film was that HIV alone will not produce AIDS, but rather, requires a cofactor (or cofactors)

      I don’t know what you mean by this.

      HIV is the virus that infects the white blood cells of your body. Specifically CD4+ cells which are a specific type of T-cell. HIV in and of itself does not kill you. What it does is depletes your CD4+ cells such that you cannot fight off infections and it is those infections which lead to death. That is what we call AIDS – acquired (from the HIV) immune deficiency (depletion of T-cells) syndrome (a cluster of symptoms common to a specific cause). We have “AIDS defining” illnesses – infectious disease that are only ever contracted in immune deficient hosts. PCP and Kaposi’s sarcoma being two of them.

      So, you don’t need anything beyond HIV to deplete your CD4+ cells. But you do need an opportunistic pathogen for that to then become what we call AIDS.

      I found that concept quite intriguing, and it may explain why some, like Magic Johnson, have not developed AIDS even after being HIV positive for more than 2 decades.

      No, it doesn’t. The latency period of HIV is highly variable and can be extremely long. Generally, if completely untreated HIV will develop into AIDS in 4-10 years. That can vary depending on what literature you read as it is obviously grossly unethical to do a trial on it, and there will always be outliers at both ends. But in general (IIRC from my month doing infectious disease consults last year) it is roughly 4-10 years, and not uncommonly up to 15.

      Johnson, however, also had treatment. He was (is) very rich and from the very beginning had medical treatment. Don’t forget that he contracted HIV in 1991 and the first FDA approved treatment for it was in 1987.

      “Magic got a jumpstart on experimental drugs before they were released to the general public,” Lieb told Life’s Little Mysteries, “but there were many people in clinical trials benefitting at the same time.”

      Source

      There are plenty of people who have not developed AIDS 30 years after HIV diagnosis. And, of course, not only did Johnson get early treatment, he has been continuing with it and using ever better regimens.

      That was part of the point of this article – to talk about how amazing it is to go from something that was widely considered a rapid death sentence in 1991 to a chronic and completely manageable disease just 20 years later. Yes, there are always people for whom the drugs don’t work and they eventually succumb. But the data is pretty darned solid that if a person starts on treatment early and maintains it diligently, they have a very, very high chance of living a completely normal life span. It is a huge triumph of medical science.

      I truly have no position on this issue, so I am honestly curious if this is also just smoke and mirrors,

      So yes, completely smoke and mirrors. There is no “co-factor” necessary for an HIV infection to progress to AIDS.

      1. Michael says:

        I believe the notion is that anything else that could possibly suppress CD4+ cells and thereby influence disease progression could be labeled a cofactor. Thus if you wish to deny HIV being the proximate cause of AIDS you simply point to the plethora of cofactors.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          That seems like an obvious ruse. Sure other things could cause AIDS-like symptoms. In fact, I actually had a patient last year who became a case study of the Adult-Onset Immune Deficiency. First case in our region and in the US as far as I know. We worked that patient up for AIDS in every way imaginable.

          But just because other things can cause similar syndromes and potentially there could be an additional process to advance the onset of AIDS for an HIV infected person (or make the drugs less effective, etc) doesn’t mean that HIV alone is not sufficient to leads to AIDS and death from opportunistic infections.

          To be clear, I don’t think you don’t know this. Just clarifying the point is all.

          1. Michael says:

            Of course it’s a ruse; but blaming diet, stress, environmental exposure, substance use. and of course opportunistic pathogens really diversifies your “treatment options.”

        2. vorlon says:

          I think there is considerable evidence supporting the view that co infections can have a significant impact on progression rates. There is even a section on wikipedia.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV_disease_progression_rates

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            I think there is considerable evidence supporting the view that co infections can have a significant impact on progression rates. There is even a section on wikipedia.

            …which is completely irrelevant in the absence of HIV infection.

          2. Andrey Pavlov says:

            I think there is considerable evidence supporting the view that co infections can have a significant impact on progression rates.

            You do realize that this is about co-infections speeding up or slowing down the progression of HIV to AIDS, right? It has no bearing on whether HIV causes AIDS – it does. It merely demonstrates that how long it takes to get AIDS from your initial HIV infection can vary depending on myriad factors.

      2. CHotel says:

        You beat me to it! Well said Andrey.

        To expand on the AIDS diagnosis part: AIDS is simply (it’s more complicated than this) the most severe stage of an HIV infection, defined as a CD4+ count of <200 or as presence of an AIDS defining illness (like those Andrey pointed out, the only other two I could think of to add were extra-pulmonary cryptococcus and toxoplasmosis of the brain) regardless of CD4+ count.

        Since it's a stage rather than a standalone diagnosis it's kind of weird in terms of a "cure". Your CD4+ count can recover or your infection can be healed with treatment, and you'd technically no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for AIDS, but you'd still be said to have it (I can't remember the exact reason why it's done like this, if anyone can enlighten me please feel free). This is of course momumentally different than a cure of HIV, which is of course what we'd all love to see.

        And regarding Magic, if South Park has taught us anything it's that he never developed AIDS because he sleeps with all of his money.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Haha, thanks CHotel. I get to be quicker on the comments these days since I am mostly at home playing house-husband and doing research… and I just finished my abstract for submission to the research symposium.

          I forget off the top of my head but I think certain other fungal infections in specific locations can also be AIDS-defining, or at least highly suspicious. A nocardia brain abscess for example (had a few of those patients). I know you can get a CNS lymphoma as a part of AIDS as well, but not sure if it is diagnostic of the syndrome.

          As for why you are still termed as having “AIDS” even if your numbers no longer meet criteria is, to the best of my knowledge, just a facet of being at higher risk for recurrent opportunistic infections than someone who has never been syndromic. Either your virus is more aggressive, you or the virus are less responsive to drugs, or your compliance is low. In other words, I think it is just a risk stratification thing.

          1. CHotel says:

            Yeah, the list of illnesses is pretty broad, and remembering them all is definitely outside of my scope of practice.

            Thanks for the answer, that definitely makes sense and my brain seems to vaguely recognize it as familiar. I was thinking something to do with risks and follow-up and the like but couldn’t remember if there was anything more in depth to it.

        2. Sullivanthepoop says:

          I have another friend that was not diagnosed as HIV positive until he had full blown AIDS and they told us to prepare because he had septicemia when he went to the hospital, but he recovered and they started him on HAART. 3 months later his CD4+ count was over 200 and has remained so for over 10 years.

    2. LovleAnjel says:

      Magic Johnson started drug therapy to prevent the development of AIDS right after his HIV diagnosis. Current therapies (and most likely Johnson is on the best therapy available) can reduce viral loads to nondetectable levels. It’s not a mystery why he has not developed AIDS.

    3. Sullivanthepoop says:

      I also have a friend who has been HIV for over 2 decades who has a lot of resources. He has also never progressed to AIDS because he has been on HAART since he was diagnosed. It is the ability to go to the doctor and purchase the drugs that prevented these 2 people from progressing to AIDS, not some cofactor unless that cofactor is money.

  5. thelittlesalt says:

    One of the most dangerous parts of HIV denialism – and the one I’ve run into at least once – is that it’s a denialism that has a very, very, very high probability – even higher than vaccine refusal, I’d dare to say – that the denialist will do direct harm to others. The most famous American denialist refused all retrovirals during pregnancy and passed the illness to her daughter, who was killed by it. She and her husband were extremely vocal about never using any sort of protection to prevent transmission (why would they, if she were not really sick?) Her husband has always maintained he is HIV-negative, but who really knows, since he won’t submit to testing (as least as far as I know). But I wonder what risk he puts people at now (and how much risk his wife out people at during her life).

    The law is catching up in the arena of HIV. Many jurisdictions now recognize that intentional transmission of the virus (or attempted transmission) can be a crime. Reckless transmission is still largely up in the air, but it’s moving towards criminalizing it. I’m of two minds about some of the cases, but not in the denialist cases. These people place so, so many at risk (and not just intimate partners). I have defended so many people who opted out of medicine for themselves, but this is largely the one that makes no sense to me because of the enormous societal risk involved.

  6. Alia says:

    It is really astonishing, the way perception of HIV/AIDS has changed. When I was a kid, this was a mysterious, dreaded disease, over here associated mostly with drug users (in the 1980s, disposable syringes were not easily available, not even in hospitals). And then, some years later, my mother would say that in her work as a nurse, there is one virus she’s really scared of, and that’s not HIV, but HCV.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I am vastly more worried about HCV than HIV myself.

  7. rork says:

    Thanks for article, and thanks to Andrey, CHotel, Rabbit, and others like that. Nice to have the real thing in the building.

    What I didn’t get was the motivation for HIV denialism or skepticism for these people.
    I do understand why some politicians might want to spin AIDS for their personal gain, but I can’t spot the gain so much for other people. I reviewed a bit before writing this, and wondered if it just supported conspiracy beliefs in a general manner. Perhaps one of our lizard overlords could comment.

    1. rork says:

      I reviewed some more and maybe get the flavors folks come in better now.

      1. windriven says:

        “the flavors folks come in”

        Ankle on over to the Burzynski page. We have one flavored tutti-futti there.

      2. Sawyer says:

        For politicians like Mbeki, anti-Western attitudes make it really easy to reject well-established scientific principles. There are also some homophobic reasons to reject the link but most of those have probably dropped of the radar at this point. And of course there’s just cherry picking combined with the anchoring bias; someone encounters one of the few pieces of data that doesn’t support the link early on, and then refuses to accept all other data.

        I think the number one driver is the appeal of the “rebel scientist” or “brave journalist” label, especially for the large number of scientists that never get a chance to make major contributions to their field. Of course this explanation doesn’t work for someone like Peter Duesberg or a Kary Mullis (*cough*LSD*cough*) , so who knows how they got roped in.

  8. Albert says:

    Myles Power did a video series on his Youtube channel (Myles Power (powerm1985)) critiquing the movie House of Numbers and had a DMCA filed against him by and AIDS denialist Liam Scheff. The charge was that Myles was spreading propaganda (!) and lacked any educational substance. Although he was forced to take down his videos on his channel, many have mirrored them. Just run a search and judge for yourself how ridiculous this DMCA charge is.

  9. Eldariasis says:

    let me break the party for a minute.

    I take no sides on this, wear my condom and say thank every tike it is a negative i am returned.

    but, if you want to prove a denialist wrong, i mean a bright one, you might want to get more references to hard facts and scientific research. Pseudo science is pseudo science which ever side you stand on. Facts, References to results or you are in for the onslaught and the “but Einstein was alone” argument.

  10. Frederick says:

    Bashing and hating HIV denialist will be a nice change of pace, Right now I got too much of anti-fluoride people screaming around here ( our town council voted yes to resume fluoridation that was going on for 40 years before 2008, and i got a good who Buy into their propaganda, and she is a bright women).

    I can never understand that. why some people obsesses with denying things as grime as Aids. And also thinking that human need to created sickness to make money, nature and evolution are grown ups enough to do that without any help.
    HIV is a good target to start any kind of wild conspiracy theories. Like people thinking that evil illuminati want to depopulated the world ( even thought the world population is on the rise non stop.. even too much).

    I remember Couple of years ago, i saw a documentary about how the HIV first appear, it did not denial it existence, it rather blame the researchers for using chimpanzee kidney to grow the polio vaccine. I remember Buying into it.
    The guy was a reporter who check the map of “first HIV cases in africa” and the the polio vaccines map. and he found they fit. ( or do they? how can you be sure he is not lying, or just forget details) At the time, I was not the skeptical mind i was today, I thought it made a lot of sense. A research accident, At least he was not trying to blame the CIA for it.

  11. alexyduns says:

    I read an article in OUT! magazine about doctors prescribing Truvada, which is two drugs that are also used in HAART cocktails, as a prophylactic against developing an HIV infection if exposed. The article said it was FDA-approved and covered by insurance. Is anyone familiar with these drugs? I know a daily oral drug is far less ideal than a permanent vaccine, but this still seems like a major advance if it’s an effective treatment.

    1. Shane Quinlan says:

      Truvada consists of two Nucleoside and nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors – Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. When it’s used as part of HAART, patients are then either given an NNRTI or a Protease Inhibitor.

      It can be given as a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis but it seems to have been a total flop for that purpose, according to this article. http://www.natap.org/2013/ICAAC/ICAAC_04.htm

      Slate have had a couple of good articles examining its use and how the gay community seem to react to it, which would probably be its biggest market.
      http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/01/06/truvada_prep_hiv_gay_men_should_take_pre_exposure_prophylaxis.html
      http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/02/11/truvada_and_unprotected_sex_the_drug_is_still_worth_it.html

  12. Max says:

    Haha… Don’t question anything! Take the pill! Take the shot! If something bad happens though, don’t hold us responsible! This site is a breeding grounds for sheep. Not science based… Just cynical old heads skeptical of anything socially acceptable of criticism. Completely opinionated skepticism (or cherry picked research) of everything outside of the 20th century allopathic standard of care. At least until the next latest, greatest research shows that the current standard of care was actually needless or even harmful!

    I do like to visit your site from time to time to get a laugh though, so keep up your “science based medicine!”

    P.S. – I’m not an AIDS denialist by any means, but even if I agree with the opinion of the author, every post on this site has the same arrogant, ignorant stench about it in criticizing any new ideas or original thinking. Do your thing though and preach to them sheep!

    1. Bruce says:

      “At least until the next latest, greatest research shows that the current standard of care was actually needless or even harmful!”

      Just because some new research shows that something is better for you than a previous idea, it does not mean that the previous idea was “dangerous”.

      “ignorant stench about it in criticizing any new ideas or original thinking.”

      Yes, new ideas like Homeopathy…

      I am interested to know what non-Science Based Medicine has produced that is new or a product of original thinking and I am curious to know how it works and see the numbers that back up those claims.

    2. rork says:

      Dissent is permitted here, unlike many other places. Even tone trolling is permitted. Not exactly a hallmark of sheep frequented places.
      If you have anything specific to tell us, speak up when you know something. I do, as do many others much better than I. Check vitamin C post from Feb 10, 2014.

    3. Dave says:

      Denying that AIDS is due to HIV is not “original thinking”. It is dangerous, as it prevents infected people from getting care and increases the chance that the disease will be spread.

      As far as being upset that medical therapy changes with time, change is upsetting. However, it is a good thing that medical care is changing. Hopefully we will eventually reach a state where people end up getting the maximum benefit with the least risk for their conditions, with the elimination of useless and ineffective interventions, but how do you arrive at that state unless you do the investigations and make the appropriate changes?

    4. Harriet Hall says:

      “criticizing any new ideas or original thinking”
      We do not criticize new ideas or original thinking. We criticize those who want to implement those ideas without first testing them, or who continue to believe ideas that have been proven wrong.

    5. Frederick says:

      Arrogant!? lol Thank for the funny piece. you post smell arrogance for miles away, So yeah. Troll always dumps all the bad thing on us by using the exact same BAd thing the blame us to do. Funny.
      But double standard is the way to go in the Alter. MeD parallel universe.

      Wait… Do Alter. Med actually have standards? oh yeah, no they don’t. You can create a whole new alternative way to explain how the humans body work ( original thinking i guess), without any proof, any tests or any evidences and sell it. And it is legal.
      So, just pardon us for not being able to believe things only on faith.

    6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      P.S. – I’m not an AIDS denialist by any means, but even if I agree with the opinion of the author, every post on this site has the same arrogant, ignorant stench about it in criticizing any new ideas or original thinking. Do your thing though and preach to them sheep!

      You know what’s notably sheeplike? The unquestioning belief that “original thinking” is inhernetly better. “Original thinking” that doesn’t explain all previous observations plus anomalies is not a good thing. Saying someone is an “original thinker” doesn’t give them license to ignore everything we know to date. So anybody who “isn’t an AIDS denialist” but questions the use of HAART or other treatments on the basis of “original thinking” must account for why gay men died in such numbers before AZT, why those deaths dropped dramatically after AZT, why HIV is such a specific predictor in AIDS, and basically the rest of the considerable body of research that links HIV with AIDS and antiretrovirals with controlled viral counts.

      Proclaiming “original thinking” superior to hard-fought empirical knowledge doesn’t make you some sort of lateral thinker or iconoclast. In this case it just makes you like a stupid teenager who thinks their parents’ advice to stay in school is just a reflection of prejudice and lack of understanding.

      1. Sawyer says:

        Mark Crislip has ruined my ability to talk about HAART seriously after his suggestion it be changed to Fairly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy.

      2. yogalady says:

        It is true that every single AIDS patient has HIV. However, that is because HIV is now required for the diagnosis of AIDS. If someone has immune deficiency, but no HIV, they are not diagnosed with AIDS.

        If more gay men died from AIDS before AZT, that does not necessarily mean AZT saved lives. That is only a correlation. And it is complicated by the fact that early AIDS was only diagnosed in people who were already very sick, while after HIV was discovered, the diagnosed cases of AIDS were not necessarily serious.

        It is also hard to know how effective AZT might be, since the latency period for AIDS can be very long, even decades.

        The HIV deniers might actually be correct in some ways. But as soon as someone is labeled a denier, the mainstream refuses to hear anything they say, however sensible it might be.

        1. Dave says:

          It’s a good thing you are not caring for AIDS patients. Those of us who do have experienced the results of HAART. At one point it was estimated that 50% of the time spent in an Internal Medicine residency at San Francisco General hospital was spent taking care of very ill AIDS patients. It’s now largely an outpatient disease. Any Infectious disease textbook will give a clear explanation of the biology of the virus, why it depletes the CD4 count, how that causes immunodeficiency, and how retroviral therapy works.

          Sure there are patients with other immune deficiencies – agranulocytosis, common variable immune deficiency, postsplenectomy patients and rare hereditary disorders, etc. They have different etiologies and are treated differently.

          Review the obituary columns in the San Francisco newspapers before and after adequate retroviral therapy became available. Then parrot that the difference is “an association”.

        2. Sawyer says:

          Wow yogalady, what a revelation! I guess thousands of AIDS researchers somehow managed to make it through medical school without ever learning about Koch’s postulates, Hill criteria, and any other tools for determining the etiology of AIDS. Clearly you’re operating on a level that’s way too advanced for those close-minded mainstream doctors.

          1. yogalady says:

            It is possible for experts who went to medical school and have years of clinical experience to be wrong, or partly wrong. This happens because people have faith in experts, and experts have faith in themselves. A sort of blindness can result, where it’s hard to perceive evidence that does not confirm the consensus.

            There was a period when many gay men got very sick from AIDS and died. After AZT, this decreased. However, at the same time the diagnosis was changed, so that HIV infection became almost synonymous with AIDS.

            We don’t know if the worst of the epidemic ran its course. It is also probable that gay men became more careful after hearing about AIDS.

            From what I have read, and I have read a lot on both sides of the debate, there is still no clear understanding of how HIV might kill immune system cells.

            It still is not known whether HIV always indicates AIDS, or whether it might be related to something else, which is related to AIDS.

            It is also true that AIDS in Africa is different from AIDS in the US. The only common factor is HIV infection — but that is the central factor in the diagnosis. Everyone who is HIV positive is assumed to have AIDS, regardless of their symptoms.

            If something is really clear and settled, there is seldom this much controversy. The fact that many deniers are crazy conspiracy theorists is used to invalidate any skepticism at all about the current theory.

            One of the scientists who discovered HIV, Montagnier, doubts that HIV can entirely explain AIDS. But he is ignored by the mainstream because of the large numbers of experts who believe the current theory.

            Another factor to consider is that AIDS researchers cannot get funding for any ideas that contradict the current theory in any way. The path has been chosen, and no deviation is allowed.

            1. weing says:

              “It is possible for experts who went to medical school and have years of clinical experience to be wrong, or partly wrong. This happens because people have faith in experts, and experts have faith in themselves.”
              And you have faith in…..?

              1. Sawyer says:

                Weing you are being way too nice to her. That’s by far the least idiotic thing she said in her paranoid AIDS denial rant.

            2. Sawyer says:

              If something is really clear and settled, there is seldom this much controversy.

              This is so incredibly wrong I’m starting to wonder if you’re just trolling. Why do you think this site exists in the first place? What planet are you living on that people readily accept evolution, or the science behind vaccination, or the lack of science behind homeopathy? Can I move there?

              Your comments are incredibly insulting to anyone that has done real AIDS research. Scientists and doctors put 100X the effort into studying the link between HIV and AIDS than you have, and had perhaps the fastest turnaround of diagnosis to treatment in the history of medicine. I’m sorry your narrow worldview will not allow a successful drug to be developed in tandem with gay men using more responsible sexual practices, but in non-fantasy world we can deal with these two confounding variables and still figure out what’s going on. A shame you can’t do the same.

            3. Sawyer says:

              Also, my usual disclaimer about Gish Gallops: there’s so much that’s wrong about what yogalady wrote that we can’t possibly address all of it. This is not how any rational person has a discussion about a medical topic, so no one here owes you an explanation of why you’re so horribly wrong.

            4. MadisonMD says:

              It is possible for experts who went to medical school and have years of clinical experience to be wrong, or partly wrong.

              Sure it’s possible. But it’s also possible that a non-expert is wrong. Which do you think more likely and why?

              Would you accept the claim that the moon is made of cheese? Because it is possible that the NASA experts were wrong– even though they went to the moon, collected rocks, and brought them back to earth.

              If something is really clear and settled, there is seldom this much controversy.

              Haha that is so funny! Then I have some eye opening news for you, Yogagirl! It is not clear and settled that NASA landed on the moon, that Yeti exist, that Aliens haven’t visited earth–and crashed and abducted people, that Diana died by accident, that Obama was born in Indoensia, that the CIA murdered Kennedy and exploded the WTC on 9/11. Also, it’s not clear whether gullible is in the dictionary. Check it out.

              —————
              Yoga girl: Please tell us what you think causes AIDS. If you want to stay one step ahead, we are going to ask for evidence.

            5. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              From what I have read, and I have read a lot on both sides of the debate, there is still no clear understanding of how HIV might kill immune system cells.

              Crucial error – there are not two sides to the debate. There is no debate, any more than there is a debate over the existence of the germ theory of disease, or the heliocentic solar system. AIDS denialists are flat-out wrong, and you show no understanding of the research or the research funding system.

              AIDS was diagnosed as a “syndrome”, a collection of symptoms used descriptively without etiology. Now we have an etiology, and hard end points like deaths and CD4+ counts that allow tracking of empirical facts correlated with HIV infection.

              It is also true that AIDS in Africa is different from AIDS in the US. The only common factor is HIV infection — but that is the central factor in the diagnosis. Everyone who is HIV positive is assumed to have AIDS, regardless of their symptoms.

              Well yes, how trivially true. The reason AIDS is different in Africa versus the US is because the viral subspecies is different on each continent. And diagnosis with AIDS is the end-stage of HIV infection, not automatic. But yes, the common factor in AIDS is HIV infection because HIV infection leads to the cluster of symptoms and opportunistic infections we describe as AIDS.

              But hey, get HIV and do yoga, maybe you’ll never die. That worked out well for Christine Maggiore, right?

              One of the scientists who discovered HIV, Montagnier, doubts that HIV can entirely explain AIDS. But he is ignored by the mainstream because of the large numbers of experts who believe the current theory.

              Yeah…this is along the same level of critical thought as thinking that if Darwin or Pasteur renounced evolution or germ theory on their death beds, somehow that invalidates the entire enterprise. These people had the startling insights that launched their paradigms, but those paradigms are not fairies, they do not depend on continuing to believe and clap your hands. Montagnier may have a germ of a point in that HIV does not play out in exactly the same way in all contexts for all people, but he leaps far, far over the evidence into nutjobbery. And let’s not forget his ultimate embrace of homeopathy! Like Linus Pauling, early brilliance is not the same thing as immunity from error.

              Another factor to consider is that AIDS researchers cannot get funding for any ideas that contradict the current theory in any way. The path has been chosen, and no deviation is allowed.

              Moron. Science rewards innovation if it can be empirically demonstrated. Further, new ideas must account for all previous observations, plus new or unexplained findings. It all comes down to evidence, which really quite strongly supports HIV causing AIDS, to understate just a tad.

            6. weing says:

              “Everyone who is HIV positive is assumed to have AIDS, regardless of their symptoms.”
              Patently false. They are assumed, if confirmed, to have HIV infection.

              From
              http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/recommendations/terms.html

              “AIDS is diagnosed when the immune system of a person infected with HIV becomes severely compromised (measured by CD4 cell count) and⁄or the person becomes ill with an opportunistic infection or illness.”

            7. Lance says:

              There is now a much better understanding of how HIV kills CD4 T cells:
              http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7484/full/nature12940.html

  13. fsdfd says:

    I am vastly more worried about HCV than HIV myself.

  14. Justin Couron says:

    The whole Myles Power Youtube has shown that these denialists know how to silence criticism and its been fairly effective. Not only has Myles’s videos on House of Numbers been taken down but now his whole channel of skeptical discussions on things like 9/11 and GMO, as well as fun science projects you can do at home. I was sad that some of the bigger skeptics out there didn’t mention this in their blogs.

  15. Judy says:

    I hope that I am not too late in asking on this thread but for the life of me I can’t understand what good it does to deny the HIV AIDS connection. Why do these people persist in this belief? I have not followed HIV/AIDS that thoroughly but I have recently looked at websites on both sides and cannot find the WHY. It seems to me that stigma is attached (in many cases wrongly) to both and there is a lot of harm in the denial so what is to be gained?

    1. Sawyer says:

      There’s a short list of popular deniers on this site that gives you some hints:

      http://www.aidstruth.org/denialism/denialists

      It’s a little bit different for everyone. As I mentioned in a comment above, the central motivation that they all share seems to be the desire to be a “rebel scientist”. This status, despite the tremendous number of difficulties it will cause you in your career and personal life, is just too alluring for some people to pass up. They get so caught up with the idea that the mainstream position is wrong and they are right that no new evidence to the contrary will change their minds. On controversial topics like AIDS I imagine it’s darn near impossible to switch gears once you’ve endorsed a denialist point of view.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      In Seth Kalichman’s book Denying AIDS, he has a quote from a former denialist. It goes something like this. Denying AIDS is like pissing yourself in the middle of a snowstorm. It gives you a brief warmth, while ultimately leading to your much faster demise.

      People with HIV deny AIDS because it provides comfort inherent to the very term – denial permits them to ignore the sudden truncation of their lives and freedoms. The rare scholar who denies AIDS appear to do so because of arrogance and contraryness (Peter Duesberg), and I’m sure in some cases because they are feted for their views by denialists – big fish in tiny, deadly ponds.

      Or if you’re Kary Mullis, because you’re apparently straight-up crazy.

  16. Jon Brewer says:

    I just wanted to add that some of it is, alties really want to be recognized as legit. That explains people like Matthias Rath and all the 80s-era homeopaths who (with more than a bit of bravado) said it would be no problem for them to cure AIDS. They figure that if they can cure a disease that modern medicine, for all its successes, can’t cure, they win, and become an awesome Chekhov’s gun or something.

    That explains people like Rath. For Mullis, Cracked listed him among the Nobel laureates who were clearly insane. (The other three were William Shockley, Philipp Lenard, and Brian Josephson, so no surprises there.)

  17. aBroadAbroad says:

    This article by Manhattan Institute scholar Peter Huber is specifically about the FDA’s drug approval process , but he relies on the development of HIV treatments to illustrate his points and support his position.

    It’s fairly long, but Huber is an eloquent writer, and the nutshell HIV history he provides is quite excellent and well worth a read. The discussion of HIV’s complex disease processes, and the incredible challenges of keeping half a step ahead of this amazingly adaptive virus, is thorough but easy enough to understand that it might possibly sway anybody who’s leaning toward a denier stance:

    http://reason.com/archives/2014/02/14/better-medicine/print

  18. Chris says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Novella, this article was a pick of the week for the This Week in Virology podcast:
    http://www.twiv.tv/2014/02/16/twiv-272-give-peas-a-chance/

    (perhaps you could have Dr. Racaniello as an SGU guest on communicating science)

    1. Sawyer says:

      (perhaps you could have Dr. Racaniello as an SGU guest on communicating science)

      Seconded. Most of TwiV is way over my head but I’d love to hear him on the SGU.

  19. To the surprise of no one, it came to light quickly that House of Numbers was financially supported by the AIDS denialists who appear in it. The minutes of the June 2006 meeting of their “Rethinking AIDS” organization where they agreed to support it are posted online:

    http://www.tig.org.za/Minutes_RA2006.htm
    “Motion on Funding: Bob Leppo moved that RA board authorize the RA foundation to make grants for a wider range of purposes, including films and video. Seconded by Charles Geshekter. Funding for each project would still have to be approved by a 2/3 majority of the board. Board members involved in a project would recuse themselves from such decisions. Unanimous agreement. Roberto Giraldo moved that the RA foundation make grants for Brent Leung’s film based on available funds. Seconded by Christine Maggiore. Unanimous agreement.”

    In addition to Maggiore, many of the other denialist interviewees were in attendance at this meeting, and later participated in the charade that it was an independent, objective documentary, (Rethinking AIDS issued a press release saying Leung created the film “on his own” http://www.rethinkingaids.com/Content/QA/tabid/160/Default.aspx).

    And their funding shows up on the 2006 Rethinking AIDS public IRS 990 tax form that it is required to file as a non-profit (page 11): http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments//2006/311/688/2006-311688738-0314e401-F.pdf

    One of the Executive Producers, Martin Penny, a UK businessman with a net worth reported to be around 62 million pounds, was added to the denialist supporter list (their so-called “Rethinker” list) in 2007, long before the film came out. Yet when asked about his sources of support when the film was being dishonestly shopped around film festivals, this was Leung’s response:

    http://baywindows.com/crazy-house-90259
    “One audience member asked Leung who funded the film, noting that Leung seemed to have a large budget for travel. Leung declined to name the sources but described them as a group of “funders from all over the world.” When Bay Windows later asked him if most of his funders supported the viewpoint of AIDS denialists, Leung claimed that they did not”

    Myles Power, the UK science blogger they are now trying to censor because of his debunking videos about the film, has written about this: http://mylespower.co.uk/2013/07/08/number-gate/

  20. Lauren Hale says:

    You know what is fucking interesting? You talk about HIV denial, but you dismiss yourselves of being Lyme denialists. Guess what. HIV and Lyme are tlr2 agonizers. Both fuck up the immune system. Fucking so disgusted with your previous articles. So now, bevause I listened to shithead doctors like you, my disease progressed I have neuropathy all over my body and encephalitis. Antibiotics don’t fucking work. Ohhh but minor aches and pains you were trying to pull off in your September article. God, I hope you get sued for misinformation.

    1. Sawyer says:

      HIV causes AIDS. Borrelia burgdorferi/ causes Lyme disease. Both are not fun to get and should be treated by medical professionals. There’s not a single person here* that disagrees with those statements. Whether or not the medical community is right or wrong on treatment protocols, you could not have picked a worse analogy.

      *excluding crackpot yogalady

      1. Sawyer says:

        Grr, stupid italics. That’s what I get for trying to follow Linnaean naming rules.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Is the icon meant to be ironic?

      You’re correct – antibiotics don’t fucking work to cure either AIDS or chronic Lyme disease. The former is viral, the latter doesn’t exist.

      1. Sawyer says:

        If you go back and look at her original posts in the CLD thread she was one of the few people offering somewhat coherent evidence, so I gave her partial credit at the time. Sadly any discussion of science and medicine has been abandoned in favor of hatred and conspiracy theories. The ILADS/LLMD crowd are truly their own worst enemies at promoting rational discussion on this topic.

        1. Calli Arcale says:

          On a side-note, I read an article saying that some researchers are exploring a possible new way of testing for Lyme disease, including in people who have undergone treatment, as it might help better evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. It’s not all that fun — the idea is to have *another* tick latch on, and see if the tick becomes positive for Lyme. In other words, it’s a test of how infectious the patient is, which is an interesting approach; I believe Lyme testing actually looks for antibodies, while this test would look for the bacterium. I’m not sure how practical it is, especially as some people react to tick bites even in the absence of any infectious agent — you can be allergic to them just as much as anything else — and of course it’s fairly gross.

  21. vorlon says:

    I presume the term denialism is an attempt to link this issue with the issue of climate change, which has seen support for the CAGW position heamorraging away. This fact has less to do with the skeptical viewpoints and much more down to the behaviour of the people supporting the GW position. So the suggestion is, lets repeat the ill informed strategies used by the climate lobby, deny debate, dont enter into discussion and refuse the right to ask questions. These very strategies deny us the ability to correct misconceptions, provide useful information to people and support the belief in a conspiracy of silence. Many of the most damaging episodes to denying that HIV caused AIDS early in the epidemic were due to generating new evidence and using this in debate, in giving information and in debate. The examples used of African’s being ill informed is exactly because they are denied information, there is no debate.

    The paternalistic and arrogant assumption that we who know better should be the only ones to control information and decision making misses the point, people are not as stupid as some people think. They recognise terms like denialist as an ad hominem attack and so the people making them as unreliable and the “denialist rhetoric” of “bringing clarity, and being uncensored”, is particularly effective when its obviously making a valid point. Then we have wonderfully unscientific phrase of a “robust consensus”, no there isn’t, it doesn’t need a consensus, there is no useful evidence or even credible theories that challenges the HIV & AIDS link and a mass of evidence supporting it. We should be welcoming alternative views and certainly any scientific challenges, there are none that cannot easily be debunked.

    There is the underlying assumption that in this case the problems is an anti science issue, is it? HIV is strongly associated with being Gay or being a drug addict, like it or not both of these groups are socially devalued and people are motivated to distance themselves from them. The role of religion in supporting these beliefs and denying prevention efforts is also highly significant, it motivates people to look for excuses for their ill informed prejudices. We should be taking them head on.

  22. Vincent says:

    There are so many unanswered questions to the HIV=AIDS Hypothesis that I have chosen to abstain from iniating HAART. Peter Deusberg lays out an amazing, challenging, satisfactory and very thorough argument as to why HIV doesn’t equal AIDS in his book inventing the AIDS Virus. It doesn’t take a high level of intelligence to follow and really understand it, I think people are too afraid to ask what if peter is right? And many of the denialists aren’t denying HIV is real or that’s AIDS exists, simply that having HIV doesn’t equal AIDS

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      It doesn’t take a high level of intelligence to follow and really understand it,

      “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

      -H. L. Mencken

      “blockquote>simply that having HIV doesn’t equal AIDS

      Of course not. Nobody says that. But having HIV leads to AIDS via depletion of CD4+ T lymphocytes which then makes you vulnerable to opportunistic infection. When that happens, then you have AIDS.

      But HAART will prevent that from happening. And it is extremely robustly demonstrated to be the case.

      Please, for your own health and life initiate HAART. The sooner you do it, the better the outcomes and the likelihood of living an otherwise normal lifespan. There is simply no question that Deusberg is wrong.

    2. Vorlon says:

      No, there are not so many unanswered questions in the fact HIV causes AIDS and no Peter Deusberg doesn’t lay out an amazing, challenging, satisfactory and very thorough argument as to why HIV doesn’t equal AIDS, even when it was published nearly 20 years ago it was crap. And the ongoing flood of research continues to confirm that fact. your right of course in that HIV doesn’t = AIDS, HIV causes AIDS, I expect there have been lots of people infected that were hit by buses or the like before they developed AIDS. The are also some people highly resistant, and we even know why and how, we know a great deal about this virus and how it causes disease. Your also right it doesn’t take much intelligence to follow his book, it takes even less to believe it. Your decision to abstain from starting HAART is your decision, its gives you the opportunity to join the other idiots in an early death. Your using obsolete garbage as the basis for your decision making, he has produced no convincing evidence in support of his ideas.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Vincent, by avoiding treatment you are going to die. Directly from an opportunistic infection, indirectly from AIDS that prevents your immune system from fighting off infections that would normally be trivial. You will die quite horribly, from an illness that could be controlled. It will be extremely uncomfortable, and inevitable. You might infect other people along the way.

      Pretending HIV doesn’t cause AIDS doesn’t change the fact that HIV causes AIDS and it will kill you.

      Seth Kalichman’s Denying AIDS discusses Duesberg’s invalid hypothesis, and reading it might save your life and the life of anyone you might otherwise fatally infect.

    4. Sawyer says:

      HAART is expensive and not without risks, but it’s one of the only weapons we have to beat HIV and the evidence that it works is pretty damn strong. Are there other reasons why you are avoiding this therapy? There should be some sort of HIV support group in your community to help you cope with the difficulties of getting treated.

      Please do not gamble your life on a handful of spurious claims from Peter Duesberg. There are thousands of people with far more experience studying and treating HIV, and they will be happy to help you learn more.

    5. Andrés says:

      @Vincent: First of all, a personal disclosure. I am not an MD but an engineer. I am not happy with the science process taking place on actual evidence based medicine (EBM). There is a strong bias forcing trials of patentable drugs over not patentable ones. No, supplements being a profitable market doesn’t give any competitive advantage to any producer in order to fund any trial on unpatentable substances. Asymptotically I hope it will get there although it will take much more time than desirable. It is already happening with vitamin D by the way. Due to this bias I do a personal risk/benefit analysis on some promising (in my view) preventive strategies based on what EBM considers completely disposable evidence: mostly clinical practice experience still not refuted. Of course misjudging risks is always a sword of Damocles. I accept it.

      Second, I think that the mere “JAQ maneuver” stigmatizing is not other thing than a childish ad hominem attack. Asking questions is always important and desirable. I have not seen House of Numbers but I presume if it has a defect it will be either not asking enough questions or editing the full answers or not interviewing enough people or all of them. I have seen The Other Side of Aids though. Of course two anecdotes is not so high level evidence but an analysis could be done on the probability of precisely Christine Maggiore’s daughter dying of an AIDS related disease (Dr. Gorski wrote about them). Take a look at Paul Michael Glaser’s story too. I think that these anecdotes should inspire you to take a critical look at any alternative AIDS explanation. Moreover, the tailored replication inhibiting strategies included in HAART (take a look at Peter Huber’s essay previously linked in comments by aBroadAbroad) having a clear effect on mortality is the proof of the pudding. I think that the probability of HIV not being the actual cause of AIDS is as near to null as it can get.

      Third, you must be aware too that those promoting that vitamins are enough to guard off AIDS in serum positive HIV patients are not sincere enough to say it lightly. Take a look at Marietta Ndziba’s story and Dr. Rath’s complete lack of self-criticism. Although in vitro experiments point toward a strong anti-HIV effect by vitamin C in very high doses I think that late Dr. Cathcart’s experience with AIDS patients (“the basic AIDS condition was not reversed”) points toward a much more restrained effect. Perhaps a good vitamin supplementation may have an small retarding effect though. Being vitamin D replete may be a good idea too (via Vitamin D Council).

      Is there any credible alternative treatment to HAART? Only my opinion but I don’t think so. You should judge yourself while you still have a critical thinking capable brain. At least you should track your progress with CD4 counts and brain function tests (perhaps eye movement ones?).

      Best wishes.

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        No, supplements being a profitable market doesn’t give any competitive advantage to any producer in order to fund any trial on unpatentable substances.

        I need to actually write up an article about this because I did it once as a comment and have lost it since. But this is false. You can patent a natural herb/medicine/whatever as a proprietary blend or extraction method. The issue is that the incentive is to not do so because the DSHEA makes it much more profitable to just skip that step entirely and put out whatever the hell you want with no oversight as long as you call it “natural” or “supplement.”

        Second, I think that the mere “JAQ maneuver” stigmatizing is not other thing than a childish ad hominem attack. Asking questions is always important and desirable.

        No, it is not. There is a very distinct difference between asking genuine questions and asking them in a manner to achieve a goal rather than to actually learn. There is a very fundamental difference and while it is a subtle one, it is real. It can be done consciously (as in a Gish Gallop) or unconsciously (as in conspiracy theories). JAQing off even has its own rationalwiki page to explain this.

        The rest of your comment is perfectly accurate and reasonable (except for the gratuitous charity to House of Numbers; it is nothing but pure dreck but you reasonably admit you haven’t seen it and don’t know)

        1. “There is a very distinct difference between asking genuine questions and asking them in a manner to achieve a goal rather than to actually learn.”
          Exactly. If it’s always good to ask questions, why is there still monkeys.

      2. Sawyer says:

        Second, I think that the mere “JAQ maneuver” stigmatizing is not other thing than a childish ad hominem attack.

        Since you apparently have training as an engineer, let me present you with this scenario: what would you do if you had students/coworkers that refused to accept the Navier Stokes equations for describing fluid flow? What if they clung to a handful of poorly done experiments as proof that all mainstream engineers are hiding the truth? And what if they risked other people’s lives in the process by demanding they get to try out some alternative airplane designs with minimal testing?

        People that spout the same BS questions for decades without pausing for a second to consider the death toll they are racking up are not participating in a scientific debate. PERIOD.

        Vincent here is putting himself in a very dangerous spot and your number one concern is that we are a little bit rude regarding JAQing and vitamin supplements. Wow.

    6. weing says:

      “It doesn’t take a high level of intelligence to follow and really understand it,”
      Obviously not. It takes a higher level of intelligence to see that it is crap.

  23. Vorlon says:

    Andre’s I don’t understand what your saying about EBM, HIV is an infection and in infections the hosts resistance is always important. There is masses of advice about ways to improve a persons overall health, this includes exercise, stress reduction and the use of various supplements. All the research underpinning their use has come from mainstream medicine not alternative sources. It only becomes alternative when they use things like mega-doses of vitamins with no supporting evidence.
    However I think Sawyers example doesn’t work, a student who refused to accept a well established theory would fail his course, and an engineer who acted on his erroneous beliefs would be in prison. It is always a mistake to deny debate, it confirms the credibility of those with more fanciful views. To attempt to control information is censorship, its dishonest, its arrogant, its paternalistic and it severely damages the credibility of anyone involved.

  24. David Crowe says:

    But there are clearly other factors that can modulate CD4 counts. Extensive literature, for example, shows that smoking increases CD4 counts and exercise reduces them. So smoking must be good for you and exercise bad. And, with HIV, nobody yet knows HOW the virus kills CD4 cells. And if you don’t know HOW, you don’t know IF. And I challenge someone to find a graph of CD4 counts paralleling the progression to AIDS that is based on REAL data and not just the imagination of Fauci or others (such as the graph on the NIAID website).

    See http://aras.ab.ca/test-cd4.php

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Modulates =/= selectively destroys. HIV selectively destroys CD4 cells. Simplifying the issue and pretending AIDS denialists are smarter than the doctors who actually develop the literature they selectively misquote doesn’t change the fact that HIV selectively depletes key immune cells, leading to death by infections that are normally easily controlled.

      Not knowing “how” really isn’t the same thing as not knowing “if”. We can see, rather clearly, with an excellent and replicable tests, that show the counts dropping. AIDS denialists are wrong.

  25. Andy Lindsay says:

    HIV/AIDS doctors are departing from the standards of care in immunology by declaring antibodies to be infective , you wouldnt treat anyone for TB or Polio if they had no symptoms and were immune would you ? Just a matter of time before people wake up and smell the coffee . They cant have it both ways in immunology.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Hi Andy.

      People were dying in droves, with an indicative test result for CD4 counts and the presence of the virus, and a selective set of highly unusual opportunistic infections or their sequelae. HAART stopped this. Death rates dropped in a dramatic fashion. Since then, the research on AIDS has continued, with tremendous amounts of funding and interest from thousands of experts across the world.

      AIDS is real. If you have HIV, unless you are one of the very few unusual nonprogressors, you will die of AIDS. Drug cocktails will lengthen your lifespan. Without them, you will die of AIDS. Many AIDS denialists have died of AIDS. Reality is a honey badger, it doesn’t give a shit whether you can’t or won’t or don’t want to believe you have a deadly disease. You may find AIDS denialism comforting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t kill you. You should read Seth Kalichman’s book Denying AIDS. I am sorry that Christine Maggoire and Peter Duesberg have lied to you.

      AIDS exists, it is caused by HIV and it will kill you. AIDS denialism is a lie.

    2. Vorlon says:

      For David, of course there are lots of things that influence our immune system, but I’m puzzled by this graph you want. There are well established blood counts as to not only when someone becomes at risk of AIDS but even the levels at which specific AIDs related conditions can develop as this varies. Andy I’m not sure were your getting you information or what standards your referring to in immunology there are no standard ways of approaching infectious diseases each one requires its own standard. Who says antibodies are inneffective?, I suspect you may have read about some of the problems in vaccine development, but this is a different issue. You also say you wouldn’t treat TB if you didn’t have symptoms, I suspect you are to young to remember a massive screening program in which chest xrays were used en mass to identify asymptomatic TB and treat it. I also don’t understand what both ways your referring to, but I do like coffee. I hope the information is useful for you and David though its heavily abridged..
      HIV like other viruses uses surface receptors (the CCR5 receptor) on the cell wall to gain entry, a variety of cells express this receptor . During acute infection, HIV seeks out and destroys CCR5 expressing CD4+ cells. The infection extends to other tissues that provide a reservoir for continuing infection of CD4+ T-lymphocytes. The acute viremia is accompanied by a marked drop in the numbers of circulating CD4+ T cells and activates CD8+ T cells, which kill HIV-infected cells, and subsequently with antibody production, control virus levels.
      During the acute phase, HIV-induced cell lysis and killing of infected cells by cytotoxic T cells accounts for CD4+ T cell depletion, although programmed cell death may also be a factor. This is typical of most viral infections.
      So the immune response eventually controls the infection which then enters a chronic phase.
      The general immune activation of this chronic phase leads to increased programmed cell death, this and the gradual loss of the ability of the immune system to generate new T cells appear to account for the slow decline in CD4+ T numbers. Although new T cells are continuously produced by the thymus to replace the ones lost, the regenerative capacity of the thymus is slowly destroyed by direct infection by HIV. Eventually, the minimal number of CD4+ T cells necessary to maintain a sufficient immune response is lost, leading to AIDS.

      Since HAART HIV infection in children resulted in
      7.2 deaths per 100 per year in 1994
      0.8 deaths per 100 per year in 2000
      stabilized at rates about 30 times higher than for the general US paediatric population.
      In adults 7.0 deaths per 100 per year in 1996
      1.3 deaths per 100 per year in 2004
      In both cases deaths from AIDS-related causes decreased but this was associated with increased death from non AIDS related causes. There is no doubt that HAART carries significant risks of side effects but these figure represent all cause mortality and suggest a marked increase in survival. Increased survival times also increases the chances of improved and less toxic drug regimes.

  26. Andy Lindsay says:

    I was what they call assymptomatic , then i took their drugs and had according to medical reports Aids , I had AIDS for thirteen years while on their drugs , the drugs depleted my immune system. Now , 4 years after quitting those drugs and being told three times i was going to die , the same doctors tell me im a lomg term non progressor hahaha Your bullshit HIV story is coming apart at the seems and it is you who are in denial.

    1. Vorlon says:

      Andy I don’t have a bullshit AIDS story I have no real interest in convincing you to do anything, its all your choice. Its just that the original discussion was about restricting debate, something I particularly dislike. Some of your comments have contained some basic errors and assumptions, I tried to correct them and give you information about the current state of knowledge, I accept our state of knowledge will change and I’m optimistic about the future of AIDS treatments but I have no particular axe to grind in this. Obviously what you choose to believe this infection is influenced by its importance to you, I just hope that your decisions haven’t been influenced by some amoral pseudo-scientific quack, they can be very convincing while bleeding their clients dry. If not your health decisions are your own, its only you that face the consequences.

  27. Andy Lindsay says:

    P.S. I took up hillwalking instead of the drugs .

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Hi Andy.

      You will die of AIDS at some point. I’m sorry that your infection shortened your lifespan. I’m even more sorry that you couldn’t take the drugs that would render it essentially normal. I’m really, really sorry for anyone you infect in the meantime.

    2. MadisonMD says:

      That’s great that you’re still alive, Andy. So the fact that there is variability in how long folks live with AIDS isn’t really news. The likelihood of living as long as you have off medications doesn’t really offer much evidence because, well, perhaps 99/100 would die in 5 years and the dead ones don’t post here. If you are foolish enough to continue to deny that you have a lethal disease, you will not be posting here for long either.

      If your anti-HIV antibodies are going to do the job, then why is your CD4 count low, why is your viral load detectable, and why did you get an AIDS-defining illness?

      I’d advise you to get some professional help.

  28. Trust the system, don’t ask questions or you are guilty for the death of people. ALWAYS ask questions and no doubt DO NOT trust the system.

    1. Chris says:

      Oh, goody. We are being graced with the King of Cherry Picking!

      Move along, nothing to see here, just your normal denizen from under a bridge.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      One should absolutely ask questions. In fact, that’s what scienc is. Questions like “why do we see these unusual illnesses at such high rates in gay men?”, or “why do hemophiliacs present with illnesses similar to what we see in gay men?”. Questions like “what do CD4 cells do, and what are the implications of them being selectively killed?”

      Asking questions is vitally important, but even more so is accepting the answers that you get rather than ignoring them because they are inconvenient or tell you something you don’t want to hear. Science is hugely iconoclastic and asks many, many important and inconvenient questions – for instance, “does abstinece education prevent teen pregnancy?” and “what health risks does marijuana pose?”

      What you are doing isn’t “asking questions”, what you are doing is ignoring the answers. One cannot assert that answers are wrong because of who says them. Answers are either right, or wrong, based on the evidence. Knee-jerk rejection of answers because of who makes a claim is an error in reasoning. It doesn’t make you smart, it just makes you contrary.

  29. devo-T says:

    Let me tell you a little about denialism.

    I had read Duesberg’s filthy lie of a book, and it was a convenient excuse not to be tested, even to rest easy, because hey, there’s no such thing as HIV, amirite! When I wound up in the ER with a collapsed lung due to PCP, CD4+ count of four (not a typo), and viral load of 700,000… well, HIV seemed pretty real then. As well, the various NRTIs, PIs and other drugs I’ve taken reverted those tests to normal. That’s a rather strong argument for HAART.

    Denialism, then and now, is disgusting dreadful detestable deranged depraved.

    Off-topic, I’m surprised that nobody — neither the article nor its commenters — mentioned that AIDS was originally called “Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease”, or GRID. There is still an implication in place today. As a gay man myself, I personally believe the general public’s notion that “Gay=AIDS”, which they learned circa 1982, led to subconscious fear and decades more discrimination, which is only now being addressed in the US.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Off-topic, I’m surprised that nobody — neither the article nor its commenters — mentioned that AIDS was originally called “Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease”, or GRID. There is still an implication in place today. As a gay man myself, I personally believe the general public’s notion that “Gay=AIDS”, which they learned circa 1982, led to subconscious fear and decades more discrimination, which is only now being addressed in the US.

      It has been mentioned around SBM, albeit not much. That is not at all anything intentional or with negative intent. I think everyone here, myself included, would wholeheartedly agree that prejudice and bigotry against homosexuals certainly played into the fear, negativity, discrimination, and often repugnant treatment of AIDS/GRID patients. We are also all glad that it is vastly improved to the point of being quite minimal in many locations, though globally that is often sadly different. No doubt there is still a long ways to go, but we have come a long way and those of us here unquestionably support that.

      1. Chris says:

        “We are also all glad that it is vastly improved to the point of being quite minimal in many locations, though globally that is often sadly different. ”

        Especially in Africa.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Especially in Africa.

          Indeed, that is specifically what I thought of as I was writing it.

          1. vorlon says:

            Devo-T, I suppose your comment is not as off topic as you think. It provides a good example of how people embrace pseudo-science in support of their belief systems. GRID was a stupid term at the time and was damaging in all sorts of ways, it was also accompanied by explicit attacks on some gay lifestyles. Luckily its wasn’t around for long and not even that widely used then, particularly in Europe. In fact researchers were prominent in the groups that objected to the term as it was clearly inaccurate. Now, as then, pseudo-science plays into the hands of bigots and think your point is well made.

  30. bob nelly says:

    truthfully, i was tested hiv + positive last 3years. i keep on managing the drugs i usually purchase from the health care agency to keep me healthy and strenghtful, i tried all i can too make this disease leave me alone, but unfortunately, it keep on eating up my life, this is what i caused myself, for allowing my fiance make sex to me unsecurely without protection, although i never knew he is hiv positive. so last few 4days i came in contact with a lively article on the internet on how this powerful herb healer get her well and healed. so as a patient i knew this will took my life 1 day, and i need to live with other friends and relatives too. so i copied out the DROKOJE the traditional healer’s email id: DROKOJE@GMMAIL.COMand i mailed him immediately, in a little while he mail me back that i was welcome to his temple home wereby all what i seek for are granted. i was please at that time. and i continue with him, he took some few details from me and told me that he shall get back to me as soon as he is through with my work. i was very happy as heard that from him. so yesterday, as i was just coming from my friends house, DROKOJE called me to go for checkup in the hospital and see his marvelous work that it is now hiv negative, i was very glad to hear that from him, so i quickly rush down to the nearest hospital to found out, only to hear from my hospital doctor called browning lewis that i am now hiv negative. i jump up at him with the test note, he ask me how does it happen and i recide to him all i went through with DROKOJE i am now glad, so i am a gentle type of person that need to share this testimonies to everyone who seek for healings, because once you get calm and quiet, so the disease get to finish your life off. so i will advice you contact him today for your healing at the above details: email id:DROKOJE@GMMAIL.COMcontact him now to save your life:DROKOJE@GMMAIL.COMcom as he is so powerful and helpful to all that have this sicknes OR +2348069652500

    1. windriven says:

      You do understand don’t you that your initial diagnosis of HIV could have been a false positive. Sensitivity and specificity in HIV testing are quite good but certainly not perfect. And have yourself retested to be certain the second test was not a false negative.

    2. MadisonMD says:

      Good point windriven. This is spam/scam. Joy Nelly has posted the same thing all over the internet and inconsistently calls herself different names and variously claims to be from different countries. These posts are particularly interesting because the same thing was posted by different people with different doctor names/emails/contact, different # years, but just about identical. All #’s go to Nigeria.

      They all say Dr. Salami, Dr. Enoma, Dr. okoje, or whoever consulting oracles and making people HIV negative. this post is just a plain falsehood, like much internet spam.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      This is spam, and I wish the editors would be more vigilent about removing them, no matter how hilarious the results.

  31. rebeccawyne says:

    i was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS for over 5 years which made loose my job and my relationship with my fiance after he discovered that i was having HIV, he departed from me i tried all my best to make him stays with me, but neglected me until a friend of mine on Facebook from Singapore told me Great healer, who will restore my life back with his powerful healing spell, he sent me the email address to contact (dr.marnish) and i quickly contacted him, and he said my condition can solved, that he will treat the disease immediately only if i can accept trust him and accept his terms and condition, i Agreed because i was so much in need of help by all means, so i did all he want from me and surprisingly on Sunday last week He sent me a text, that i should hurry up to the hospital for a checkup, which i truly did, i confirm from my doctor that i am now ( HIV NEGATIVE) my eyes filled with tears and joy, crying heavily because truly the disease deprived me of many things from my life, This is a Miracle, Please do not en-devour to email dr.marnish or call him at +15036626930 for healing and solution
    Rebecca from London

    1. Sawyer says:

      So did SBM just give up on filtering spam, or are we letting this stuff through on purpose? Rebecca doesn’t even pass my Turing Test, as she apparently could not manage to read the comments directly above her own.

      As with WLU I do find these comments entertaining so I’m fine with whatever policy is being used. I just want to make sure people are vigilant about what’s going on.

  32. Scottynuke says:

    What was that you were saying about spam, WLU? *SIGH*

  33. vorlon says:

    Ah well, if nothing else it shows that there is always some parasite more than willing to exploit people when they are at their most vulnerable. Strange that these miracles didn’t make front page news really or maybe its a side effect of the magic spells.

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