Nicoli Nattrass: The Spectre of Denialism

AIDSTruth contributor Prof Nicoli Nattrass (director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town) has written a new book The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, published by Columbia University Press. In the book, she explores conspiracy theories on the origins of AIDS (such as that it was manufactured by the US government), their surprising longevity, the campaigns by scientists to correct misinformation and the consequences of these myths for behaviour.

She reflects on some of the arguments in the book in a piece for The Scientist, which has also published a short extract of the book on its website.

There is a substantial body of evidence showing that HIV causes AIDS—and that antiretroviral treatment (ART) has turned the viral infection from a death sentence into a chronic disease.1 Yet a small group of AIDS denialists keeps alive the conspiratorial argument that ART is harmful and that HIV science has been corrupted by commercial interests. Unfortunately, AIDS denialists have had a disproportionate effect on efforts to stem the AIDS epidemic. In 2000, South African President Thabo Mbeki took these claims seriously, opting to debate the issue, thus delaying the introduction of ART into the South African public health sector. At least 330,000 South Africans died unnecessarily as a result.2,3

The “hero scientist” of AIDS denialism, University of California, Berkeley, virologist Peter Duesberg, argues that HIV is a harmless passenger virus and that ART is toxic, even a cause of AIDS. He has done no clinical research on HIV and ignores the many rebuttals of his claims in the scientific literature.4,5 As I describe in my new book, The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, this has prompted further direct action against Duesberg by the pro-science community.

Read the rest of Nicoli Nattrass’s article in The Scientist.

Read an extract of The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back.

Nattrass book cover