The scientific evidence for HIV/AIDS


News of interest to AIDSTruth readers.

British Chiropractors try to silence science writer who called their claims "bogus"

Complainant-friendly British libel laws are increasingly being used to silence the critics of alternative medicine. The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has won an initial judgement against Simon Singh, a prominent science writer, after he called their fantastical claims, wholly unsupported by the scientific evidence, for chiropractic (e.g. that it can treat otitis media in children) "bogus". The court held that Singh had to show the BCA knew their claims to be false. This judgement is dangerous for free speech and the public interest, since if it is allowed to stand, it would seem to encourage anyone who makes bogus claims - but who sincerely believe themselves - to sue for libel when they are called out. The Guardian writes:

The consequences of letting the libel law loose on scientific debate are horrendous. Science proceeds by peer review. A researcher's colleagues must submit his or her ideas to scrutiny without fear of the consequences. If they think they could lose their homes and savings in the libel courts, however, they will back off.

Mark Hoofnagle reviews Denying AIDS in Denialism Blog

Mark Hoofnagle reviews Seth Kalichman's Denying AIDS for the Denialism Blog. He writes,

Seth Kalichman is a better man than I. Kalichman is a clinical psychologist, editor of the journal Aids and Behavior and director of the Southeast HIV/AIDS Research and Evaluation (SHARE) product, and he has devoted his life to the treatment and prevention of HIV. Despite a clear passion for reducing the harm done by HIV/AIDS, to research this book he actually met, and interviewed, prominent HIV/AIDS denialists. I confess I simply lack the temperament to have done this. To this day, when I read about HIV/AIDS denialists, and the the 330,000 people who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS denialism, I see red. I think violent, bloody thoughts.

Read the rest of the review

POZ Magazine reviews Denying AIDS

From POZ.
(Un)deniable Evidence
by James Wortman

A college professor takes on AIDS naysayers in his latest book.

Despite overwhelming scientific findings, some people remain convinced that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS and that antiretrovirals are toxic poisons. Led by vocal skeptics such as former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the late Christine Maggiore, AIDS denialism continues to flourish, especially with the help of the Internet.

To counter this strengthening movement, Seth Kalichman, PhD, a social psychology professor at the University of Connecticut, wrote Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy ($25, Copernicus Books), which examines AIDS denialism’s origin, agendas and potentially damaging influence on HIV prevention and treatment.

Kalichman believes that the scientific community’s decision to stay quiet over the years has only fueled the denialists’ power. “[For too long] scientists have believed that if you ignore the denialists, they will go away,” he told POZ. “The HIV community really has a role in combating this misinformation.”  

Scientists distance themselves from AIDS denialist film

Update: Read an account of the film 'House of Numbers' by a member of the AIDSTruth team.

Scientists who appear in a new film 'House of Numbers' have distanced themselves from the film after it transpired that the filmmaker is an AIDS denialist, and that he manipulated the final product in order to mislead viewers and promote denialist myths. The director, Brent Leung, deceived a number of prominent scientists into granting him interviews, pretending that the film would be a history of AIDS research. However, Leung also interviewed a number of prominent AIDS denialists and edited the film in such a way as to create the false impression that uncertainty exists about AIDS science and that AIDS denialism is a credible position.

The scientists have released a statement raising strong objections to the film.

The film has been screened at two film fesitvals (in Nashville and Boston), with AIDS denialists attending the screenings, and at times behaving abusively towards members of panels convened by the film festivals as a community response. See this article in Bay Windows for a report on the screening in Boston, where denialists stormed the stage during the panel discussion. Scientists were invited to "debate" the film with Leung and/or other denialists, but have refused to do so. See this article on why AIDSTruth opposes debating denialists. Also see this article in the Tenessean and this blog post by Seth Kalichman for further background.

Although the film is unlikely to gain much attention outside these film festivals, it is dangerous and has the potential to mislead people with HIV into disregarding their doctors' advice.

Village Voice: The AIDS-Babies-as-Guinea-Pigs Story Is Finally Over. Right?

Elizabeth Dwoskin writes an interesting analytical piece in the Village Voice on the "babies as guinea pigs" "scandal" manufactured by AIDS denialists over the participation of New York foster children in clinical trials. Also see our previous coverage.

South Africa acts against AIDS denialist Matthias Rath

Under South Africa's previous administration, the country's health department failed to act against vitamin entrepreneur and AIDS denialist Matthias Rath, when his foundation conducted unauthorised clinical trials and distributed vitamins to AIDS patients, while advising them to stop taking antiretroviral drugs. The Treatment Action Campaign took successful legal action, and the Court ordered the state to take action against Rath. Now, the era of denialism seems finally to be over, as the Department of Health (under a new Minister) has informed the TAC that criminal cases have been opened as a result of its investigation of Rath. Here is the TAC's press release:

Robert Gallo on the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS

We cannot live by scepticism alone

Scientists have been too dogmatic about scientific truth and sociologists have fostered too much scepticism - social scientists must now elect to put science back at the core of society, writes Harry Collins in Nature.

Christine Maggiore died of AIDS

Christine Maggiore's death certificate states that the immediate cause or condition resulting in her death was disseminated herpes viral infection. Bilateral bronchial pneumonia is given as the underlying cause, and oral candidiasis is given as a significant condition contributing to death.   Based on her statements and her career, Maggiore was HIV-positive (see her book, and note that Alive and Well, the group she started, is described on its website as having been "founded in 1995 by a group of HIV positive diagnosed men and women").  In HIV-infected people, all of the above conditions are AIDS-defining opportunistic infections, and in combination they are hauntingly typical of AIDS in the years before ARVs.  Many people who have died of AIDS shared the same constellation of opportunistic infections that killed Ms Maggiore.

Video: Consequences of HIV/AIDS Myths

A short video commissioned by the US State Department:

Video: Debunking HIV/AIDS Myths

A short video commissioned by the US State Department:

Study Refutes Claims on NYC foster children's participation in AIDS Drug Trials

The claims made by some denialists over 'experimentation' on New York City foster children (and which convinced some civil rights campaigners and City Council members) have been comprehensively debunked in an independent report conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice.

Update: The Vera report is available here (or read only the executive summary). The NYC Administration for Children's Services' press release has been appended to this story.

The New York Times reports:

An investigation into the participation of New York City foster children in clinical drug trials for H.I.V. and AIDS over a nearly 20-year period has found no evidence that any children died as a result of the trials or that the foster children were selected because of their race.


After interviewing dozens of people involved in the trials and reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of case files, documents and correspondence, the Vera Institute concluded that none of the 532 children in the trials died as a direct result of the medications. (Twenty-five children receiving treatment as part of the trials died during the trial years.)

The report also found that foster children were not removed from their families by the city because a parent had refused to consent to a child’s treatment, as some had alleged.

In addition, the study said that researchers did not specifically select foster children for enrollment in the trials. And while the foster children were overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, as some critics emphasized, that profile mirrored the demographics of children with H.I.V. infection in the city at the time.

Read the full New York Times article.

Martin Delaney has died

Martin DelaneyMartin DelaneyIt is with great sadness that the team learned of the death of veteran AIDS activist and AIDSTruth contributor Martin Delaney. Martin was recently honoured by the NIAID for his ceaseless efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. The organisation he founded, Project Inform, has released a statement announcing his death:

Martin Delaney, key figure in the fight against HIV/AIDS, dies at age 63

Martin Delaney, who in 1985 founded Project Inform, a leading national HIV patient advocacy organization, died today in San Rafael, California. Delaney, who served as the agency’s Director until January 1, 2008, was 63 years old at the time of his death from liver cancer.

“When the final history of AIDS is written, there is no question that Martin Delaney will be one of the key figures who brought this great human tragedy to an end,” said Dana Van Gorder, Project Inform’s Executive Director. “Marty rose brilliantly to the challenge of persuading sometimes reluctant government agencies, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies to respond in a compassionate and urgent way to the needs of thousands of people dying of AIDS. The fact that we now benefit from a very strong arsenal of medications to treat HIV infection, and from information about how to use them effectively, is largely attributable to this great man. Those of us living with HIV feel deeply the loss of our chief guardian and friend.”

Martin Delaney honoured by the NIAID

Martin DelaneyMartin DelaneyMartin Delaney, long-time AIDS activist, Project Inform founder and AIDSTruth contributor has been honoured with an award for his contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. From the NIAID's press release:

Martin Delaney, the founder and longtime director of the HIV advocacy/education organization Project Inform, has been presented with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director’s Special Recognition Award for his many contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Delaney in 1985 founded Project Inform, a leading national HIV treatment and public policy information and advocacy organization based in San Francisco, and served as its Director until 2008. He was a member of the NIAID AIDS Research Advisory Committee from 1991 to 1995, served on NIAID’s National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Disease Council from 1995 to 1998, and also has served in other advisory roles for the Institute.

Anthony Fauci's tribute to Martin Delaney:

Health24 on Christine Maggiore

Christine Maggiore with Thabo MbekiChristine Maggiore with Thabo MbekiMarcus Low of has published an insightful piece on Christine Maggiore's death, including her impact in South Africa. He writes:

Like Maggiore, denialists often claim they are exercising freedom of speech and that mainstream medicine is silencing dissent – Maggiore herself at times claimed only to be presenting an alternative – there is clear evidence of the impact that pseudoscience and Aids denial has had on the health of South Africans. Last year Harvard researchers said it was a conservative estimate that more than 330 000 lives had been lost to HIV/Aids in South Africa between 2000 and 2005 simply because the government failed to implement a feasible and timely antiretroviral treatment programme.

In addition, an estimated 35 000 babies were born with HIV during that same period because of government's reluctance to introduce a mother-to-child transmission prophylaxis programme using nevirapine (an anti-Aids drug).

Not implementing such programmes is of course exactly what Maggiore was campaigning for.