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Just*In Time: Deny, Deny, Deny

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

March 3, 2013

From "Just*in Time," Justin's column in A&U Magazine, America's AIDS Magazine.

I'm somewhat of an "AIDS denialist." For all that I have researched, read, studied and learned, I have a hard time accepting what I've "unlearned." At the same time, the passing of a close cousin and Christine Maggiore has forced me to ask myself, "If I were HIV-positive, would I have the strength of my convictions to live the life I advocate, like Christine, or would I take the path that most people take?" My mind rejects conventional wisdom on HIV and the use of HIV medications, but I don't think I would take the "holistic" route, either. I just don't understand why there can't be an alternative clinical option. Let me know what your thoughts are. Thanks!

-- dnahotep

Let me just say there are a lot of AIDS or HIV denialists that e-mail me almost daily. What do denialists believe? First, they question whether or not HIV is the cause of AIDS. A lot of denialists do not think that HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. If they are positive, they do not take HIV medications; they also believe that alternative medicines, exercise, vitamins, massage, yoga and other unproven treatments will stop the progression of the disease. I, too, practice yoga and take vitamins, but I also take my HIV meds. It pains me to see people who deny that HIV exists or that it is easily taken care of by just alternative medicine when most of the public, scientists and educators know better. Try going to to find a little clarity.

When denialists influence a nation's political figures, it is detrimental to its citizens, even to the point of death. Unfortunately, denialists go to less informed countries to spread their views. Former South African president Thabo Mbeki was directly influenced by Peter H. Duesberg, a huge AIDS denialist. Mbeki believed Duesberg and now he is responsible for over 365,000 deaths in South Africa alone. Mbeki also was convinced that Western Civilization blamed Africans for HIV/AIDS; he also tried to tie the early colonialism of Africa to HIV/AIDS.


"Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world, they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust," Thabo Mbeki stated. See, ignorance is truly bliss. Even if his theory were true, why didn't he focus on HIV instead of blaming scientists, Western Civilization, racism, etc.? That is what denialism does: deny, deny, deny -- and then blame. Compare this with the countries in Africa that are confronting HIV and finding infection rates and deaths from HIV going down because they have made HIV education and prevention resources available to their people.

Another example of denialism is Christine Maggiore, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1992. She met with Duesberg who convinced her to think that her positive test may have been due to flu shots, or a common viral infection. Maggiore became pregnant and was told to start HIV medication to help prevent HIV from reaching her unborn child. She refused. Then when the baby was born she breastfed her newborn, which potentially heightens the chances of infection in babies.

The newborn died of what the coroner called, "Pneumocystis pneumonia in the setting of advanced AIDS." Maggiore would eventually lose her own battle on December 27, 2008, and, yes, I did blog about it.

It's tragic how HIV denialism can misinform people around the world, especially in developing countries. It is because of these misguided souls that we have things like the International AIDS Conference, so that we can have a dialogue and learn more about HIV/AIDS. We need to keep all channels open about these kinds of things so that we may become closer to eradicating this horrific disease.

Silence = Death ... and so does Denialism.

Please visit Justin's column for A&U, America's AIDS Magazine.

Justin B. Terry-Smith has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He's garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he's more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children's book, I Have a Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, "Justin's HIV Journal." Now, with this column, Justin has found a way to give voice to the issues that people write to him about. Visit his main Web site at He welcomes your questions at

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More News on HIV/AIDS Denialism


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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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