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AIDS Treatment Improves Survival: Answering the "AIDS Denialists"

by Bruce Mirken

September 8, 2000


A sharp decline in AIDS deaths in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia began in 1996, coinciding with the widespread adoption of what has become known as "highly active antiretroviral therapy" (sometimes abbreviated "HAART"). These combination treatments have received much of the credit for the plunging death rate.

But AIDS denialists have disputed this claim, branding it a "myth." The denialists-who prefer to call themselves "AIDS dissidents"-not only reject the evidence that HIV causes AIDS, most even reject the idea that the term "AIDS" describes a unique medical condition. The denialists include a handful of scientists who had substantial credentials but have done little or no research with actual AIDS patients. Although members of this movement don't agree completely, most reject virtually all accepted HIV/AIDS medical treatment, as well as the use of condoms and safer sex to prevent AIDS.

Debate about the impact of anti-HIV drugs long precedes the advent of HAART. In 1992 this writer asked the late Michael Callen, an early AIDS activist and persistent skeptic about HIV, what would convince him that HIV caused AIDS. His immediate answer: "If antiretroviral drugs actually made people better." Callen, who unequivocally accepted the fact that AIDS was something new and deadly even as he doubted HIV's role in it, saw the minimal impact of the drugs available at the time-AZT, ddI and ddC, generally used as monotherapy (single drug treatment)-as corroborating his belief that HIV was not the cause.

While factions in the denialist camp disagree about what actually makes people with AIDS sick, there is nearly universal agreement in the movement that anti-HIV drugs are useless or worse. HIV is irrelevant, they argue, so the drugs provide nothing but toxicity.

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ISSN # 1052-4207

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