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AIDS Denialism: A Rebuttal

By John Moore, Ph.D.

April/May 2006

The March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine contains an article titled "Out of Control, AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science." Unfortunately, this article represents the latest round of attacks from "AIDS denialists." These individuals hold to the unproven claim that AIDS doesn't really exist and that HIV is a relatively benign virus. The following call to action was released by Dr. John P. Moore, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, at Cornell University. We thank him for allowing us to reprint this alert and the excellent documentation it references here.

As many of you already know, Harper's Magazine has recently published an article by the well-known AIDS denialist, Celia Farber, that essentially repeats all the old lies and distortions about HIV and AIDS that Duesberg and his colleagues have been promoting for years. Harper's is (or was) a serious magazine read by intelligent people, so it's of significant concern that they have published an article like this one. Several letters of protest have been sent to the magazine, with little response from them to date. Lead by Nathan Geffen of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa, a detailed rebuttal document outlining many of the errors, lies and inaccuracies in Farber's article has been assembled, and posted on the TAC web-site, along with several of the already submitted protest letters. The links are listed below. We encourage you to read this document and the associated links.

The rebuttal document has been sent to Harper's. They have declined to publish it, and have restricted TAC's response to 250 words as a letter. That now-submitted letter includes the web-link to the TAC web-site. We think the rebuttal document should also be posted on the Harper's web-site. Ideally, the Farber article should be disowned by the magazine, given its flaws, but realistically, that's not going to happen, as the editor, Roger Hodge, views its publication as a freedom of speech issue, and believes that the magazine should be (to steal a phrase from the creationists) "teaching the controversy."

We want to keep the pressure on Hodge and his magazine, knowing full well that the denialists will be writing many, many letters of approval to the magazine.

We therefore ask that you send a short email to Harper's (,, entitled "Publish a rebuttal to Farber's article." In the body of the message, you could either just say nothing, or include the web-link to the TAC site and say whatever else you feel motivated to add (the chances of getting a reply are negligible, based on the experiences of several of us over the past couple of weeks).

In addition, forward this message on to other bona fide AIDS researchers and clinicians who are not included on this ad hoc mailing list, and to members of your labs/groups, asking them to do the same. Numbers count, and the denialists are already mobilized.

Finally, some of you might wonder why any of this matters. The denialists are dead and buried, right? The Durban Declaration destroyed them in the USA and Europe, this latest episode notwithstanding. Well, I attach a document written by Dr. Nicoli Nattrass, a Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town (presently on sabbatical at Yale; It details the damage the denialists CONTINUE to do in South Africa, where the Mbeki administration still pays them undue attention. The Farber article will inevitably have an impact in South Africa; it does matter, and we can't let this pass by unchallenged. Let the silent majority speak again.

John P. Moore is Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

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