In recent years, many stories have appeared in the media highlighting the views of individuals who claim that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. These articles are always "good copy" in the sense that they generate controversy and reader response. Many AIDS educators and public health officials are concerned, however, that such views, presented without context or challenge, undermine efforts to teach safer sexual behaviors needed for reducing the spread of HIV. Others fear that they may discourage people from seeking useful treatment available from their doctors and serve to confuse people about important medical matters which may affect their lives in the most profound ways.
Readers of these articles are often impressed with the arguments made. Without cross examination or knowledge of the underlying scientific questions, readers have very little basis for evaluating what they hear. In our experience, few of today's readers have ever had the chance to examine the information which led scientists to conclude that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Indeed, the promoters of the alternative viewpoint show little awareness of this information and rely instead on their own often distorted data set. The case for the causality of HIV is largely old news which doesn't seem to warrant column space.
Younger readers in particular, because they have never seen the real scientific arguments, are a particularly easy target for those who advocate alternative views. Unfortunately, it is also a fact that new HIV infections are growing more rapidly among young gay men and young men and women of color and are among the highest ever seen in the history of the epidemic. The message of the HIV critics is an attractive one to this audience, as it relieves them of the fear of HIV transmission. The most prominent HIV critic has often openly suggested that condom use and safe sex is a futile and unnecessary gesture. It is critical that people hear the whole story -- not just the unconventional view. This is especially true for an age group which gives special value to things which carry the label "alternative."
To illustrate the seriousness of the issue, we offer a quote from a recent article: "One West Hollywood man who has seen dissenter literature is enthralled with the idea that HIV does not cause AIDS. "I did test positive," he says, "but I just tell my partners that I'm negative." This man, who wishes to keep his name as anonymous as his HIV status, also keeps his dissident views private. "To try to explain everything to someone you've just met is simply too confusing. And since HIV is harmless being positive and negative is the same thing." He looks up casually, "Isn't it?" (True Unbelievers by Stuart Timmons, New Age Journal, November/December 1995).
In light of the fact that yet another book is being released by the HIV critics, we are supplying the attached document for your information. It is an official summary of the evidence collected over the last 15 years which has lead to the nearly universal consensus that HIV is the primary cause of AIDS (on the NIH Web Site). It represents the work of hundreds of scientists and references several hundred scientific papers on this matter. HIV critics make the argument that "there isn't a single scientific paper which proves that HIV is the cause of AIDS." In a sense, they are correct. The argument is made not by a single paper, but by hundreds of them.
We believe this is a serious matter which deserves careful and serious consideration every time it comes up. We urge you to read this document, as well as to consider the possible consequences if people are mistakenly given the notion that the views for and against HIV causality are in any way equally valid. As we see it, from a scientific viewpoint, the alternative view is akin to the notion that the earth is flat, or the belief that creationism is somehow a valid alternative to evolutionary science.
Founding Director, Project Inform
Note: A paper copy with references is available by calling the Project Inform Hotline.