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This Month in HIV: A Podcast of Critical News in HIV
  

This Month in HIV: The Truth About HIV/AIDS Denialism

An Interview With Clinical Psychologist Seth Kalichman, Ph.D.

June 2009

This podcast is a part of the series This Month in HIV. To subscribe to this series, click here.

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"The Tuskegee syphilis study is one of the great blemishes, one of the great shames, in our nation's public health history. One of the ramifications has been an element of well-deserved mistrust of the U.S. Public Health Service in African-American communities."

Let's talk about racism then, because one of the most at-risk communities for denialism is the African-American community. There are many African Americans who remain suspicious of the government, and are suspicious of "establishment" beliefs. There is a small population of infected African Americans who are not taking treatment because they feel it might be unsafe for them. They might read Gary Null, or some other person who knows nothing about HIV, and decide not to take meds.

You're right that African Americans, and to a lesser degree I think Hispanic Americans, are susceptible to denialism due to the racism they have faced. African Americans have a long history in this country of abuse. We could always point to the very infamous Tuskegee syphilis study where the U.S. Public Health Service in the '30s enrolled 600 African American men, 399 of whom they knew had syphilis. There was no treatment at the time and they wanted to do what's called a "natural history study" to observe these men who had syphilis in order to document what happens.23

That was all fine; however, they were followed for 40 years and during that time, treatment for syphilis did become available but it was withheld from them.

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The Tuskegee syphilis study is one of the great blemishes, one of the great shames, in our nation's public health history. One of the ramifications has been an element of well-deserved mistrust of the U.S. Public Health Service in African-American communities, and there are other examples as well.

These are the things in history that can fuel conspiracy thinking. It's like a kernel of truth that gets blown into things that just aren't relevant anymore. There is a history there, and so there is a susceptibility to mistrust of the medical establishment and, when that exists, it opens the door to the flakes, the flukes, the pseudoscientists and the quacks.

We see elements of racism in what the denialists are saying, some of which is more blatant than others. I'll return again now to the professor [emeritus] at Virginia Tech University who has a history of homophobia. He also says that essentially why people test HIV positive has nothing to do with a virus. It has to do with their immune systems. The test is picking up on immunities. Because they come from Africa where there are a lot of infectious diseases, African Americans have different immune systems and more different immunities that throw the test off. And, he says, that's what explains all these African Americans that are testing HIV positive. Then, he says, they're given the antiretroviral drugs and that's what causes AIDS.

What kind of professor is this guy?

He is right now one of the most visible and vocal AIDS denialists on the Internet. He wrote a book that he says indisputably proves that HIV cannot cause AIDS.22 In this book, he goes through very convoluted, tortuous gymnastics around HIV/AIDS epidemiology, the science of the disease. It's pretty crazy making. He is actually a professor emeritus of science at Virginia Tech University.

His name is Henry Bauer. He's not a biologist. He's never done any research himself. You don't have to look too carefully to see that he's also one of the world's authorities on the Loch Ness Monster. I'm not kidding. He was the editor of a journal that's called the Journal of Scientific Exploration. He was the president of a Society of Scientific Exploration, which is the main body of researchers who study UFOs, alien abductions, psychic auras, magnetic healing, etcetera. It's a pseudoscience group. So there's no question that Henry Bauer is a pseudoscientist.

His attraction to AIDS and his now being entrenched in AIDS are what have become destructive. No one ever would have heard of Henry Bauer before. And that is why he's doing what he's doing. Suddenly he's getting a lot of attention. He's found a niche for himself. He's actually pretty destructive because he's got a significant online presence.

The Internet is what has changed denialism in the past 20 years. If Duesberg had written his books before the Internet had become so popular, people might only have bought a few copies. But now, if you go to Amazon.com, where Duesberg's books are sold, the majority of the reviews are positive, five stars. They're all reviewed by people like Henry Bauer, Christine Maggiore and Celia Farber and they love his books. The Internet has changed everything. If I was just a random person, I would think, "Wow. Duesberg is a very important person in HIV. I should take his view into consideration just like my HIV specialist and just like my case manager." It's put everyone on an even plane.

That's exactly right. It's the combination of the amount of information that they have put on the Internet and the accessibility of the Internet to everyone.

"They're not just providing information. That's not what the denialists are doing. They're recruiting. So their information is packaged in a much more user-friendly manner and is well-networked amongst each other."

Our research group had done research on the digital divide in AIDS care about a decade ago and there was a digital divide among people with HIV infection back then.24 Some were using the Internet. Some were not. African Americans were less likely than Caucasians.

That's all gone now. All of our participants and our research in Atlanta are online. Everyone has Internet access, if not at home, then at a friend's house, if not at a friend's, then at a sister's house, if not at a sister's house, then at an Internet cafe.

It's extremely unusual for us to find a person with HIV infection who doesn't have access to the Internet. It's a great thing. People are meeting other people. They're getting support. They're getting good information. They're finding out about clinical trials. Unfortunately, they're also coming across Rethinking AIDS, Alive & Well, and Heal. And that's the problem. We know that when people are diagnosed with or considering getting screened for a serious health problem, they turn to the Internet.

Right. When they go to these sites and read convoluted discussions about how HIV supposedly doesn't cause AIDS, Koch's law and all this other crap that they are unfamiliar with, they just think, "It's over my head. But these people are probably very smart people so maybe I should listen to them."

That's right. They're not just providing information. That's not what the denialists are doing. They're recruiting. So their information is packaged in a much more user-friendly manner and is well-networked amongst each other. Even when they are conflicting with each other, they don't conflict.

There's one group in Australia called the Perth Group that claims that HIV doesn't even exist. Duesberg says HIV does exist, but it's harmless. They don't really fight with each other online a lot.

Recently, they've had some conflict, but it's not apparent. It's not like they're debating with each other at all. What they're doing is recruiting the susceptible person, the young person, the person with HIV, the family member. They're recruiting, so their whole approach to using the Internet is really different.

Really smart people can easily be fooled by this. I spent two years of my life enmeshed in this. I spent a lot of time online. I corresponded a lot with the leading denialists, as a journalist would. I had to use a different identity because I'm, of course, a part of the so-called "establishment." So I went undercover and essentially infiltrated. I got to know a lot of these guys pretty well. And I can tell you that it's easy to be fooled.

I think I have a pretty good working knowledge of AIDS. That's all I've done for my entire career. Some of my best friends are the world's leading AIDS scientists.

Yet there were times when I went, "I have got to check that out. That sounds just too good to not be true." I would go to my fact checkers who are some of the leading scientists in AIDS and say, "Is this right?" And they would say, "No, it's completely wrong." [Laughs.]

I was being skeptical. I was really studying them. There is no question that someone who just happens upon them could easily be fooled and are being fooled.

Yes, but don't you think that the one easy way not to be fooled is to stick to a question that matters, namely: "Is HIV a dangerous disease?"

One of the key take-home messages, for me, has everything to do with credibility, which is not the same as credentials. A lot of the denialists have the credentials. Some don't and often they will misrepresent their credentials.

"When we have a friend or a brother or a sister who is talking about conspiracies and saying that HIV is harmless, that what's being done here is a big hoax to make money for the pharmaceutical companies, that Bill Clinton and Bono are conspiring to sell more of these drugs that are really killing Africans, when we hear people saying that stuff, we can't just think that it's cute and funny. We have to really challenge them. We have to say, 'Where do you get that from?' and treat it as a mental health problem."

You have people who have never had an academic job saying that they're professors, but they're not. You've got people who are journalists, who sure are sounding a lot like scientists, but they have nothing further than a bachelor's degree. You can judge a person's credibility on many dimensions, but credentials aren't the best one. You have to really look at what they have done that is an established fact.

The good news is that on the Internet, there are just as many places to do fact checking as there are to find quackery. For example, one place to go to is the National Library of Medicine Web site. It's called PubMed. You can plug in a researcher's name and search to see what he or she has done. Has Henry Bauer ever published a paper on AIDS? No. Has he ever published a paper? Well, no.

You can see that David Rasnick, who is a self-proclaimed expert in developing protease inhibitor drugs, has published papers on protease in rats in studies on arthritis.25 So you can use the power of the Internet to check people out. But you have to know where to look. And you have to be able to know what's credible and what's not credible.

But I think that part of the problem is the mistaken belief that these scientists are underdogs. That if they were given the chance they could prove their theory. That the reason they are not given the chance is because they have an alternative point of view.

That's right. Which is why, this is where we all come in. When we have a friend or a brother or a sister who is talking about conspiracies and saying that HIV is harmless, that what's being done here is a big hoax to make money for the pharmaceutical companies, that Bill Clinton and Bono are conspiring to sell more of these drugs that are really killing Africans, when we hear people saying that stuff, we can't just think that it's cute and funny. We have to really challenge them. We have to say, "Where do you get that from?" and treat it as a mental health problem.

We can't think that conspiracy thinkers are just sort of cute and funny. We have to be able to tell our friends, our brothers and our sisters that what they're saying isn't grounded in reality.

Christine Maggiore was living with HIV a long time. She had been diagnosed in 1992. So she was probably what's known as a long-term nonprogressor. She eventually progressed, but she didn't know that there were ongoing studies on people who seem to be able to survive a very long time with HIV and not take meds.26 She wasn't aware of this, nor are a lot of people aware that there are these people who don't need to take meds, some of them maybe never, and some of them not for a long time. [To read a story about a long-term nonprogressor, click here.]

Some of these people eventually need to take meds. They're just slow progressors. They don't know that some HIV-infected people take 10 years to show a symptom, some people take 15 years and some people take three years. There's this natural variation. And contrary to what people think, these nonprogressors have little on the surface in common. Some take good care of themselves. Others abuse drugs and drink heavily. They just have this mysterious ingredient that allows them to control HIV in their body.

Christine was 52 and living in a suburb of LA when she died of pneumonia, which is very unusual if you don't have an immune disorder. Her daughter died at three, of what Christine and her denialist friends say was an antibiotic reaction, which again is very unusual in a LA suburb -- so, two incredibly unusual things happening in one family. And yet, her family, friends and other denialists are saying, "Oh no. It can't be HIV."

As a psychologist, can you explain what it is that enables people to deny reality? What's that like for her loved ones and for her group? Is her group still alive?

Yes, well, it's the nature of denial and the nature of denialism. Denial is a psychological reaction that is universal in the face of a traumatic experience. It just usually doesn't last very long. When denial lasts a long time, it becomes what psychiatrists call "malignant denial." For instance, people who feel a lump in their belly and ignore it.

"With Christine Maggiore, it's pretty clear to me that she created a world that protected her from the truth. She just couldn't handle the truth. And it's actually very sad. She ignored her HIV-positive diagnosis by listening to people like Peter Duesberg and the people around him."

Denial can last a very long time, and what happens, of course, is it just gets worse. There are people who will ignore a tumor until it kills them. There are cases of women who ignore their pregnancy until they deliver. That's a malignant kind of denial.

It becomes denialism when people propagate their views and search for information to support their views, to put themselves in a bubble in order to protect themselves from a reality that they just can't face.

With Christine Maggiore, it's pretty clear to me that she created a world that protected her from the truth. She just couldn't handle the truth. And it's actually very sad. She ignored her HIV-positive diagnosis by listening to people like Peter Duesberg and the people around him.

She ended up having a baby [a daughter] that died at the age of three. The Los Angeles coroner ruled this death a death of AIDS.27 She sued the coroner's office and had a rebuttal autopsy essentially, which was actually just a review of the records by a denialist with a degree in veterinary sciences from the University of Baghdad.28 She really did surround herself with people that were true believers.

Then Christine Maggiore herself, of course, died. What did she die of? She died of pneumonia, which is extraordinarily rare in a person with a healthy immune system. We then come to find out that she had disseminated herpes and her death certificate shows that she indisputably died of AIDS. [For more information and access to her death certificate, click here.]

So what do the people that surrounded her say? You would think that they would say, "We've been wrong. My God, we've been wrong." That's not possible. It's not possible or they wouldn't be denialists.

Instead, what they're doing is constructing a different reality, and you can see this yourself if you want to. There's a Web site called AIDS Myth Exposed. It's a news group in the MS [Microsoft] network. At AIDS Myth Exposed, you'll find several different news groups that have very active postings. What they're saying is that Christine Maggiore died of stress.



The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode called "Retro," which was aired by NBC on Oct. 28, seemed to tell Christine Maggiore's story.

Her immune system had collapsed. That's obvious. They don't dispute that. But what they say caused the collapse was stress. And the thing that really pushed her over the edge according to them was the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode called "Retro," which was aired by NBC on Oct. 28. [Video clip on the left.] It was more than apparent that the episode was portraying her, one of those ripped-from-the-headlines kind of episodes.

Her friends, her followers and her believers say that's what did her in. She should have never watched the episode. It was far too stressful for her. To try to deal with the oxidation processes that were caused by the stress, she underwent a detox procedure, and that's what ultimately killed her.

But that's a completely ridiculous story. What is the medical possibility of a "healthy" 52-year-old in a Los Angeles suburb dying of stress caused by a TV show?

Well, it doesn't matter what you think. That's what they believe happened. Their reality is such that they don't trust the medical establishment. That's all corrupted. The establishment wanted her to take pills. They've constructed a reality that's impenetrable by facts. And that is the nature of denialism. It's why you never want to debate with a denialist. You can't win.

Denialism works off of everyone's suspicion of established things and of authority. We all know that the medical profession could be better about prevention. That little kernel of truth ends up connecting to this wider other thing, right?

That's right.

Could you talk a little bit about the little kernel of truth that starts this fire?

It's not just in conspiracy theorizing and thinking that bits of truth get co-opted and distorted. In denialism you see people grabbing on to threads or kernels of truth.

  • It is true that stress does run down our immune systems, but it doesn't cause AIDS.
  • It is true that illicit drug abuse isn't good for us and that it runs down our immune systems, but it doesn't destroy T cells. It's not specific.

So there are these truths that become distorted in denialism. It's the kind of thing where we can all say, "I see where that's coming from. Yes, stress is bad for you. Stress can give you a heart attack. I see that antiretrovirals, such as AZT [Retrovir, zidovudine], have side effects; doctors talk about toxicity, that's true."

So there's a reasonable, rational base there. What happens in denialism, just like in conspiracy theorizing, is that it becomes distorted, and way disproportionate to reality. From a psychological perspective, what's interesting about it is that not everybody is prone to that way of thinking. Not everybody crosses that line. What is the difference between someone who goes over the line and someone who doesn't? It's one of the great mysteries of human beings, that we're all just so different.

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Copyright © 2009 Body Health Resources Corporation. All rights reserved. Podcast disclaimer.

This podcast is a part of the series This Month in HIV. To subscribe to this series, click here.


  

This article was provided by TheBody.com. It is a part of the publication This Month in HIV.
 
See Also
More on AIDS Denialism

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Chad (Jonesboro, AR) Thu., Jan. 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm EST
AIDS/HIV should not receive tax money to be cured. It's 100% preventable. All you have to do is not take drugs and be abstinent until marriage. Why should my tax dollars go to some libtard who can't keep his/her legs closed?
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Comment by: Sick Tomystomach (Reality, Earth) Wed., Jan. 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm EST
If HIV does not cause AIDS, I wonder if Duesberg and the rest of the denialists wouldn't mind being injected with it?
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Comment by: Confounded Society (Portland, OR) Wed., Dec. 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm EST
Get to the point already. It sounded like an interesting article, but after reading the first page, I still have no clue who's denying that HIV exists or why. Started getting really preachy too. Not reading the rest.
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Comment by: Drew (Sydney) Mon., Dec. 26, 2011 at 11:53 pm EST
I take offense to the term AIDS "Denialism". The term "Denialism" has always related to the horror of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler.

By using the term "Denialism" Capitalists/Drug Companies/AIDS Corp are trying to discredit ALTERNATIVE VIEWS.

Sydney, Australia
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Comment by: Dave B. (London) Tue., Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm EST
I am living with the illness and i find your attack on one man disturbing. Just put up the facts we are not stupid. Lets make an informed choice. We just want to be sure. Remember the Iraq war?
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Comment by: marissa (canada) Sun., Dec. 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm EST
I think part of the reason ppl buy into denialism is that they don't want to admit they have a life altering disease. That happens with every illness. HIV, MS, cancer every disease. Denialism is dangerous
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Comment by: M J Brady (Pennsylvania) Thu., Oct. 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm EDT
Brilliant!! The total lack of logic and paranoia that is rampant in conspiracy theory world views is laughable and would be comic if they didn't also cause so much damage. What scares me is how many so called "educated" people become proponents of these hidden "truths"and that if only the rest of the misled world would follow their version of reality. The Internet is a great democratizer and a good place to try and track down information, but it is such a double edged sword. Now, many feel they are the "experts" and that any academy or established authority figure is always suspect or corrupt!! Should we blame the 1960's for the prevalence of this conspiracy world view that is prevalent in so many areas today? The author also pointed out the impossibility of debating adherents of these beliefs. The 9/11 conspiracy theorist people, holocaust denial groups, Area 52 people, the Zionist conspiracy,no childhood immunization people, etc.--- it's scary how a technical computer literate world is filled with so many such groups. I guess it's comforting to cloak yourself in the mantle of a crusader for truth and assume the rebel (underdog) role. Facts and reality don't compute for a rebel without a clue or an ideologue. Perhaps it's the fact that being human we have such little control over future events that cause the proliferation of so many of these groups. Any other ideas on this? Keep up the good work and keep people informed. I really liked your example of whether some one actually has the credentials to to back up their claims, especially in a scientific debate, and how the denialists often cherry pick their data.
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Comment by: Maxx (Seattle) Thu., Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:05 pm EDT
Why should anyone care about the words of some behavioral researcher? The denialist movement was started by nobel prize virologists. How about we give them the spotlight for a change?
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Comment by: Simon (Edinburgh) Tue., Nov. 2, 2010 at 4:57 am EDT

Howard Temin, the father of modern retrovirology: “when an experiment is challenged no matter who it is challenged by, it’s your responsibility to check. That is an ironclad rule of science, that when you publish something you are responsible for it…even the most senior professor, if challenged by the lowliest technician or graduate student, is required to treat them seriously and consider their criticisms. It is one of the most fundamental aspects of science"
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Comment by: Simon (Edinburgh) Tue., Nov. 2, 2010 at 3:24 am EDT
I dont have a particularly strong view on this, but I can not understand how you can compare them to holocaust deniers. That is so wrong. From what I read they are not denying HIV, but want more research into things like co factors. Science has always had this banter and thats how it develops. It should be good for HIV research. From a general public point of view, unless you can answer their questions fully, then areas are not going to get researched. Aids is not fully understood, and a lot is just theory, so it is important to instead of disregard all view points, and compare them to the holocaust denialists, disprove the theories. That is what it is all about. You cant accuse and insult people and fellow scientists in a childish manner, and refuse to debate, or even acknowledge anyones view point unless it fits your own criteria on research. That is not how science works, and if we still worked like this then the majority of this planet would have no medicine and think the world was still flat.
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Comment by: Snout (Melbourne AUS) Tue., Oct. 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm EDT
"Notborn yesterday" poses the pseudo-question, " how about enlightening readers about the German court case in which it was found that HIV had not been isolated". This is a good example of the kind of complete nonsense that denialists repeatedly copy-paste over the net without bothering to check if it's actually true or not.

The case was the criminal trial of a follower of prominent AIDS denialist Stefan Lanka, who was convicted of making threats of physical violence against public health officials. The person was fined and sentenced to 8 months prison.

Part of the summary of the case included an overview of the defendant's delusions. Lanka and his followers have then gone on to try to to claim this was the judgment of the court.

http://www.justiz.nrw.de/nrwe/lgs/dortmund/lg_dortmund/j2001/14__XVII__K_11_00urteil20010117.html

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Comment by: Fubara (Port harcourt. Nigeria) Tue., Dec. 29, 2009 at 11:05 am EST
What i believe is that the disease is real and if not treated quickly, it might develop into AIDS. Just simply accept it if your are diagnosed positive or negative.
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Comment by: Mark Goldberg (New York, NY) Wed., Dec. 23, 2009 at 7:01 am EST
Science requires ALL points of view, perspective and analysis. Your article is chilling as it is determined to take a side in this highly political and socio-economic issue. Why do you demonized critical thinking? Can no one speak out against the status quo? I question anyone who wants to silence or marginalize historical events like Tuskegee. This was one study. One. Can you deny how many scientists were involved throughout the '30's, '40's, '50's, '60's and into the '70's before humanity finally surfaced? There is plenty of evidence today of the frailty of this humanity in the name of many things, the least common denominator being science.
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Comment by: Notborn Yesterday (Australia) Wed., Nov. 11, 2009 at 3:09 am EST
John, your comments are typical of the approach of adherents of mainstream philosophies and doctrines: malign, silence and persecute those who disagree, and who are often, decades later honoured for their brave stand that has finally been recognised as truth.

I've read the first couple pages in detail and scanned the rest. All I find is unsupported assertions, character assassination and psychobabble.

Nothing in the article appears to actually address and refute the SPECIFIC statements of so-called "denyers". Just for starters, how about enlightening readers about the German court case in which it was found that HIV had not been isolated, and otherwise healthy people who had been found "positive" through a flawed, non-specific test were put on a regime of a deadly drug which induced AIDS and killed them (Google "HIV_Never_Isolated.htm"). This one's all over the 'net, so if its a hoax why don't you say so (and prove it conclusively)?

I'm open to both sides of the debate, but this article only serves to strengthen my belief that the ruling opinion of the day has insufficient evidence to support it.

Open debate - and I mean properly open and uncensored - can only serve to arrive at the truth.

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Comment by: steve (uk) Fri., Sep. 18, 2009 at 2:06 am EDT
this page is just another a platform for promoting the AIDS propaganda that has so far washed the minds of millions of people into believing thre is a vicious virus on the rampage. Where are the scarily predicted deaths in the western world? Where are the HIV deaths in Africa? Just like the swine flu BS, the deaths that are reported always show the person was suffering from other conditions at point of death - TB, malaria, malnutrition etc., etc.. AIDS/HIV is a grotesque, money-spinning circus and anybody believing the establishment nonsense that 'millions are living on a knife-edge' should go get themselves educated and start by reading the credence book 'the truth about HIV'
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Comment by: Amdani Juma (African Institute AISD, Eastmidlands UK) Sun., Aug. 9, 2009 at 8:26 pm EDT
What a fantastic piece of work. I too have met a lot of people who deny HIV in my everyday work in the communty and sadly these are my african brothers and sisters. I am sure your excellent work will bring more awareess to those and it seems to me that we are getting there and what needed at the moment is more debate in our community settings. HIV can progress to develop AIDS and it doesn't help to deny scientific facts. We have best treatments for HIV in the UK and doctors will only help people who turn up for test ing and accepting to face the reality of HIV/AIDS. Your work does start the debate and we must sustain it as much as we can. African HIV policy Network in the UK can also play a role in this debate.
Thanks alot
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Comment by: gloria (nigeria) Fri., Aug. 7, 2009 at 9:35 am EDT
hmmmm HIV is real, and u can be heal again with God if you beleave it. In Jer 30 Vs 17 God promised us health again "He said i'll restore health back to you again" so you see if you beleav you will be well again
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Comment by: kotilingaswar (prakasam) Mon., Jul. 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm EDT
first of all thanks for scientists. please immediately discover the drug so many peoples are suffering from hiv-aids.
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Comment by: David (New Jersey) Mon., Jul. 20, 2009 at 12:16 am EDT
Regarding Arthur Gittleman statement about prednisolone. This drug supresses/prevents cell mediated responses which is the very problem HIV causes in the body. To me, it seems counterintuitive that this drug would "slow the progression of HIV." Further, while it is obvious that drug manufacturers invest and also make huge amount of money by marketing so-called anti-HIV drugs, why would some scientists who are not biased or motivated by profit, unwilling to test this drug and demonstrate its' efficacy utilizing scientific method. Further, the author discusses IMMU-25, used in India which demonstrated "positive results." What were the so-called positive results CHIEVED IN THESE PATIENTS. I would certainly like to know the citation in a scientific journal which published this information.
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Comment by: Cory (Sacramento, CA) Sun., Jul. 5, 2009 at 4:30 am EDT
This article upsets me so much because I was infected by a guy who doesn't believe HIV exists and that HIV doesn't kill people but rather HIV medication. It's so hard to believe that there are people out there who believe this.
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Comment by: Seth Kalichman (Connecticut) Fri., Jun. 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm EDT
John,
I met Peter Duesberg and spent a couple days at a conference with him to research my book Denying AIDS. Duesberg is married. His wife, Siggi Duesberg is very close to him. I think they must have met in Germany in the early 1960s before coming here. I don't know that but I think so. I do not know if they have kids, but I think not. Duesberg is actually a very engaging man. He is personable and in some ways actually charming.
So in those ways, you are bit off mark. But you are right on spot otherwise. He is narcissistic and self-absorbed. He definitely makes the case against lifetime tenure without review. He has no place in higher education. He ignores the rules of science. He has no regard for the consequences of his actions. I felt he was sexually inappropriate in his comments to young women, although I am sure he thought he was being funny. Just as I am sure he thinks he is being funny when he refers to gay men as “homos". I can say that those couple days at his conference were so valuable to me. I feel I got some insight into Peter Duesberg. I now hope to never see him again.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: abdul (berkeley, ca) Fri., Oct. 7, 2011 at 2:53 am EDT
hey Seth, you psycho nut-job, why don't you tell everyone how you used some ridiculous fake name to gain entry into the inner sanctum of the AIDS deniers. LOL! Everyone knew who you were ya idiot, even if you used some fake name. There is an urban myth that many people go into psychology to figure out their own warped mind. Obviously, this is your case. Concentrate on your diet and exercise program and stop bothering people with your mental illness.


Comment by: john (chicago) Tue., Jun. 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm EDT
Duesberg is a moron and he should be fired from the university of california. If he had to work for a living (like the rest of us!) and risked being fired, he wouldn't be so self indulgent and continue to spout such nonsense. i would love to hear about his personal life. I imagine that Duesberg is a compete narcissist...no marriage, no relationship cause he's unable to relate, unable to really hear others or care about others. Just repeats odd bits from long ago. He's happy just to get attention even though it's because he's a complete disaster. Why doesn't someone try him for murder? he's truly responsible for so many deaths...sad pathetic man, with sad pathetic followers. This is an important interview. Only a psychologist can understand these people. There is something so wrong with people who deny what is obvious.
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Comment by: Sergio (Brazil) Tue., Jun. 16, 2009 at 8:08 am EDT
An answer to T. Rex:

I was diagnosed in 1991 and became a denialist until my life was almost taken by HIV in 2001. By that time, my CD4 count dropped to 44 and I got Pneumocistosis (a common AIDS-related disease). After 21 days in the hospital, I was discharged and immediately started HIV meds, gaining 40 pounds in two months... my CD4 load is now 660 and I am healthier than never. The toxicity of HIV pills is decreasing day by day...actually after 3 months taking them (back in 2001) I never experienced side efects. I have a three years old daughter and a fulfilling and great life. So, I just want to warn you: Beware to not recognize the HIV reality too late...After the grave there is no further step!!!
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Comment by: mazy (Trinidad & Tobago) Mon., Jun. 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm EDT
Every time I hear or see someone die of this disease, I wonder about the denialists, how do they explain the suffering and destructive nature of this disease. Such intelligent people should do better things with their time and efforts! How do they explain the deaths of Christine Maggiore, her daughter and the mothers who died, and infected their babies in Africa? I came across a website (can't remember the name) on denialists, seems to me quite a lot of them died from the very disease they were denying.
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Comment by: T.rex (Los Angeles) Mon., Jun. 15, 2009 at 5:07 pm EDT
Plain and simple, i don't take the meds, and me and people like me are healthier than those who do.

One can look at a person on meds, and know that that person is sick. First of all, that person believes they are sick, so really, it can't be any other way. They are fulfilling their own prophecy. And in addition to that morbid belief, they are ingesting admittedly very toxic pills.

This whole article is misguided. It acts as if dissidents are trying to peddle some crazy idea for financial gain. Nothing can be further from the truth. All the dissidents i know are simply people who were deemed by doctors to be poz, and they don't accept this diagnosis. The movement is no longer Duesberg. The movement is by people who experience the truth, first hand. People like me have nothing to gain other than hoping others see the light. The dissident movement is about helping fellow man.

How presumptuous of Western Medicine to claim that there is absolutely no way to battle hiv, except for triple cocktails. There is no single method for anything in this world. If it works for you... good for you... But don't deny that dissident are doing something that works for them.
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Comment by: nora (s.carolina) Mon., Jun. 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm EDT
Richard, at the beginning scientists are often mistaken...scientific discoveries are slow...they still don't fully understand HIV...but now they really do understand that HIV can take over someone's immune system and if you don't suppress the virus, the person will die of opportunistic infections. This has been shown millions of times...So Duesberg is a quack. He's not some hidden genius or anything. Just a really self-absorbed guy who is only employed at the university of california cause he has tenure. He's astonishingly narcissistic and irresponsible. He is no longer a "scientist" cause he dismisses the scientific process...and he makes up stuff. It's not based on data. There is no clinical data for any of his nonsense. He's a science fiction kind of guy now...The truth about HIV is empirical at this point. Go to an inner city emergency room and watch all the undiagnosed HIV positive people with opportunisitic infections. When they get antiretroviral treatment they get better. Empirical. Talk to people who get HIV medications from AIDSforaids.org -- they are getting a chance to live because of the medications. Stop talking and go look.
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Comment by: Seth C. Kalichman (Hartford, CT) Sun., Jun. 14, 2009 at 4:04 am EDT
Thank you all for your interest.
Seekyah’s comment made me think to let you know that I am very interested in hearing the stories of people living with HIV who had been lured into believing Christine Maggiore, Peter Duesberg and other AIDS Denialists. If you or someone you know had been a ‘dissident’ and no longer is, please contact me. Thanks again!
Seth Kalichman
http://denyingaids.blogspot.com
email aidsandbehavior@yahoo.com
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Comment by: Richard (Melbourne) Sat., Jun. 13, 2009 at 7:38 am EDT
Doctors once thought scurvy, beri-beri, rickets etc were infectious diseases. Those who argued against this were considered quacks too.
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Comment by: Seekyah (Las Vegas) Fri., Jun. 12, 2009 at 1:34 am EDT
My husband was in denial. When I had ask him before we became involved he said he didn't have the virus. He use to shoot up and there were rumors. I remember clearly stating to him I really need to know because I want to live to raise my daughter. That was 1998 in 2007 I was diagnosed with AIDS. The only reason I got tested was because he became sick. I never drank, smoke or did drugs. I trusted him because I knew him since childhood. I pray every day for a cure.
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Comment by: Eddy (United Kingdom) Thu., Jun. 11, 2009 at 7:10 pm EDT
Thank you very much for this excellent long interview. May it stay on the internet as long as HIV exists and may it be very visible and much visited! I have encountered AIDS denialists on the internet myself and the ones I encountered were bright, articulate, and very aggressive. They told me, a person who is an educated postgraduate, that I am a fool. They made me FEEL like a fool. They succeeded in making me feel stupid and actually pausing to consider that maybe they were right. Well, being as educated as I am I immediately did a MASSIVE amount of research and discovered that the denialists are all as portrayed in the interview above: delusional. But what then absolutely outraged me was the realization that they are succeeding in making contact with vulnerable people, those HIV+ people who WILL be taken in by them and whose lives will therefore be placed in jeopardy. AIDS denialism kills. AIDS denialism should be made a criminal offence.
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Comment by: Arthur Gittleman (Bella Vista, AR) Thu., Jun. 11, 2009 at 4:34 pm EDT
This psychologist does not seem very scientic. You may say he is using Voodoo. I have followed the denalists and do not think they are stupid. Why they are denalists I would not know from this psychologists information. Don't really care but I do find some of the information they quote helpful.

Latest has been on lymph node fibrosis. Interesting is that this can be caused by other virus besides HIV. It can caused CD4 cell depletion.

The comment on herbal remedes have never been proven to work against HIV. I assume the author means not approved by FDA. Since herbal remedes have been around 3 to 5 thousand years and the FDA around 100 years I would think alot of them are unproven. But what do we mean by unproven. Well in the case of HIV which uses HAART that means billion of dollars were not spent on herbal medicine in the area of HIV and not that it is not proven only that medicine is big business.

One could point to small trials given to Prednisolone 5mg that show to slow the progression of HIV. But there is no patent anylonger on this drug. So what the author means unauthorized by FDA and not unproven. There is also IMMU-25 created in India used at hospital for 18 months that showed positive results. Was created for poor people. As what most people in thw world use poor people medicine and not the medicine used in the United States that is rich people's medicine. Poor people medicine does not need to be approved by the FDA. As matter of fact only a small number of large megacorporations could possible use the FDA three phase method. So when people loosely say unproven they mean the process by which a few large corporations get there FDA approval, so most things are unproven.

Looking at the latest politics in health care we see that it will be very difficult to control costs since that are only a few drug manufacturers allowed to play in this game of competition. And these corporations limit the game that is being played. All they want is more profit.
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Comment by: John Boucher (West Hollywood, CA) Thu., Jun. 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm EDT
I would like to thank The Body and Dr. Kalichman for this important podcast. My late Partner, Rex Poindexter, was a follower of Christine Maggiore's, he did change his mind at the end of his life but it was too late. I took an HIV+ Writing Workshop at The LA Gay & Lesbian Center, there I wrote an essay entitled "Speaking in Tongues" it was published by Washburn University and won the 2009 award for best Creative nonfiction. http://inscapewashburn.wordpress.com/latest/ It is gratifying but I wish Rex were still alive and I had written about his recovery instead of his death.
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