June 7, 2000
Despite this plethora of evidence, the notion that HIV does not cause AIDS continues to find a wide audience in the popular press, with potential negative impact on HIV-infected individuals and on public health efforts to control the epidemic. HIV-infected individuals may be convinced to forego anti-HIV treatments that can forestall the onset of the serious infections and malignancies of AIDS (Edelman et al., 1991). Pregnant HIV-infected women may dismiss the option of taking AZT, which can reduce the likelihood of transmission of HIV from mother to infant (Connor et al., 1994; Boyer et al., 1994).
People may be dissuaded from being tested for HIV, thereby missing the opportunity, early in the course of disease, for counselling as well as for treatment with drugs to prevent AIDS-related infections such as PCP. Such prophylactic measures prolong survival and improve the quality of life of HIV-infected individuals (CDC, 1992b).
Most troubling is the prospect that individuals will discount the threat of HIV and continue to engage in risky sexual behavior and needle sharing. If public health messages on AIDS prevention are diluted by the misconception that HIV is not responsible for AIDS, otherwise preventable cases of HIV infection and AIDS may occur, adding to the global tragedy of the epidemic.