Special Report on HIV and AIDS

A spate of articles appearing recently in the general media have tackled the issue of HIV's causal role in AIDS from a number of directions. Despite the fact that this issue was resolved years ago in the scientific arena, a few so-called HIV/AIDS denialists (including journalists such as Celia Farber, who has written about AIDS for the magazines Spin and Gear, and groups such as ACT UP San Francisco) continue to charge that AIDS-related illnesses are the exclusive result of such factors as malnutrition, poverty, and illicit drug use (i.e., not HIV). In their view, people with HIV positive antibody tests die because they take antiretroviral drugs.

As a result, some unsuspecting people are being misinformed with significant and potentially tragic real-life results. Whether negotiating safer sex or dealing with an HIV positive diagnosis, a person's level of knowledge and experience, in addition to resources and aptitudes, both financial and emotional, affect how he or she will cope. Misinformation adds a level of confusion that is an annoyance at best and deadly at worst.

On a much broader level, the government of South Africa, for one, is actively "evaluating" the cumulative data, ostensibly to officially determine if among other things HIV truly causes AIDS, while enacting dubious public health policies. In the past weeks, news reports have been emerging almost daily on the foment in South Africa, where nearly 13% of the adult population is HIV positive and where now, for instance, the government at least for the time being is withholding the provision of AZT (Retrovir) to pregnant women and to the armed forces.

From an individual to a societal level, the potential harm to the public health is clear. Far from being the final word on the subject, this special report is intended to serve as a vantage point on the current confusion. In part I, Mark Wainberg, M.D., well-known HIV/AIDS researcher and president of the International AIDS Society, discusses the issue from his perspective as a committed, experienced scientist. Dr. Wainberg refers to an actual case covered by the press that involved an HIV positive mother and her HIV positive child. (There have been several such cases in North America, some of which continue to be litigated.) Part II concerns Koch's postulates, a set of principles used by scientists to determine disease causality, and presents an outline of the overwhelming evidence that HIV causes AIDS.

-- Leslie Hanna

Related BETA Articles: "HIV is the Only Cause of AIDS: The Potential for Journalism to Impact the Public Health"; "HIV Causes AIDS: Proof Derived from Koch's Postulates

Back to the SFAF BETA Spring, 2000 contents page.