Sunday, September 16, 2007

HIV / AIDS Denial Eviscerated

Let me begin this post with an admission of guilt. I actually gave the AIDS denialist "point of view" a considerably larger amount of credibility than I should have a couple of years ago. I was never convinced they were correct; I was more of the opinion that they had put forward many good questions that have not yet been fully answered by science. Fortunately, a lot of very intelligent people were patient with me, and it finally got through to me that HIV/AIDS denialists are deeply deluded and a danger to a lot of folks (primarily now in the third world) who are gravely at risk of and disease and death. I'll now give myself a small pat on the back. I think most of the folks I consulted on this were patient with me because the nature of my questions demonstrated that I clearly was "skeptical" (though very poorly informed) and not in denial. There is a big difference. Indeed, there are still some really interesting unanswered questions about AIDS. Well, of course there are! If not, it would be "problem solved" and we wouldn't have to deal with millions of people getting sick to this day. But there are no serious questions (and haven't been for at least a decade) about the fact that there is a retrovirus called HIV and that it leads to AIDS. No doubt. None. If you are reading this and you believe there is doubt then you are either in complete denial or you are like I was 2 years ago. I knew as much about HIV as the average life-long baseball fan knows about the sport of cricket. I happened across some people who were debating it, found it fascinating, and finally started looking in to the history of AIDS. Up until then, I had very little interest in the subject and hadn't really read much other than occasional newspaper articles.

Pseudocolored transmission electron micrograph of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on infected human lymphocyte. Observe the daughter hiv cells leave the infected t-cell for a new host. This image from Custom Medical Stock Photo (CMSP) which has a edition digital catalogue available on the internet. Contact this commercial venture for more information.

Unfortunately, the AIDS denial groups are as strong today as they were 15 years ago (when there really was some good reasons for doubt about the science). All of those doubts have been completely washed away by mountains of scientific evidence from just about every field that is in any way related to medical science. As much as I love the Internet, there is a downside to it and this is it. Anyone can write anything they like and reach a lot of people. Most of them will not do as much in-depth research on a controversial issue as I did on this topic. I love science. I don't always love what's done with the knowledge we arrive at, but the knowledge itself is always a thing of beauty. But there are folks who don't love it. There are some who even resent and/or mistrust it. When their hatred is directed at the science of Western medicine, there is a word for it - pharmanoia. You can read about pharmanoia and and more scathing diatribe aimed at AIDS denial in the current issue of "Skeptical Inquirer". The article is called "AIDS: Denialism vs. Science" by Nicoli Nattrass. Nattrass has written extensively about the problems facing South Africa - particularly in regards to health and AIDS. Unfortunately the article has not yet been posted online. If interested, I will link it as soon as it appears, at the bottom of this post.

This computer generated art quality graphics of HIV was
done by Russell Kightley of Canberra, Australia.

Tip of the hat to Tulane University and their "The Big Picture Book of Viruses: Retroviridae". Visit the site for many unique and interesting virus photos.
Update 11/15 - From Skeptical Inquiry, the Nicoli Nattrass article.


Anonymous said...

You lost me as soon as you started using political terms like "denialists".

This article doesn't tell me anything about the issue; just that by your own admission, you've never been objective enough to evaluate it properly.


Anonymous said...

The entire point in using a term like "denialist" is that these people will not respect the science that tells everyone else that they are wrong.

What term would you prefer for people who will not listen to sense.

John - Evolutionary Middleman said...

First Anonymous said: "just that by your own admission, you've never been objective enough to evaluate it properly"

I Never said anything about a lack of objectivity. I did IMPLY that as an "outsider" I was EXTREMELY objective; just unknowledgeable on the subject. I can say that compared to 2 years ago, I presently possess about 95% of my total knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

That increased knowledge, applied with common sense and reason can lead to only one conclusion. HIV is a real virus - no doubt. It causes AIDS - no doubt. The therapies devised may not be the best, but they have saved many lives - no doubt. (OK, that's 3 conclusions)!

Renegade said...

Its great to know that you did see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And I appreciate the fact that you were frank enough to accept this. Well, when you say to someone that I don't believe in the stuffs perpetuated in the name of AIDS by the so called medical fraternity, people tend to look at you strangely - ARE YOU NUTS?

Fortunately, you met with people who took time to explain the other point of view and let you evaluate it for yourself.

Let me lessen my guilt too, by admitting that I was once backing the Apollo Hoax story... may be these are things from which we have to learn a lot, though we believe in a rational approach to problems we do get things wrong at times and there is no problem with that.

But when we fail to correct ourselves or even give us a chance to do so, then there is certainly a lot to worry about.

Anonymous said...

How compelling. You can't even count.

The fact that you'd use the term "denialist" shows that youa re dishonest. Who did you "meet", and what were their arguments ?

WHY did you decide that anyone who questions the science behind HIV/AIDS should automatically be dismissed as a "denialist" ?

What gets me about your post is the utter lack of any content that tells us anything at all.

You may as well have just posted "Yay, Team !"

It would have been more honest and concise of you.

John - Evolutionary Middleman said...

Anonymous -

I notice that the simple and obvious comment that HIV is a real virus and AIDS is it's consequence brings out the "anonymous" and denialist uproar. But you are so right...

At THIS point in the "debate"(!) we might just as well throw up our hands and yell "GoooooOOOOO SCIENCE"! That will be my next post. Thank you for your insights.

Was that "HONEST" enough? (I'm not worried about concision... it's my blog to ramble on)!

Now, you run along and continue your efforts at bringing unnecessary death and we'll continue shining our little light.

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