HIV/AIDS Denialism

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Does anyone really understand why there is so much widespread AIDS Denialism? I was on youtube and there are tons and tons of videos with all these people saying AIDS doesn't lead to people's death if untreated etc... They simply deny that AIDS even exists. They suggest that AIDS is purely conception with the aim of selling highly profitable drugs.

Check out what some of these folks have to say, which I think are mostly rediculous. I don't understand how with such solid science they can even say that AIDS is not indirectly leading to peoples death via secondary infections. Obviously there are some serious sideffects from the ARV's (lipodystrophy, hyperlipidemia, hyperlipidemia, anemia etc) but if your CD4 cell counts are declining significantly, most side effects can be managed and these drugs will eventually prolong life. See these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER2iojyiXe0&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qUBagW-xWs&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6RVo4PPu1w&feature=related

J
 

julius

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I think the idea is that HIV is an opportunistic virus. It's the same thing that's being discussed right now about XMRV/CFS.

-Do we have CFS (AIDS) because we have XMRV (HIV)?

or

-Do we have XMRV (HIV) because we have CFS (AIDS)?
 

muffin

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Those that deny AIDS exists never met anyone dying from it. Those that deny are also the same idiots that say the Holocaust never happened either. Ignore them. You can't put brains where there are none.
 

spit

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Dunno that it's widespread, really

but the denialists are loud and very good at trying to spread their message.

I had the privilege of working in a (non-medical) job with many, many HIV-positive coworkers and customers for a long time, and we all tried to dig into this particular thing together at some point. What it comes down to is really complicated -- you've got early dissidents basically trying to push that AIDS is caused by lifestyle, behavior, and mass-hysteria stuff -- anti-gay sentiment colliding with new-agey stuff colliding with misuse of psychological understanding -- and then you've got a later movement of people who apparently find ARV treatment and its side effects so terrible that they wind up attributing most of the health problems to it rather than to HIV infection, sometimes under the assumption that there's some sort of plan to weed out the undesirables by giving them poison. They're not wrong to find ARV's terrible -- the side effects of AZT, back when it was being used alone, were horrific and painful, and even with current medication, it's no walk in the park. But some of us who were there and remember what things were like before the current treatments do find the claims of denialists frankly pretty jaw-dropping.

Retroviruses are complicated, and they flat go against a number of once respected rules in biology, which gives people who are willing to cherry-pick and refuse to look at the breadth of research plenty of ground on which to form conspiracy theories. The pseudoscientific argument presented by many denialists also focuses on Koch's postulates, which are viewed now more as rules of thumb, points for consideration, than they are as hard rules to be rigidly applied to establish causation. Turns out that the world is messier than Koch thought. Biology is having a revolution of understanding analogous to the one in physics 100 years ago, or the one in chemistry just before -- we have a lot to learn, now that we have the better tools and basic ideas to explore with, and I suspect we're going to be discovering a lot of new things that make us rethink lots of stuff in the next 50 years.

Science really isn't very back-and-forth on this. HIV causes AIDS. But you're always going to find some people who refuse to listen to well-founded, well-researched scientific consensus, and they do tend to find themselves very large bullhorns.
 

urbantravels

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HIV/AIDS denialism certainly does exist, and the Internet has given those few who adhere to it a way to spread their dubious ideas, but I agree that it's not really that widespread and, thank goodness, not at all influential in any way that matters in the medical or scientific community. At least not in this country. It's had a tragic effect in South Africa.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS_denialism

Why would people *want* to deny that HIV causes AIDS? I think there's something very deep that motivates this kind of denial, some real primal fear of an infectious agent that can't be seen or controlled, and a desire to attribute causation to something visible, understandable, and controllable. This kind of thinking seems to allow certain people to quell their own subconscious, non-rational fears of something terrible happening to them.

In a sense, we've been living up till now in a state of highly influential and widespread "ME/CFS denialism." A kind of nebulous denialism that ME/CFS is a "real" disease, with a real cause. Of course this denialism will still continue to exist, no matter how much science emerges to confirm every link in the chain of causation between pathogen(s) and disease. But ... with luck, persistence and goodwill, hopefully we can see the day coming soon when it is pushed way, way out to the margins and lies entirely outside the scientific consensus, as HIV/AIDS denialism does.
 

spit

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Yeah, I should have mentioned South Africa and other places in the world where denialism does very real harm to vast numbers of people. For people trying to find an answer to AIDS that doesn't involve, you know, a virus spreading through the population and killing people, AIDS denialism and the pseudoscience behind it all provides a nice basis for inaction that unfortunately is much appreciated by some governments around the world. That some patients subscribe to the idea that they somehow have control over their illness is maybe less surprising to me, though maybe it shouldn't be. Governments do sometimes love an excuse to wash their hands of crises.

The spread of AIDS in Africa could eat its own thread here and then some, very sadly. And yes, some parallels with CFS are unavoidable, honestly, though they're different in a lot of ways, too. AIDS was originally argued as mass hysteria by some.
 

Sean

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The pseudoscientific argument presented by many denialists also focuses on Koch's postulates, which are viewed now more as rules of thumb, points for consideration, than they are as hard rules to be rigidly applied to establish causation. Turns out that the world is messier than Koch thought.
Even Koch agreed that his postulates were not fixed rules and the final word.
 
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I think the XMRV / CFS relation may teach us a lot about AIDS. Appearently there are a lot of people positive on XMRV while not being sick. The general perception of HIV/AIDS does not work for XMRV/CFS, and I wonder if it actually works for AIDS.

I believe that is, among others, one important source of AIDS scepticism. Let alone the fact that there are antibodies against HIV proves, that the virus is not unchallenged by the immune system. Also it is known that life style/nutrition play a role in HIV therapy. The question is, how much influence the immune system can actually have. With respect to millions of years of human evolution the idea that now, all of a sudden, an always-lethal-virus comes a long seems a bit odd. Ultimately it would wipe out mankind without therapy, if the common perception held true.

Much more likely is, that a certain fraction of people are naturally immune against HIV. I myself have a mutation that makes me MBL deficient. That is to be seen as an immune defect, but it also gives me natural immunity against infections like tubercolosis oder leprosy. So with regard to suscetibility towards infections we are extremely diverse. If I here people reporting, that they cured themselves from HIV I tend to believe this is possible. What's more, people get tested positive on HIV when they have antibodies. That does not prove they actually still have the virus. So there could be a decent fraction of HIV positives who already cleared up the virus. In fact that is just what some people report. They have tested positive and after few years they turned negative.

All that does not mean HIV would not exist, or that it would not cause AIDS. I just think it is most likely a bit more complicated. The most important thing of course, and goes for HIV just as much as for XMRV is: if there is natural immunity, there is also a way to heal !
 

HowToEscape?

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Some people are vehemently attached to being crazy; it makes them feel special and a bit better than the rest of the world. In the case the HIV-AIDS connection a group of like mind, each carrying HIV formed a journal named Continuum to either inform the public or hear themselves talk in print, depending on your point of view. They are entitled to their opinion.

Nature holds the title to facts. Continuum abruptly ceased publication after its last editor died of AIDS.
 

spit

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Leitwolf -- I do agree that we have a lot to figure out still regarding HIV/AIDS, and I suspect that retroviruses in general still have a lot more surprises in store for us generally. Some groups of people do seem to have relative immunity to it and have been studied some, and any disease involving major immune dysfunction is interacting with a whole system in the human body that we've still got heaps of studying to do; actually, untangling some of the details of immune system connections, including autoimmunity, is one of those areas where I expect we're in for some major, understanding-shaking discoveries in biology over the next century.

I don't think any researcher in the field would argue that some people don't have more immunity to HIV infection than others.

But it isn't the case that some level of natural immunity against initial infection -- almost any disease will involve some individuals who are more resistant -- means that infected individuals can be healed. I _don't_ see any real evidence that anybody has totally cleared the virus after having been solidly infected, but I'm not closed to the possibility, I suppose. I have known people who have gotten viral loads down to basically undetectable in blood, but have had it come back over time. Immune activation is certainly there, but immune activation in itself doesn't mean the immune system is going to successfully clear anything, particularly with a virus that specifically targets immune processes. What evidence points to now -- and there's lots of it -- is that HIV is a lifelong infection that can now often be brought under some control via treatment. Lifestyle and dietary changes are vital factors in the development any major illness, really, as immune system function does seem to be pretty sensitive to all sorts of factors -- sleep, food, stress, so on -- but these are about controlling symptoms and maximizing the body's ability to handle the virus, not about clearing it.

And I can't agree with your point about HIV not "making it" if it's so lethal. It can take years for some people to develop particularly major symptoms after contracting HIV, plenty of time to continue spreading it through the population. Major disease events with very high death rates are really not that uncommon in the history of any species, they're a fairly common sort of an evolutionary bottleneck in everything from small populations to global species. For the most part, species gain immunity to stuff through just this process -- a huge proportion of the species dies off, those lucky ones that are left are the ones with some level of protection against the pathogen. Of course, then the pathogen mutates to survive, too, so it's sort of a constant arms race. In the history of life, major near-extinction events from disease are not uncommon at all. Evolution can be slow, but it can also happen very quickly in response to a major new selection factor, and losing 90% of a given species to a new variant of something would be no huge shocker, in historical/ecological terms.

That's not something we can or should accept in modern humanity, of course, but the trick for viruses, particularly those that require close contact, is simply to not to kill so swiftly that they can't be spread. With some people living with HIV for years before they get terribly sick, that's not a problem for this particular virus, and with infection requiring very close contact, the likelihood of finding new hosts continues for it for a long time (it won't sweep through on nasal secretions in a couple of years like, say, the flu, any particular strain of which may flare up, be exposed to 90% of people over three years or whatever, and then die back down as immunity is gained). Unchecked, it would still take a long time to work its way through the human population -- if it hypothetically did so, it's not unlikely that we'd see a huge number of deaths until those most genetically prone to infection had all died off, but that would take many decades, at a minimum, to unfold.

I'm not all that theoretically bothered by the fact that XMRV is there at a fairly high rate in controls; we don't know what it does over time or how it interacts with other factors. It could mean that it doesn't cause symptoms of disease unless it interacts with some other factor, potentially something like a genetic susceptibility, potentially some environmental thing. It could mean that it has a long latency in some people, too. A lot of diseases can have hosts that act as carriers, never really developing symptoms but contributing to the spread. And sometimes, a microbial pathogen can be no big deal for most of the population, but trigger lifelong autoimmune problems in a certain group, say, or cause permanent damage to the brain or whatever.

Lots to learn, lots to learn.
 
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Good to see rational discussion

It makes me happy to see people discussing HIV/AIDS Denialism in a rational manner and from a logical place. I am HIV+ and have been debating (some) fighting (mostly) with these people for two years. Most of them are not scientists and they believe what they read against HIV science and none of it is true. As "spit" wrote about Koch's Postulates is very true. They also claim that HIV has never been isolated that the HIV tests (ELISA screening and Western Blot confrimatory) are rubbish and test false positive 99% of the time. They also misrepresent research of others and none of them have ever done research themselves.

Not only do they lie about the science, but they also personally attack those who disagree with them. They have attempted to get me fired from my job 4 times and have even called my 68 year old mother and threatened to take her house away in a lawsuit!

Not to be a troll, but if this subject interests you, I write a blog dealing with the science of HIV as well as who the denialists are and their despicable actions and lies and hypocrisy.
www.dissidents4dumbees.blogspot.com
The comment sections are all riddled with threats against me and ad hominem attacks.

Thanks for being logical on this issue.
JTD
 
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Those who are considered Long Term Non Progressors have been found to be lacking the CCR5 receptor that HIV uses to gain access in the CD4 (T-Cells).

As for no one having been "cured", there is one case of a German man who was HIV+ and had leukemia. They did a bone marrow stem cell transplant that seems to have eradicated HIV from his body. This was in Feb 2009. This has not been repeated but because a person with any cancer who gets treated with chemo, radiation etc, have their immune system wiped out. Here is link to the story:
http://www.aegis.org/news/lt/2010/LT100904.html

We can only hope this type of treatment is improved upon and can be used on others. Also, there is much research being done now with dendritic cells to treat not only HIV but cancers and autoimmune disease as well.
JTD
 

taniaaust1

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thanks JTD. It amazes me how strongly these ones manage to get their voices heard. I was surprised when i came across all this denialist stuff online, in the early internet days.

i like your blog.
 

muffin

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TRY DENYING THIS ONE!!! HIV Origins in Monkeys Go Back at Least 32,000 Years

HIV Origins in Monkeys Go Back at Least 32,000 Years


Katie Drummond Contributor http://www.aolnews.com/science/arti.../19638167?icid=main|main|dl1|sec3_lnk2|171268

(Sept. 17) -- The origins of HIV/AIDS can now be traced back at least 32,000 years to African monkeys infected with a precursor to the virus, scientists report. The mystery is how that precursor persisted for centuries and posed relatively little risk to humans before evolving into the virus that causes AIDS and now afflicts more than 33 million people worldwide.

The latest findings, published this week in Science, come out of a study, led by Tulane University's National Primate Research Center and the University of Arizona, involving 79 monkeys from the African island of Bioko, which split from the mainland 10,000 years ago.

A 1983 study on macaque monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus helped establish the link between SIV and HIV.

Monkeys from four species on the island were infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). The viral strains infecting the monkeys were similar to those in the same species on the African continent, which indicates that the virus existed before the island and the mainland parted.

In other words, the HIV precursor is older than 10,000 years and probably existed somewhere between 32,000 and 75,000 years ago, based on how quickly it mutated in subsequent computer-based lab tests.

Earlier attempts at tracking the evolution of HIV had pegged the virus at a few hundred years old. But "that just didn't seem right," Dr. Beatrice Hahn, a virologist at the University of Alabama, told The New York Times.

"The biology and geography of SIV is such that it goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean all the way to the tip of Africa," Dr. Preston Marx, who led the Tulane team, said in a statement. "It would take many, many thousands of years to spread that far and couldn't have happened in a couple of hundred years."

Scientists have known for decades that SIV and HIV are fundamentally linked, thanks to a groundbreaking 1983 study on macaque monkeys infected with SIV.

While the HIV virus is extremely lethal in humans, many monkey species are relatively immune, with members resisting infection entirely. They have evolved to resist the virus over several centuries, scientists say.

But if humans and chimps co-existed for centuries, what led to the remarkably rapid transmission of HIV among humans? African urbanization and the accompanying rise of the sex trade, or the spread of inexpensive needles (which were, in the 1950s, often reused by doctors) could be to blame.

And the implications for the human HIV virus aren't pleasant. Given that it took centuries for monkeys to evolve toward greater immunity, we might be facing a similar trajectory.

"If it took thousands of years for SIV to evolve into a primarily nonlethal state, it would likely take a very long time for HIV to naturally follow the same trajectory," the Tulane University research team said in a statement.