About AIDS

Yes, HIV Does Cause AIDS, Part I

Since 1987 self-styled "AIDS dissidents," led principally by Peter Duesberg of UC-Berkley and David Rasnick, have said variously that (1) HIV does not cause AIDS; (2) AIDS is not a contagious disease; (3) HIV is a harmless retrovirus; (4) AIDS treatments are poisons which themselves cause the disease; (5) AIDS-related immune destruction is caused by recreational drug abuse.

Their views are heard and excitedly promoted, principally by college students and antiestablishment dissenters, then largely disappear, only to resurface about 18-24 months later.

More recently this movement has gained new vigor and added new claims, which causes them increasingly to be referred to as "AIDS denialists": (6) HIV does not even exist; (7) the AIDS epidemic does not exist; (8) the AIDS epidemic is a huge medical fraud promoted by corrupt and greedy pharmaceutical companies, scientists, and doctors; etc., etc.

Lately, the issue has gained new prominence because the president of South Africa is encouraging the denialists' views, making them a majority on a currently convened national AIDS panel. Those who know President Mbecki are shocked and puzzled that an intelligent and educated man could be overtaken by such claims, which have no basis in science, and are only politically laden conjecture.

As we move forward to July's World Conference on AIDS - ironically, to be held in Durban, South Africa - this column will explore some of the issues raised by Duesberg and company. Some are ideas that validly needed examination, but once disproven should be discarded; others are bogus on their very face. The dangerous part, of course, is that people may be led to make poor choices, whether at the personal level or the national level. HIV can be avoided or to some degree treated, but knowledge and understanding of the facts are imperative for either.

- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

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