And right on cue..

| Comments (9) | Biology
In the comments section, Todd complains about the accuracy of my characterization of ACT UP SF (reformatted for easier reading).
"One strange twist to this story is that San Francisco ACT UP (though not other ACT UP branches) has become not only HIV denialist but also AIDS denialist"

They are neither. They are HIV/AIDS Dissidents. And ACTUP has been so for over a decade. Do you make any attempt to be accurate at all ?

Yes, I do, and I think this phrasing is accurate. ACT UP SF's refers to AIDS as the "AIDS $CAM". Here's a quote from their web site:

The fact is that there is no plague of contagious AIDS. Every year of the so-called AIDS "epidemic" in the United States more people died from car accidents than from AIDS. Government estimates of the number of HIV positive Americans has been continually revised downward from 1.5 million in the mid-1980s to between 400,000 to 600,000 today. In addition, the life span of HIV positives that refuse toxic AIDS treatments is over twenty years -- as long as HIV has supposedly been around.

So what's going on? Some big government conspiracy? Not likely. Think of AIDS as a tragic medical mistake where in an era of greed and fear non-contagious illnesses were blamed on a virus. Where societal disapproval of gay men was exacerbated by alarmist media reports and a massive amount of government and big business corruption. Think of AIDS as a scam not a scourge.

Sounds like denial to me.

Moroever, at least one ACT UP chapter has dissociated themselves from ACT UP SF. See, for instance, this from "Survive AIDS" (formally ACT UP Golden Gate). (This link was in the original article).

"This bit about "fair play" is really important. One of the underlying norms that makes science work is that people to some extent adjust their beliefs in response to contrary evidence. Obviously this doesn't happen all the time, but when you're dealing with someone who's not interested in the evidence at all but merely using it as a sort of prop to attempt to defend their position then that isn't an argument, it's just contradiction. At some point the proper response becomes to just ignore the offender, but then they claim that the orthodox community won't listen to them. It's obviously very hard for a layman to disentangle who's right. "

Actually, it does "happen all the time". It's a hallamrk of good science, to adjust and adapt a hypothesis, if it still works, to fit the evidence.

I can see how this might not have been clear. What I meant to say was that while scientists strive to adapt their beliefs, I concede that it doesn't always happen. Yes, it's a hallmark of good science but scientists are human.

Speaking of evidence, it's odd how "the deniers" talk constantly ABOUT the evidence, and how people such as yourself, do little more than 1. name-call, 2. misrepresent facts, and 3. refuse to discuss the facts, yet write on the issue without any notion at all what the big points of disagreement even are.

You can dismiss an argument you've never heard and don't know any of the details of, but don't call yourself "scientific" or even "honest".

Uh huh.

As it happens, I have taken the time to familiarize myself with some of the arguments raised by the AIDS denial community and satisfied myself that the "evidence" you're talking about is unconvincing. Luckily, it's not necessary for me to take the time to debunk these claims personally because others have already done so.

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But all the debunking references you cite are by stooges of the government-biotech conspiracy. You can't rely on such biased evidence and still call yourself scientific or honest ;-)

On an only slightly more serious note, I can think of a hypothetical, though clearly unethical to implement, prospective HIV exposure trial that the denialists should have no problem volunteering for.

There appear to be two separate claims involved here, both of which are made by ACT UP. The first, which is very solidly debunked, is that HIV does not cause AIDS. The ACT UP website you linked to makes those claims right up at the top, and I think that would have made a better quote:

HIV does not cause AIDS...
HIV antibody tests are flawed and dangerous...
AIDS drugs are poison...


The second, which I've seen no information on one way or the other, touches on the portion of the website that you quoted, claiming that the threat of AIDS is vastly exaggerated (AIDS victims living on average 20+ years after infection, and rate of infection being very low). The links you posted don't debunk these, though I suspect they are also in error (from memory, AIDS kills in about 15 years from time of infection in 1st-world countries, where the derided treatments are available, and much faster in undeveloped countries, and although we've only been studying AIDS for about 25 years, we have approximate infection and survival times going back much further, but I have no cites). If you know of a comprehensive debunking of *that* claim, I'd be interested in seeing a link.

The most easily digestible data I've seem comes from the recent UN reports. But these are produced by members of the conspiracy so good luck convincing deniers of their validity.

The HIV infection numbers are in:

http://data.unaids.org/pub/GlobalReport/2006/2006_GR_CH02_en.pdf


The impact numbers are in:

http://data.unaids.org/pub/GlobalReport/2006/2006_GR_CH04_en.pdf

The punch line is that current population models say that by 2015, there will be 115M fewer people in the world due to AIDS.

In Southern Africa, the death rate for 20-39 year olds _quadrupled_ from 1985-1990 to 2000-2005.

HIV prevalence is about 1% globally, 6% in Sub-Saharan Africa, and over 20% in certain countries.

Wow, a quote from the NIH. How compelling.
If the government says it, it must be true, right ?

Sorry for bothering you. Go back to your Soma.

See. I told you the deniers wouldn't like the source.

I'm an old fashioned Popper falsification kind of guy. So, for those on the anti-NIH side of things, what evidence WOULD you accept as valid that would cause you to change your mind? If there isn't any such evidence, then it seems that you need to admit that your belief is more a statement of faith rather than anything rationally supportable.

And people wonder why I don't allow comments on my blog...

Paul, it's because you're a fascist :-)

Terence, while I don't think I'm really on the
anti-NIH side of things something that bugs me is
that the relationship between HIV and AIDS is more
of a correlation than a causation. In fact, doesn't
"HIV positive" mean that you don't necessarily have
HIV but that you have anti-bodies against HIV?
Maybe your body killed off all the HIV. How would
you know? All you know is that at some point in
the past you were exposed to this retrovirus.

I'm sure there are some people for which nothing
would change their minds but I think that if there
was a causation proof that a particular retrovirus
causes both wasting disease and causes cells to
reproduce uncontrollably it would convince lots
of doubters.

Dan,

I'm not sure what you mean by "more correlation than causation." In at least three cases, lab workers have contracted AIDS after infection with pure, cloned strains of HIV (see here)

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