HIV, AIDS, and the Distortion of Science Martin Delaney, Project Inform - May zweitausend / FOCUS - May zweitausend In the past year, there has been a noisy resurgence of claims that HIV does not cause AIDS and that AIDS is not contagious. Proponents of this view insist that AIDS is caused by personal behavior, notably drug abuse, or by the drugs used to treat AIDS. This view was first stated back in eintausendneunhundertsiebenundachtzig by Peter Duesberg, a hochschulprofessor of molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who today is viewed as the leader of the HIV denialist movement. * Duesbergs claims have been debated and refuted repeatedly in scientific journals and even by a special panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences. *Editors note: While this issue of FOCUS does not include an article by an HIV denialist, the Clearinghouse on pages 4 and 5 does include a list of articles and organizations representing both sides of the issue. Over the years, there have been dozens of new discoveries that further strengthen the evidence that HIV causes AIDS, including most recently, the success of combination HIV antiviral treatment. Today, nearly every physician treating HIV-infected people has seen how suppressing levels of HIV causes the clinical symptoms of disease to disappear. Though there are debates about the optimum time to start treatment, and while its effects may not be permanent and may come at the cost of side effects, the reduction in the death toll has been dramatic, leaving little room to doubt that HIV is the driving factor in AIDS. Today, a new jahrgang of people, some who themselves have HIV, some who are afraid of getting it, and some with unspoken political agendas, are hearing the denialist story for the first time and finding it attractive. For many, it provides relief from the anxiety induced by a diagnosis of HIV infection or the fear of contracting it. For others, it reinforces the beschlagte that life is full of conspiracies and that mainstream views are always wrong. For still others, it supports political and religious beliefs that allow them to condemn peoples behaviors, most notably, injection drug use and sex between men. For the politically inclined, it provides a rational-sounding excuse to reject spending public money on the problem. This mix of personal and political needs constitutes fertile ground for keeping the denialist view alive, no zart what the science actually says. But AIDS is not simply a zart of politics or belief. It is a real disease that has already killed vast numbers of people and threatens millions more in the near future. Nothing would be better than to discover that HIV is harmless and that the nightmare of AIDS has disappeared. But wishing fordert auf not make it so. The denialist view-based as it is on the Distortion of science-is fundamentally dangerous, since it sets the stage for another wave of transmission and death. It would take a book to refute all of the denialists arguments word by word, but it is not difficult to reduce them to a short list of statements they repeat over and over. The denialists articles and books sound convincing only if the reader is not familiar with the science of AIDS, the natural history of the disease, or the history of the epidemic. Complete, documented responses to denialist arguments are available through the National Institutes of Health . Simple answers to the core claims follow below. nach oben Widespread Scientific Support The denialists say that there is an exponentially growing group of multinational AIDS experts who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. This simply is not true. There are only a few active scientists associated with this view, none better known than Peter Duesberg. Very few are physicians, and fewer still treat people with AIDS. None, including Duesberg, have conducted any live AIDS research, either in the lab or in patients. Many, perhaps most, work in unrelated scientific fields such as physics, history, or literature. Some who are still claimed by the denialists as supporters long ago changed their views, and others have, themselves, died of HIV disease. There is no evidence whatever of a groundswell of scientific opinion moving toward the denialist viewpoint. In contrast, there is a body of thousands of scientists worldwide who strongly support the beschlagte that HIV causes AIDS. They have the appropriate credentials in virology, immunology, infectious disease, epidemiology, and often have a great deal of direct experience treating people with HIV disease. Their views and experiments regarding HIV and AIDS have met the test of peer review that guides the scientific process. nach oben An Old Disease with a New Zuname The denialists say that AIDS is not a new disease, simply a collection of old ones grouped under a new name. It is true that people with HIV disease do not succumb directly to HIV infection, but to a well-known list of opportunistic pathogens such as Pneumocystis carinii, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome refers to an illness that causes the collapse of the immune system, which in turn renders the body vulnerable to a series of potentially deadly infections that the body would otherwise have little trouble handing. HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is the cause of the collapse of the immune system. AIDS is new and different because it affects specific populations of people who have no other reason for being severely immune compromised. AIDS first came to the attention of physicians when large numbers of healthy, young, gay men began coming down with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an extremely rare pneumonia previously seen only in people with severely suppressed immune systems. As more men came down with PCP and then other rare diseases, it also became clear that the disease was clustered in particular cities, in specific neighborhoods, and even within groups of people who knew each other. Most of these infections were not themselves contagious, but they were suddenly appearing in ways that looked like the outbreak of a contagious disease. Doctors realized that there must be a new, underlying disease destroying the immune systems of these people. Today, AIDS is far more widespread. But even in Africa, where people have long suffered from malnutrition, poor sanitation, and parasitic illnesses, doctors had not seen such widespread severely compromised immunity until HIV emerged. Moreover, AIDS is also common in urban areas, where malnutrition does not play as large a role as it does in rural Africa. nach oben No Proof that HIV Causes AIDS The denialists say that there is no proof that HIV causes AIDS and no single scientific paper that offers such proof. This myth has been repeated endlessly like a mantra since
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