HIV denial update #2: “alternative” treatments

A reader pointed this out to me awhile back, and it’s just too absurd not to mention. You may or may not be familiar with Gary Null. He’s a self-proclaimed “natural living” guru, and the writer/director of the recent HIV denial documentary, AIDS Inc.:

AIDS, Inc. is a film about the multi-billion dollar AIDS industry, and how it profits from continuing fears and misconceptions about the disease….Could it be that after so many years of research, and so much money being spent, that the entire orthodox medical establishment has been wrong about AIDS, or even worse, has sought to profit on a system that it knew was flawed from the beginning? …The film challenges the entrenched notion that AIDS or HIV is an African monkey virus that is spread sexually and can be “treated” with harmful drugs. Instead, the film considers the common underlying conditions of the epidemic, such as malnutrition, unclean water, poverty, illness, and poor lifestyle choices.

Well, we’ve certainly seen HIV deniers advocate a number of quack cures to replace antiretroviral drugs, including megadoses of vitamins and the aforementioned potato cure, so it probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that Null also espouses some, erm, rather “wacky” ideas regarding what makes one healthy. But some of these were new even to me; more after the jump.
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HIV denial update #1: shake-up in South Africa

There have been some interesting updates in the field of HIV politics and denial recently. First, after having several months of moving forward with a real plan to combat AIDS in South Africa, the deputy minister of health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, has been fired. For those who follow this area, Madlala-Routledge stepped into the limelight when she took over for her boss, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, while she had surgery. Tshabalala-Msimang, you may recall, is the one who sided with President Thabo Mbeki regarding causes of AIDS (and cures for it), advocating treatments such as a recipe of garlic, beetroot, lemon and African potatoes to combat AIDS while underplaying the role of anti-retroviral drugs. Madlala-Routledge had been working to swing things the other way, and it seems this is a part of what got her fired; more after the jump.
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The discovery of highly virulent XDR-TB

XDR-TB has been in the news quite a bit lately, largely thanks to Andrew Speaker’s notoriety. Even though his TB was later re-classified as “just” multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) instead of the initial extremely drug resistant (XDR) type, it did serve to raise awareness about the issues public health authorities face when dealing with something like tuberculosis–and where the gaps are in the control of its spread. (Indeed, a breaking story out of Taiwan shows how difficult it can be to enforce a travel ban).

However, while XDR-TB is rather new on the radar of the general public (and even many infectious disease folks), it was first recognized over 2 1/2 years ago in Africa. This month’s issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine has the story of its discovery; more after the jump.
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Tripoli Six–home and free

After 8 1/2 years of imprisonment, torture in jail, and a death sentence hanging over their heads, the Tripoli Six (collected links) are back home, and have been granted pardons from the Bulgarian president.

Revere, again, has the details; more at the BBC and New York Times. Many kudos go out to both Revere and Nature reporter Declan Butler for spreading this story out through the blogosphere, and sighs of relief out to the workers themselves and their families and loved ones.

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Tripoli Six–moving toward resolution

The strange and tragic case of the Tripoli Six, a group of 5 Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor working in Tripoli, Libya, is finally drawing to a close. The six health workers had been found guilty of infecting up to 400 children in the hospital where they worked with HIV, and had previously been sentenced to death–even though the science had shown that the epidemic began prior to the arrival of the workers. This saga has been dragging on for the better part of a decade (Declan Butler at Nature has a very nice story here discussing the various twists and turns along the way), but now, as Revere reports (continued below):
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While I’m out…

Traveling yet again today (things finally calm down in September, I think). In the meantime, here are a few posts from elsewhere I’ve been meaning to highlight:

Some more background for those of you who may not be up to speed on HIV/AIDS: AJ Cann explains what we know (and don’t know) about how HIV causes AIDS.

Speaking of HIV, ERV has 4 years to come up with an HIV vaccine, and another bad story about science in the media.

David asks if biologists have physics envy. I think I just have other-fields-of-biology envy, and want to do it all.

PZ has a very nice posts explaining the folly of debating creationists, along with alternatives to debate that will still allow scientists to get their message out.

And finally, Revere has the latest news on the Tripoli Six.

HIV+ toddler booted from campground

Last year, Seed magazine and Scienceblogs noted the 25th anniversary of the recognition of AIDS. You’d think that in all that time, especially with the identification of HIV and all the public education campaigns in the 1980s, people would realize by now that HIV isn’t spread by casual contact. You can’t get it by sharing drinking glasses, by coughing and sneezing around others, by being in the same swimming pool. However, the message still hasn’t gotten out in some areas, it would seem, as a two-year old HIV+ boy was restricted from using the pool and showers at an Alabama campground. More information and video after the jump.
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What is “health” ?

I know many of the HIV threads here get very tedious and repetitive, but occasionally interesting things come out of them. Believe it or not, I’ve learned a lot about HIV denial over the past year and a half or so. I’ve long been familiar with Duesberg’s objections, but it wasn’t until more recently that I realized there still were active denial groups around, and even wholesale germ theory deniers. So to me, the threads aren’t all wasted.

Anyway, in one of the ongoing threads, there was discussion of one commenter’s “natural” remedies, and her claim that “Germs cannot get a strong-hold in a healthy environment.”

I noted that wasn’t true, and that healthy people came down with illness every day, giving the example of the role a robust immune system played in the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Pope then asked if it had ever occurred to me “that people might be more than what you call the ‘immune system’?”

Of course, regular readers know that certainly, I realize this. I’ve talked about disease resulting from the intersection of not only host and microbial factors, but as a result of the interaction of these with the environment (both within the host and externally) as well. However, while I’ve spent a lot of time discussing disease, I don’t remember a post specifically defining “health.” More on that after the jump.
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Why deny only one part of science? IDists branch out into AIDS denial

Over at Uncommon Descent, the blog of William Dembski and friends, a contributor has a post up discussing Peter Duesberg’s aneuploidy hypothesis for cancer (which Orac discussed here for more background). The post itself is a bit confusing–it’s titled “When Darwinism Hurts,” and according to the author’s clarification, it’s about “Darwinism” leading us down the wrong path as far as cancer research goes. (Though whether cancer would be due to mutations in specific genes or in chromosomes, it’s still an evolutionary process, but I digress…) To me, anyway, the more interesting portion was in the comments section, where both DaveScot and Sal Cordova imply also that HIV might not cause AIDS; more after the jump.
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Introduction to HIV and HIV denial

I don’t often provide a lot of background into HIV science or HIV denial, instead referencing previous posts I’ve made or websites such as or the NIAID fact sheet. For those of you who may be looking for more background in a nice, concise format, HealthDot has a 20-minute interview with John Moore and Jeanne Bergman (both who help run regarding the issues of HIV science and HIV denial–including a few minutes on what journalists can do.