David Crowe’s roundtable discussion following the recent dual launch event in London.
The 30min film Positive Hell is now available to rent or purchase via the front page of the IRF site.
Following VICE’s interview of Joan Shenton by Gareth May, the magazine’s senior editor, Eleanor Morgan, has written a piece rebuffing “AIDS denialism”. While there are plenty of comments on it from dissidents I will add my own here.
Morgan says that Shenton’s argument can be boiled down to: “AIDS is a Big Pharma conspiracy and the drugs companies manufacturing the antiviral medications are, along with compliant governments, cooking up a big, stinking, witches-around-the-cauldron plot to keep themselves swimming in cash.” – This is incorrect. Shenton alleges scientific misconduct by Robert Gallo and a world fearful of criticising a bankrupt theory because of sexual and racial sensitivities associated with it.
Morgan believes that the appropriate label for Shenton is “denialist”. But Shenton does not deny the illnesses defined as AIDS. Her positions have been sympathetic to Peter Duesberg (HIV exists but is harmless) and the Perth Group (HIV does not exist, what is measured is an unreliable non-causative marker of AIDS). On that basis, the apt word is indeed “dissident”, because, by dictionary definition, she opposes the official policy on AIDS. Not AIDS itself.
Morgan does not believe AZT (a DNA-chain terminator) is toxic when its mechanism is nothing other than cytotoxic (cell killing). Because AZT can kill anything and everything, it is not surprising that it can help against many microbial insults that are the result rather than the cause of immunodeficiency, for example TB. In the end, the same mechanism that is useful to a patient will be detrimental in the long run. The dissident position opposes bombing the immune system over a phantom and instead supports buttressing it in a way that is pertinent to the affected.
Editor of Beyond Positive, Tom Hayes, makes a false association between faith healers and AIDS dissidents. While there are dissidents who support emotional strength as one aspect of immunity, it takes away to divorce it from the diverse picture that dissidents present to deal with various causes of immunodeficiency.
Though possibly a typo, Morgan suggests “Shenton’s idea that HIV can be contracted through amyl nitrate (poppers) is also laughable”. Shenton has never said that HIV can be contracted through poppers, only that poppers can be attributable to AIDS, and thus capable of flagging as HIV. Another, forgivable, typo, because of widespread usage, is referring to the ‘HIV virus’ when you should either refer to HIV or HI virus.
On the subject of Mbeki’s tenure: “the result was 300,000 unnecessary deaths and over 35,000 infants infected with HIV. . . . These stats aren’t conjecture – they’re death counts.” Actually, this is conjecture. The estimates in the Chidgwedere et al. paper were found to have no echo in real outcome according to statistics unearthed by the Duesberg et al. paper that was removed from Medical Hypotheses with no good reason [reprinted in Positively False reprint]. Morgan evidently did not read the papers, just the news article.
Morgan and Hayes are not so much challenging “AIDS denialism” than throwing darts at a caricature of us.
Sky News is currently running a 20min piece on HIV/AIDS in the Ukraine. One cannot help feeling that the economic backdrop should be given greater credence for the illnesses people are facing. Watch it here.
Though the Frontline Club is a small venue we were happy to see bums on all seats for the showing of Positive Hell and the ensuing discussion which was followed by the signing of the new edition of Positively False. A good lot of books were shifted that day.
Yes, the book is self-published because when the book was mainstream published nearly 2 decades ago the orthodoxy stood-down Joan in promotional attempts which turned a hot potato into a cold one that no publisher interested in making money would touch. There are self-published books that promote the orthodoxy too.
We had been aware of some complaints for this screening (it was a public invite-only event and thus not backed or publicised by the Frontline Club – though there seems to have been a bit of paranoia on social media as to why panel members were photographed seated next to a vinyl blind with the FC logo [answer: because it’s just part of the furniture; it can be seen at all FC events].
— TAGHIVscience (@TAGHIVscience) February 6, 2015
A few prominent British critics of dissidents persist in using the term ‘AIDS denialists’ even though there have been attempts at educating them on the correct, albeit less sound-bite-y, terminology of ‘HIV sceptics’. The view promoted at the event was not of denying AIDS but of questioning the existence or pathogenicity of HIV as the cause. The trigger not the outcome is the focus. As an analogy, one who questions the cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease is not a heart disease denier, and that is not commonly misunderstood.
Ironic among our sceptics is the (otherwise deserved) champion of free speech Simon L. Singh who tweeted that the event was “disgraceful” and should be “cancelled”. He fought against the British Chiropractic Association who sued him for libel in an obvious attempt to silence his critiques. While no one commands Singh to support AIDS dissent, surely he should be uniform in championing free speech by allowing us to say what we want (and in return people can say what they want about us)? Is it not condescending to brush our audience as stupid and in need of having to be curated on what they should and should not see? (If it matters, children do not turn up at FC events) There were a few people who attended and left during an introductory speech – they made their mind up (from our view, prematurely), fine. No one was forced to our event and no one was discouraged from differing or arguing with us.
— Simon Singh (@SLSingh) December 2, 2014
Ben Goldacre (and it should not surprise him that he is actually respected by many AIDS dissidents on other matters) also seems to have not done his homework by asking the Frontline Club if they were ashamed of themselves. But even if our event was an official FC event we would still fall under their ethos of ‘exists to promote freedom of expression and support journalists’ – and the event was created by the recipient of both a Medical Journalists Association and Royal Television Society award for her Channel 4 documentaries questioning AIDS. All Goldacre had to do was visit the FC site. If our event was blessed by them, they would have advertised us on their site. As a private event we were treated like all private events – we get the venue but we must promote it ourselves. Part of this undertaking was due to influenced pressure on the student union at SOAS to cancel a showing of the film I Will Not Go Quietly in 2014. Goldacre, like Singh, also thinks free speech is worth defending in some cases, but in others not:
ppl who dislike eg farage’s ideas shldnt be able to silence him, or anyone. police should have taken steps necessary to guarantee his safety — ben goldacre (@bengoldacre) February 6, 2015
The core of AIDS dissidents not only find 3 decades of failure timely, but none of us seek to force people off ARVs or to engage in base racism or homophobia. There is nothing fascist in the approach of AIDS dissidence. On the contrary, none of us have censored or physically abused proponents of the orthodoxy.
Because of the common life and death defining of AIDS it’s not particularly surprising that people – yes, most people – would think that anyone on the other side of those defined as heroes would be classed as villains. But many times in history it has been premature to call a cause noble without more information. While there is a healthy public culture of scepticism in regards to stereotypical politics, most people seem to have a misplaced respect for any scientific edict, holding it in much higher regard than they should. The arguments we have may not win currently in terms of subscribers, but what we have seriously irks an orthodoxy that has engaged in nearly 31 years of obvious failure. We do not oppose the people that dislike us, we have good grounds to think their sincerely held theory is bankrupt and represents a form of slow-genocide. They may disagree, but if they are so certain, they do not need to ever silence us. Silence is the weapon when debunking is falling flat. Even if they have to repeat themselves they should do so always rather than slap a red tape on our mouths.
The truth is that HIV has no proven pathogenicity (indeed, isolation) and no cure. If these conditions can be proved, then, and only then, will we be obliged to disappear.
[The father of the HIV+ son] questioned the link between HIV and Aids and believed treatment had side-effects worse than the impact of the virus.
… The father told the Weekend Herald his son was a normal, healthy child who loved playing sport. He said the boy did not know he tested as HIV positive when just a few months old.
[BBC Newsnight host Evan Davis] who has always been candid about his own sexuality, said homosexuals were more prone to destructive behaviour
… He was said to have described drug taking as ‘socially infectious’ among the gay community and said it was not helped by their slightly greater disposable income.
… ‘Once gay people start taking drugs, they’ll take more drugs because it’s socially infectious and one person will take them, then another. I just think it’s something gay people have to watch out for.’
… Davis[‘s] comments come after the British Crime Survey found drug use among gay and bisexual men was three times higher than for straight men and was higher in the majority of individual drugs consumed including cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis
[Source: Daily Mail]
The Kindle version of the 16th Anniversary Edition of Positively False is on sale from today – search your local Amazon site. The paperback version is, unfortunately, not available in some territories (e.g. Canada), so you will have to use the next nearest site.
The launch event for the book and the UK premiere of Positive Hell is tomorrow (5 Feb) at London’s Frontline Club (13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ). [Google Street View] It is a short walk from Paddington rail/tube station, and opposite the main arch entrance of St. Mary’s Hospital (there may be a bus strike on this day, otherwise the bus stops for St. Mary’s Hospital land you almost directly at the venue).
There is still time to register for the event by contacting Joan Shenton via the contact button on this site.
The schedule for the evening is:
6:30pm: Drinks and canapés
7:00pm: Screening of Positive Hell (30 mins)
7:30pm: Panel discussion and book signing (although previously announced, DVD copies of Positive Hell will not be available to purchase but it will be available for download at a later date) [cash and card accepted]
The panel discussion will feature:
Joan Shenton – author and narrator
Dr. Christian Fiala – specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology
David Crowe – President of Rethinking AIDS
Dr Claus Koehnlein – specialist in internal medicine
Moderators are journalists Celia Farber and Neville Hodgkinson