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Conspiracy classics part II – AIDS and the “medical-industrial complex”

with 8 comments

Few modern conspiracy theories seem as lurid and distasteful than the claim that AIDS is an invention of the ‘medical-industrial complex’, and that the symptoms associated with the disease are actually caused by the drugs used to treat HIV-positive patients. The “Aidstruth” website gives a long list of people with HIV who have been taken in by such ideas and have died as a result. More tragically still, the influence of such ideas over government health policy in South Africa is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

The story of AIDS-denial in South Africa is a curious mix of cynical opportunism, politics and paranoia. Western cranks whose bogus ideas are sidelined and discredited in their home countries will often seek out poorer and less stable countries where social divisions can be more easily exploited. The Mbeki government’s dalliance with denialism has drawn all manner of such ‘crackpot colonialists’ to South Africa – none stranger than the German vitamin salesman Matthias Rath.

Rath claims that:

“Hundreds of millions of people have died unnecessarily from AIDS, cancer, heart disease and other preventable diseases and the only reason that these epidemics are still haunting mankind is that they are the multibillion-dollar marketplace for the pharmaceutical drug cartel.”

Rath has run newspaper adverts denouncing the “pharmaceutical drug cartel” and urging HIV sufferers to take vitamin pills instead of AIDS drugs.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 6, 2008 at 10:31 am

8 Responses

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  1. The tragically ironic twist to Rath’s campaign is that he promotes only his particular formulations of vitamins to “cure” the suffering. And of course his potions come at a price high enough to seriously compromise the household incomes of the people he targets.


    September 6, 2008 at 11:52 am

  2. Perhaps it seems lurid and distasteful to you, but the important thing is whether it is true or not. The way you have stated it – that AIDS is an “invention of the medical industrial complex” – is more or less true, since Robert Gallo’s claim that HIV “probably” caused AIDS was a claim soon eviscerated in the medical and scientific literature in 1987 (Cancer Research) and 1988 (Proceedings of the National Academy) but maintained ever since by Gallo, Anthony Fauci of NIAID, David Baltimore and Max Essex, among others, using politics to defend it.

    The truth is plain to see if you can read the peer reviewed journals and assess the situation for what it is – a rewriting of other illesses as “HIV caused AIDS” instead of “AIDS caused by many factors but not HIV” – factors including drugs, TB, and severe malnutrition. All this is explained at interminable length in lay terms on, if you care to see for yourself.

    But clearly you are not able to do this (read deeply into the peer reviewed literature) which is why you accept the self interested propaganda of those invested in the belief at the top of this field. What a pity your admirable scepticism has been falsely allayed in this case, since it is the most important distortion of science in decades.


    December 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  3. Anthony, I don’t doubt that you think you’ve understood these peer reviewed papers, but thinking you’ve understood them and actually understanding them are two different things.

    I’ve seen plenty of stuff by non-scientists attempting to put forward their own amateur critique of the established science on AIDS. Some of it is even, superficially, quite convincing. But the problem is that in order to accept it you would need to embrace a grand global conspiracy theory that is just simply a lot more implausible than the idea that these people have just got it wrong. They thought they understood the science, but actually they didn’t, because science is really specialised and difficult to understand without the proper training, like flying jumbo jets and speaking foreign languages.

    I bet we could also find some people out there who think that they’re perfectly capable of flying a jumbo jet (I mean, how difficult can it really be?) despite not having ever had any real training, bar the amateur doodling they did in their garden shed based on a flight manual they once pilfered from their local library. But I wouldn’t get in a plane with them – and were they in the habit of trying to persuade other people to get into planes with them, I’d probably want to highlight the fact so as to minimise the number of people who died in preventable plane crashes.

    Richard Wilson

    December 15, 2008 at 11:25 pm

  4. On the wider issue of the parallels between AIDS “scepticism” and Holocaust denial, I’ve just posted a new article here:

    Richard Wilson

    December 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm

  5. Perhaps you are not able to understand the literature in the field of HIV/AIDS, but you must speak for yourself, and not reply to the suggestion that you have missed what is really going on in the field w3ith the comforting supposition that your critic doesn’t understand the literature either.

    Not only do I understand the science very well through long exposure and multiple sources in the field from Peter Duesberg and Robert Gallo downwards, but I believe that anyone intelligent can easily catch up with what is happening there is they simply read into it.

    Unfortunately your own belief that the science is a stock in trade of professionals that cannot be understood by outsiders plays into their ability to mislead you, and encourages others to accept the conventional wisdom as if it were gospel. HIV as the cause of AIDS has never been justified scientifically let alone proven, and there have been radical inconsistencies on every level from the very beginning of this fundamentally incredible claim.

    As a distinguished skeptic it is time for you to correct your opinion in this area by looking into it more thoroughly. Try for information and leads.


    January 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm

  6. Heretic – thanks for the link – I’m familiar with scienceguardian and would recommend it to anyone exploring this issue as I think it lays out very clearly what’s at stake.

    It is indeed my impression that many of the self-described “AIDS dissidents” who have read widely around the subject and attempted on that basis to give their own personal critiques of mainstream AIDS science have in fact fallen into the trap of thinking that they’ve spotted a fatal flaw when in fact they’ve just misunderstood what they’ve read. And it’s not just people like me who think this. Duesberg’s criticisms of the Perth Group seem to run very much in this direction.

    In this respect, I believe that AIDS denial has much in common with Creationism, Global warming denial, John Bridle’s “scepticism” about the health risks of white asbestos, and indeed the supposition that Leuchter’s amateur forensic testing on the walls of the Auschwitz gas chambers proves that the Holocaust didn’t happen. (I look at the fascinating parallels between Holocaust denial and AIDS denial here:

    I didn’t say that I thought it was impossible for an untrained amateur to understand HIV/AIDS science – Clearly some areas of the science – eg. the epidemiological research are more accessible than others. But I do think it’s incredibly difficult, given that modern science deals in so many complex technical terms that it’s bordering on being a sub-language all of its own, and that there are many pitfalls. You make a good point about the dangers of specialists using their knowledge to deceive those who lack their level of training. This is precisely the danger that denialists face, in my view, when they buy into the ideas of the small number of genuine scientists (some of whose motives do seem very questionable) who deny the link between HIV and AIDS, sometimes with appallingly tragic consequences.

    The basic problem, in my view, is that, however much reading one does – or indeed how many scientific qualifications one gets – the days are probably now past when it was possible for one person to get a detailed understanding of every significant area of human knowledge. There just isn’t the time in one lifetime to get fully to grips with every single subject out there. There comes a point, in my view, where all of us have to trust an expert on one issue or another, even those of us with specialist knowledge in one small area. And the basic question I’m interested in is how we can decide which expert to trust when we’re dealing with a specialism outside our area of expertise – be that AIDS science, evolutionary biology, meteorology, financial investment (the Madoff case being a classic illustration of the dangers) or forensic science. I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts on that question?

    I do have to take issue with you on one key point though: if you’re looking for a “distinguished sceptic” then you’ve come to the wrong place…

    Richard Wilson

    January 1, 2009 at 9:23 pm

  7. Richard, your claim that you are not a distinguished skeptic baffles me, but in such things one has to accept testimony from the horse;s mouth.

    Regarding how to choose the expert ome goes with, I am sory to say that it depends a lot on what you can manage to find out each person, and if you can meet them personally, that is the best litmus test. I have met all the scoundrels in HIV/AIDS personally except for the conflicted John Moore, and I know whereof I speak as regards the science because I have carried water endlessly between them until I recognized who was evading and who wasn’t. Duesberg wasn’t.

    If you troubled to look into the matter yourself properly you would recognize that like everybody with a limited acquaintance with the issue you have been neatly trapped by the assumption that all the stalwart HIV promoters are touched by scandal whether public or not, while Duesberg is the only scientist of the top class involved who is impeccable in his standards of evidence and reason.

    Since you evidently value high standards, since you believe that the critics of HIV are bad scientists, you really should read Duesberg’s work to refine your judgment on this. Just go to and catch a paper or two. You will recognize what good work is. Yes, the Perth Group are valiant players but not on the same level, it is true. But they have pointed out some interesting facts to do with the unacceptability of the HIV claim, even so.

    Interesting you should mention Madoff. I have just written a post on his achievement at which I am about to illustrate and put up. It pales by comparisom with the achievement of Anthony Fauci along the same lines – deceiving the world so that you can buy good suits.


    June 9, 2009 at 3:43 am

  8. Sorry Richard your comments dont allow one to review and edit, and I miswrote – I meant to say that the assumption that has trapped you is that all the estbakishment guys are leading you correctly. They aren’t.


    June 9, 2009 at 3:45 am

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