Archive for October 2009
Debunking denialism and the fight for treatment: Campaigning for the rights of people with HIV & AIDS in South Africa.
Date: Wed 11 November 2009
Vuyiseka Dubula is General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a leading voice on HIV/AIDs campaigning in South Africa. She is a dynamic young woman leader of TAC, who lives openly with HIV, and who has been at the centre of most of their campaigns over the last 10 years.
Vuyiseka will share the story of TAC, the importance of activism in achieving their goals, the campaigning techniques that they have found to be effective and some of the challenges they have faced along the way – including debunking the myths that have been promoted about HIV and AIDS.
We hope you can join us for what promises to be a hugely informative talk followed by a question and answer session.
Entry is free but booking is essential. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7033 1677 if you would like to attend./
I’ve long been a fan of Al Jazeera’s willingness to cover stories and angles that other news media won’t touch, and was pleased to have the chance to contribute to the programme above. I was even more pleased when I saw how it had turned out – definitely one of the best overviews of the story that I’ve yet seen.
UPDATE …on a free speech tangent, the techie guerilla campaign against the litigiousness of UK chiropractors continues with a sneaky pop at the General Chiropractic Council.
Not content with embracing global warming denial, dallying with anti-vaccination paranoia, and organising a £35-a-head pseudo-debate on AIDS, it seems that the editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson, has now gone one step further in his quixotic struggle against scientific rationalism. This week’s magazine features an op ed by the notorious AIDS crank Neville Hodgkinson, dismissing HIV science as ‘the AIDS religion’.
Here’s an extract from a post I did on Hodgkinson earlier this year:
“a growing number of senior scientists are challenging the idea that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS”…
“This sensational possibility, now being contemplated by numerous doctors, scientists and others intimately concerned with the fight against the disease, deserves the widest possible examination and debate.”
Hodgkinson declared in December 1993.
“Yet it has been largely ignored by the British media and suppressed almost entirely in the United States… The science establishment considers itself on high moral ground, defending a theory that has enormous public health implications against the ‘irresponsible’ questioning of a handful of journalists. Their concern is human and understandable, even if we might expect our leading scientists to retain more concern for the truth while pursuing public health objectives.”
As with the tobacco industry’s “scepticism” over the link between smoking and cancer, the views promoted by Hodgkinson tended to focus on gaps in the established explanation (many of which have since been filled) rather than on any empirical research showing an alternative cause. But he did use one of the recurrent rhetorical motifs of the AIDS denial movement – highlighting the case of an HIV-positive “AIDS dissident” who refused to take anti-retroviral drugs but remained healthy.
Jody Wells has been HIV-positive since 1984. He was diagnosed as having AIDS in 1986. Today, seven years on, he says he feels fine with energy levels that belie his 52 years. He does not take the anti-HIV drug AZT…
He feels so strongly about the issue that he works up to 18 hours a day establishing a fledgling charity called Continuum, “an organisation for long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS and people who want to be”. Founded late last year, the group already has 600 members.
Continuum emphasises nutritional and lifestyle approaches to combating AIDS, arguing that these factors have been grossly neglected in the 10 years since Dr. Robert Gallo declared HIV to be the cause of AIDS.
Tragically – if predictably – Jody Wells was dead within three years of the article being written.
Although Hodgkinson left the Sunday Times in 1994, his articles on the “AIDS controversy” continued to be disseminated online, lending valuable credibility to the denialist cause – and have been credited with influencing Thabo Mbeki’s embrace of AIDS denial in the early part of this decade.
Since his ignominious exist from the Sunday Times, Hodgkinson has largely been a marginal figure within the UK media, but perhaps Fraser Nelson could help to change all that…
Evan Harris MP: My final question relates to the ongoing problems of English libel law in respect of Trafigura. My understanding is that “Newsnight” is being threatened by the lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, if it repeats an allegation against Carter-Ruck that deaths were caused by the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, even though in 2007 Hansard reported the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations laid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before Parliament, and a memorandum of explanation to those regulations stated:
“The recent example of the release of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast leading to the deaths of a number of people and the hospitalisation of thousands underlines the risks involved in the movement and management of waste.”
How can it be that that can be in Hansard, yet there are still threats of legal action against “Newsnight” if it reports the very same wording that is used in there? That cannot be right. Although there are powerful interests at stake, there is a public interest in the fact that there was a settlement made—hundreds of millions of pounds paid over in that settlement—and yet the public in this country are not allowed to know some of the contents of those news reports. We have a responsible media by and large in respect of such matters, and it is about time that English libel laws and English laws in general caught up with that fact.
Don’t get fooled by Channel 4 satirists: Carter-Ruck’s champion Gerald Howarth MP talks gibberish on paedophilia
For a glorious period around the turn of the century, satirist Chris Morris produced a series of TV shows demonstrating just how easy it was to get attention-hungry politicians and celebrities to spout utter gibberish on camera.
In yesterday’s debate on freedom of speech in Parliament, one of Morris’s ex-victims, Gerald Howarth MP, seemed keen to exercise his critical judgement in defence of beleagured libel bunnies Carter Ruck.
If this is the best champion that the law firm can find, than perhaps they really are in trouble. Here are some choice clips of Gerald Howarth sharing his wisdom on paedophilia with Chris Morris’s Brass Eye back in 2001:
From The Guardian
In the debate today Harris said it was his understanding that BBC Newsnight were also being “threatened” by Carter-Ruck if they repeated a claim, even though it was recorded in parliamentary Hansard. He said: “How can it be that that can be in Hansard, yet there are still threats of legal action against Newsnight if they report the very same wording that is used in there? That cannot be right.”
Speculation is growing over what in Hansard Evan Harris was referring to. I’m wondering if it might be this:
Mark Stephens…. We are seeing at the moment a real problem with a company called Trafigura who have retained lawyers to attack Green Peace International predominantly, but also media organisations who are reporting about the alleged toxic dumping in Africa of waste. They are doing this in a number of ways. Letters are being sent; they are suing the lawyers, Leigh Day, who are taking claims; I understand that Leigh Day are representing 16 people who died, 100,000 people who needed medical attention, including miscarriages, respiratory problems and organ failure, and there is a class of about 30,000 Ivorians who have suffered as a result of this toxic dump. It seems to me that it is wholly inappropriate for a very wealthy company to try and chill down discussion about toxic dumping through this kind of aggressive behaviour. For example, there are threats to individuals at Green Peace International; and there are also threats, for example, to the BBC. If the BBC want to get a balanced story and hear from Trafigura, on the one hand, and also someone from Green Peace International or a scientific expert, the threats to the BBC are being communicated back via the producers who are saying to the people from Green Peace, “But of course you can’t mention this, this, this, this and this because otherwise we might get into a defamation wrangle with Trafigura”. That seems to me just plain wrong. Let us have an open debate about it.