‘Dangerous’ Calgary-Based Web Site Challenges Causal Link Between HIV, AIDS
Advocacy groups have criticized as "irresponsible" and "dangerous" a Web site sponsored by the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society that challenges the causal link between HIV and AIDS, the Lethbridge Herald reports. The ARAS Web site, launched last week, warns that HIV tests are inaccurate, contends that exposure to toxic or immune-suppressive substances causes AIDS and calls antiretroviral drugs "extremely toxic" and capable of triggering AIDS. "On their home page, they have a list of things they stand for, and the first one on the list is to challenge the dogma that HIV is the cause of AIDS," Les Smolnicky, executive director of the HIV Connection in Lethbridge, Alberta, said, adding, "Ninety percent of the research points to HIV as the cause, but the research doesn't exclude other things. However, the bottom line is that everyone who has died of AIDS has had HIV." Smolnicky also argued that ARAS "could be playing with lives" by "spreading questionable information." He said, "Web sites like this are extremely irresponsible. They're stating half-truths, and stating as fact their side of the argument. It could give people a false sense of security. What I wonder is have these people taken into account that what they're saying could cost someone their life?" Sean Hosein, Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange Web site treatment editor, called the ARAS Web site "dangerous," asking, "Why are they doing this -- I don't think they're intrinsically evil, they're just real people with real fears and let's face it, being diagnosed HIV-positive is not something many people cope with well. They call themselves dissidents, but I think a better term would be denialists." The Internet site contains a number of quotes on the toxicity of AZT and discusses the "limitations and inaccuracies" of HIV testing, but the site primarily questions the causal link between HIV and AIDS. "I think that questioning things is very healthy," Hosein said, adding, "But I do have a problem with promoting mythology. Some of these people seem to lack a basic understanding of science, and in turn misrepresent the truth" (Gallant, Lethbridge Herald, 11/17). To view the Web site, go to www.aras.ab.ca. Fatal Consequences? In a separate Lethbridge Journal news analysis, staff political reporter Joanne Helmer argues that the ARAS Web site indicates a "need for caution" on the Internet, pointing out that the site may "undermine" attempts to warn teens about the dangers of unprotected sex. While Helmer concedes that the new Web site raises questions in an "honest and intellectually responsible manner, with the ultimate intent of furthering scientific inquiry," she adds that the "consequences of being wrong about the origin of AIDS and ... ignoring the practice of safe sex are fatal." She also highlights the "danger" that teens "looking for an excuse to set aside responsible sexual habits" may use the Internet site "as a licence to be careless." Recognizing the "enormous advantages and terrible drawbacks" of the Internet, Helmer concludes, "Fortunately, there are usually people around ... like the AIDS workers in Lethbridge to raise the alarm about this Web site. Knowledge is still power" (Helmer, Lethbridge Herald, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.