Science, Public Should Give Dissident HIV Theories Closer Attention, Columnist Says
"HIV dissidents" who question the causal link between HIV and AIDS "continue to make waves in the debate over AIDS research," but scientists and the media should perhaps listen more closely to their arguments, Brooke Shelby Biggs, contributing editor of Mother Jones, writes in a "Web exclusive" opinion piece. Biggs states that a number of "extremely passionate activists and a few well-respected scientists" have peppered the Internet with their dissident theories, which state that there is "insufficient evidence" that HIV causes AIDS. Dissidents generally believe that the connection between the two "has gained wide acceptance with the help of an irresponsible press." More "radical" dissenters, however, "assign malicious intent to scientists and companies at the forefront of AIDS research, going so far as to claim a conspiracy to keep the gay and minority communities sick and dependent," Biggs states. She states that although dissidents have established some Web sites, such as virusmyth.com, scientists often dismiss their theories. "Resistance to giving the HIV dissenters' views a fair airing extends deep into the scientific community," she says. Biggs writes that although "science is slippery," the "preponderance of evidence indicates that AIDS is caused by [HIV], is contagious and is a global health crisis." She adds that the "danger" in publicizing theories that HIV may not cause AIDS lies in that "some people won't hear that word 'may' and will have unprotected sex thinking the HIV-AIDS connection is bogus." However, Biggs concludes that more attention should be given to alternative theories on the link between HIV and AIDS, stating, "If the skeptics' instincts prove wrong, how much have we lost by making the effort to hear them out?" (Biggs, Mother Jones, 5/25). To join a Mother Jones discussion group on whether HIV causes AIDS, click here.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.