Call for AIDS denialists to be held accountable

January 19, 2010

Despite irrefutable proof that HIV treatments have proven benefits, AIDS denialists continue to deny their value. In a paper just published online in Springer's journal AIDS and Behavior, Professor Myron Essex and Dr. Pride Chigwedere, from the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative in the US, provide additional proof that withholding HIV treatments with proven benefits led to the death of 330,000 people in South Africa as the result of AIDS denialist policies. They also show that the harm has not been reversed and highlight that when denialism enters public health practice, as in South Africa, the consequences are disastrous.

AIDS denialists refute that HIV causes AIDS, that are useful, and lastly, that millions of people worldwide have died from AIDS. AIDS denialists represent a growing movement that has considerable visibility on the Internet. Despite their views, it is estimated that from 2000 to 2005, at least 330,000 South Africans died prematurely and 35,000 babies were infected with HIV as a result of former president Thabo Mbeki's decision to withhold antiretroviral drugs, based on advice from American AIDS denialists.

In their thought-provoking paper, Essex and Chigwedere review the potent effects of treatments and their missed opportunities in South Africa. They respond persuasively to AIDS denialist arguments with robust scientific evidence. They also discuss the key implications of the relationship between AIDS denialism and public health practice, using South Africa as the example. Finally, they argue for accountability for the human rights violations and loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, as well as the need to reform public health practice to include standards and accountability.

The authors conclude: "There is a need for honesty and peer review in situations that impact public health policy. When denialism enters public health practice, the consequences are tragic. The implications start in honest science but extend to the need for accountability and, perhaps, reform."

Explore further: 18th annual World Aids Day is observed

More information: Chigwedere P & Essex M (2010). AIDS denialism and public health practice. AIDS & Behavior; DOI:10.1007/s10461-009-9654-7

Related Stories

Resignation of SA health minister sought

September 6, 2006

Pressure is mounting on South Africa's Health Minister to resign for suggesting garlic, lemons and African potatoes as alternative HIV treatment.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.