Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy

Seeking Stories of AIDS Denialism

Have you or someone you know been harmed by AIDS Denialism? If you, or someone you care about, have been advised to stop taking HIV meds, ignore HIV test results, purchase a 'natural' cure etc., please email me.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Christine Maggiore’s Cause of Death Does Not Matter

It really does not matter what caused Christine Maggiore’s death. Internet sites are clogged with comments debating whether she died of AIDS. This type of back and forth is just another pseudo-debate that we see time and again in AIDS denialism. Christine Maggiore’s death does not have to have been caused by AIDS (although it was) to prove the denialists wrong. The denialists are wrong because their world view is entrenched in conspiracy thinking, intense suspicion, and detachment from objective reality.

In her life, Christine Maggiore was a visible and vocal advocate for a propaganda campaign that undermines the prevention and treatment of HIV infection – among the greatest threats to global public health. In life she was a voice for pseudoscience. Christine Maggiore spread conspiracy theories and ‘deconstructed AIDS’ to disinform and confuse people who are in desperate need of accurate information.

In her death, she has stirred the controversy she helped create. Those who looked to her for inspiration as the person who tested HIV positive and was alive and well without treatment must now confront what it means that she has died an uncommon death from an infectious disease. For some in denial, the death of Christine Maggiore will mean a snap back to reality. But for many others it will not.

It does not matter if Christine Maggiore died of AIDS (although she did). Regardless of why she died, her denialism has caused much harm. Countless people living with HIV/AIDS have been misled only to find themselves grasping for answers as their health diminishes. One week before she died, Christine Maggiore was reported (and retracted) to have communicated the following email about her health:

Regarding my health, I finally figured out what’s going on…but it got really scary. Here’s the scoop I just sent a friend:I have been through the absolute worst health nightmare ever. The cleanse, while definitely bringing about some profound benefits, left me feeling weak and dehydrated. I lost my appetite almost completely about 10 days ago and for some weird reason could only tolerate hot tea and hot chicken broth. I had been in touch with the cleanse doc who said all was typical, uncomfortable but typical. Not one to quit, I kept going. Then I started to have trouble breathing, I was feeling winded after the most simple task like making the bed. This last Sunday, I stopped being able to sleep at all. So finally, genius that I am, I made an appointment to see my MD who is really smart and very well versed in natural health care and not at all into the HIV paradigm.I could only get in to see her yesterday. She said I was totally dehydrated and having a reaction to the herbs in the cleanse which she thought were suspicious. I asked her to check my lungs and she said they sounded clear. I told her I thought I should have a chest Xray anyway, just to be sure, but she was skeptical because I hadn’t had a cold, flu, cough or fever. But I insisted so she wrote me up to go to a radiology place that would give an immediate reading. By then I felt so ill I had to ask my neighbor to drive me and thank god he was there with me because I never would have made it to the radiologist without his help. As it turned out, the Xray showed a very serious case of bi-lateral bronchial pneumonia. The doctor immediately gave me IV rehydration, IV natural cortisone, and IV antibiotic. She said if I did not improve by the next day, I would have to go to the hospital which I argued would give me worse treatment, lousy food and maybe a MRS infection as a parting gift. I went back again today, had more IV treatments and she said if I can make it through the weekend without having to go to the hospital, she will be very happy. She also said I’m pretty tough to have had such severe pneumonia and keep going. I have three natural cortisone treatments I am to take everyday, and today I started with another antibiotic called Z pack which is different from the one used in the IV. It’s a little scary because she asked me if I am allergic to the antibiotics she’s giving me but I’ve never taken them, so I don’t know. She stayed next to me during the IV antibiotic to make sure I was not going into reaction which sort of made me feel like I might be having a reaction! But I didn’t and I slept for the first time since Sunday last night.My appetite is getting back to normal and I am on total bed rest for two weeks. I can’t imagine doing otherwise.

The legacy of AIDS denialism is seen in the same desperation of other people who were led by denialism to feel good only to be shattered as they fell ill. Here are a few such stories accessed at the AIDS Myth Exposed Message Board.

Hi there I am new to this site and have been a member of HEAL Toronto and am a great supporter of and Christine Maggiores work. I consider myself a dissident and am trying to find out the answers to this mystery called HIV/Aids. I tested positive in 1998 and on no treatment and in good health until Apr of this year when I came down with mild case of KS. At this time I unfortunately had to forgo treatment and started treatment at that time and its been ongoing ever since. I must admit that the short treatment did alleviate the symtoms I had within a short period of time. My concern now (knowing what I know about alternative discussions on whether or not hiv is the cause of aids) is that im wondering how long I should stay on the meds. My gut feeling is to stop now but my inner fear dictates otherwise.

Hi, my partner has been diagnosed with having cryptococcal meningitis. He has been doing a slow cleanse for 3 years now, since going cold turkey on all the toxic "hiv/aids" drugs. He's been incredibly healthy but has had some issues that we've been able to work out. But for the past month he had a recurring and progressively worsening headache, migraine type, that traveled into his back. He had to fall back on painkillers to relieve the pain as it was so bad- he is adamantly against taking any drug for anything so this was a tough decision. He was constantly in an epsom salt warm bath or in bed with heating pads and/or ice packs. He was only eating raw fruits and juices and herbal teas. After 3 visits to the ER, again because the pain was so bad, and he was accused of being a painkiller addict, we made the 4th visit the other night. This time they kept him and checked him into a room. They tested for meningitis. I was told yesterday that it was viral meningitis, but they today they said it was cryptococcal

Hi! I need some serious advise in dealing with a serious and very persistent fungal infection that has made things very difficult for me. Before you ask me to seek a naturopath/alternative healer, let me tell you that I have done that three times and have taken herbal remedies worth over thousands of dollars and too many to count in number.Nothing has been able to get rid of my systemic infection. I have followed the diet for over one and a half year, tried IV hyrdogen peroxide, taken OTC remedies, homeopathic remedies (all under different practitioners) but nothing can get rid of this infection. It has affected every part of my health and body including my mental state
I have been a dissident for seven years. I am now being pressured to take an antiretroviral called Atripla starting next week. If anyone might have some advice for me on this topic I welcome it. As a dissident, I stopped having my surrogate markers checked several years ago and because I seemed to be enjoying good health I did not feel it was necessary. Last month I went to the doctor complaining of headaches sinus problems and general malaise which had been plaguing me since November of last year. Because I was supposed to leave on a trip the next week I wanted to get myself well. I was given a CAT scan and put in the hospital after the CAT scan revealed lesions on my brain attributable to Toxoplasmosis. I was in the hospital a week and I am only now returning to work after an absence of three weeks. My family came to see me in the hospital and I was able to avoid the AIDS issue somehow. Strangely enough I was HIV negative two years ago on a test. Anyway, my surrogate markers were 25 for CD4 count and 185,000 for viral load. According to my partner and my doctors, if I had been monitoring my numbers all of the could have been avoided. I do feel somewhat sheepish about what happened to me. I am now left with wondering what to do. I truly never thought that I would end up with an AIDS diagnosis in the hospital.
More than a month after Christine Maggiore's death, there is no word on whether an autopsy was performed and what her cause of death was. Celia Farber's initial posting of Christine Maggiore in her own words has been removed.
Complete silence speaks volumes.


  1. Perhaps these people have been lucky, if that's the right word. AIDS denialism obviously is a very lethal ideology.

  2. I understand your point. Sure seems that luck runs out. I watched the Law & Order SVU 'Retro' episode again last night...they refer to the ticking time bomb of AIDS denialism. Seems fitting here.

  3. How many people followed Christine Maggiore? How many died? Christine Maggiore obviously had a major impact and her death must be hard to explain by deniers. This post helps explian how Christine Maggiore could influence so many people. Thanks

  4. We dont know all the details yet, but we do know that Christine was seriously weakened prior to being diagnosed with pnemonia. She initiated a very ill advised "cleanse" that left her dehydrated and extremely weak, and unable to eat with normalcy. She did not have recurrent pnemonia. Where did you get that?

    Her only crime was in being so distrustful of western medicine that she too fully embraced some dangerous alternative treatments such as "cleansing". I wish you "realists" would spend more time proving how HIV actually kills TCells, actually isolating HIV, and developing a more specific HIV antibody test (if that is possible), and less time calling us dissidents crazy or homophobic, ignoring the many non HIV factors that can cause immune suppression, etc. I for one, am a dissident, despite the fact that my career would have benefited had I never learned certain underreported facts about AIDS and HIV.

  5. A mother has lost a daughter and a granddaughter. A father has lost a wife. A son is growing up without a mother...there are honest reasons behind a distrust of the medi-pharma corporations. She made her decisions based on what she believed were sound. As a child my mother gave me an antibiotic to fight an infection. It ruined my teeth. I don't think my mother wanted that to happen, she made a decision based on information she believed to be sound.

  6. Anonymous 1/13
    Thanks for your comment.

    I understand just what you are saying and I feel exactly the same about Christine Maggiore, half of the time.

    She was misled by a small group of sociopaths who care much more about themselves than others.
    You know, to research Denying AIDS I met Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. I corresponded extensively with Henry Bauer. I corresponded some with Harvey Bialy. I read so much of the junk the denialists have written it made me nauseous at times. Seriously. I can understand why someone with HIV would tune into what they have to say. Christine Maggiore suffered greatly because pseudoscientists sold her on something so foolish as to think that HIV is harmless and medications do more harm than good. Who would not want to believe that?

    Then the other half of the time I consider how she became such a persuasive advocate for denialism herself and how many people suffered because of Christine Maggiore. The people living with HIV who I spoke withabout why they do not bother with safer sex and why they will not even consider HIV treatments because they read her book. I spent considerable time talking with South Africans who fight AIDS denialism every day, trying to undo what Christine Maggiore has done. It is this side of Christine Maggiore that I find unforgivable.

  7. I find the psychology behind all of this perhaps the most intriguing aspect. I'm interested that you'd describe some of the denialists as sociopaths. I'd certainly got that impression with regard to Matthias Rath, who comes across as not even believing half of the things that he says, but just being profoundly interested in his own self-aggrandizement.

    Some of the others seem like more of an enigma though. The character I find most difficult to fathom is Duesberg, given that he reportedly had quite a lot going for him before he embraced denialism, and is now so utterly discredited. I can see that for someone who actually has HIV, denialism could be a comforting way to deal with it. I could also see that for someone who is no great shakes academically but has learned a lot of technical words and figured out how to string them together in a convincing order, AIDS denial could be a way of getting to "be someone", and winning lots of flattering plaudits from the denialist following. But Duesberg doesn't fit there either - any suggestions?

  8. You are on the right track Richard.

    Some denialist are clearly sociopaths and the vitamin entrepreneurs and those who do their pseudoscience are at the top of the pile.

    You are also right about the crusty old academics that never did much with their careers and are using AIDS pseudoscience as a last effort to be known for something.

    You are also right that Peter Duesberg does not fit either of those molds. Truth is the sociopaths, wacky professors, anti-government conspiracy theorists, and others have exploited Duesberg for credibility. Sad thing is that he has and continues to allow the exploitation. A cult hero grown from a sense of betrayal?

    Well, all I can say is Chapter 2 of Denying AIDS takes on the difficult question “who is Peter Duesberg?”

  9. I suppose we'll have to wait for your book to know what you really think, Seth.

    Myself, I don't think Duesberg or the other leading lights of AIDS denialism, the Perthians (Eleopulos-Papadopulos and Turner)are sociopaths: I reckon they genuinely think their ideas will help humanity, although there is a fair dose of arrogance and ego at play.

    Duesberg was a bright scientist with significant achievements at an early age. I suspect that the personality characteristics that drove his achievements - tenacity, single mindedness and confidence in his ideas - came back to bite him later on. True scientific genius requires not only the passion to pursue a line of investigation but also the humility to abandon it when the evidence falsifies it. Duesberg had the first, but not the second. This is a trap that even the most brilliant scientists can fall into.

    AIDS is probably the most emotionally loaded disease on the planet. It pushes all the most difficult psycho-social buttons - sex and sexuality, race, fear of contagion, death, prejudice, money, power. It's like a Rorscharch blot for human controversy.

    This pushes AIDS denialism well beyond the bounds of common or garden scientific crankery, and makes it so dangerous - and interesting.

  10. "True scientific genius requires not only the passion to pursue a line of investigation but also the humility to abandon it when the evidence falsifies it."

    So he must be a true scientific genius since he has already shown humility before by rejecting his own pet project of viral cancer.

  11. In Bialy's personal version of Duesberg's history Duesberg is quoted:

    It was largely a personal matter. I could not refrain from looking hard at any hypothesis Bob [Gallo] was behind. It’s exactly as Gunther [Stent] said to me when we talked about this very point years ago: “If Crick publishes it, you read it thinking it right. With Gallo, it’s the opposite.” In addition, there was the complete improbability of the virus-AIDS hypothesis on first principle, and I just couldn’t ignore it.

    It started as a personal grudge against Gallo and Duesberg has been too arrogant and dogmatic to admit that he was wrong

  12. Wow- Very interesting read from many of whom obviously never met Christine Maggiore and continue to label out of fear and ignorance. If you really knew Christine, then the words arrogant and ego would never be used in the same sentence to describe her.
    I don’t see written here that Christine was tested nearly a dozen times. PCR testing concluded that she was negative sometimes, positive sometimes, indeterminate other times. Christine’s journey began with her acceptance of being HIV positive. She began to educate herself on HIV/AIDS and she sought information about the drugs being used at the time. AZT for example. To call Christine a denilist is flat out a misrepresentation of what she stood for and who she was. Her mission was to uncover and discover the TRUTH.
    I think in all fairness that the “truth” about HIV/AIDS eludes both the so-called denialist and those who support and fear information that may be contrary to popular western medical thinking. No one has all the answers. What if everything you thought about Christine Maggiore was wrong?

    Rob Lawe

  13. Rob Lawe,
    Can you verify that "Christine was tested nearly a dozen times. PCR testing concluded that she was negative sometimes, positive sometimes, indeterminate other times."?
    J. Todd DeShong

  14. It must be true. She is dead. I just had my email returned. A terminated email account is a sure sign of death for a denialist.

    Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
    User unknown in virtual alias table