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, December 2, 2015

Published by Vice
Mark Wilding

On the maternity ward of California's Kaiser Permanente hospital, John and Jessica Strangis found themselves facing a terrible decision. It was the 1st of June, 2014, and the couple were expecting their first child. Jessica had begun feeling contractions at around 4AM that morning, so John called an ambulance, waiting for it to arrive before getting in his car to make the 20-minute drive from their home to the hospital.
    Jessica had gone into labour five weeks early, but there was another complication: John and Jessica were both HIV positive. They knew the doctors would want to give her drugs to prevent the virus being transmitted to their child, but this presented a problem, because both John and Jessica believed those drugs would kill her.
John and Jessica Strangis were HIV denialists, part of a small community that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, questions the link between HIV and AIDS. The theories espoused by denialists vary, but typically come down to a few key beliefs: that HIV does not exist or is benign, and that AIDS is directly caused by recreational drug use or lifestyle choices and is not sexually transmitted. As for the vast numbers of people who have died as a result of the disease? It's the HIV treatment that has killed them.
John's introduction to HIV denialism came in 2011, shortly after he received a positive diagnosis. Like many, he stumbled across denialist ideas while searching for information about his condition online. John decided to reject treatment. A few months later, Jessica did the same. John became a vocal spokesman for the movement, making YouTube videos about denialist ideas. When the couple discovered they were expecting a baby, John discussed various options with denialists online – anything that might allow Jessica to avoid taking HIV drugs. Some suggested travelling abroad. Others recommended a home birth. In the end, the baby's premature arrival meant they had no time to carry out these plans.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

by Nirmalya Dutta

Over the years, HIV/AIDS has evolved from a certain death sentence to a manageable ailment. This metamorphosis didn’t come easy though, because for a long time, the ambiguous nature of the disease gave voice to AIDS denialists who refused to believe the scientific consensus for the disease.
The following individuals and their views fuelled a movement called AIDS denialism, that had many believing AIDS wasn’t caused by HIV. Some of the most infamous proponents of this movement were molecular-biologist Peter Duesberg, chemist David Rasnick, journalist Celia Farber, vitamin salesman Matthias Rath and former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki.

Peter Duesberg – The Cherry Picker
Duesberg’s stance that HIV did not cause AIDS, had disastrous consequences, particularly in South Africa where President Thabo Mbeki was convinced Duesberg was right. He was of the opinion that HIV is a harmless passenger virus and the real cause of AIDS was long-term consumption of recreational drugs and antiretroviral drugs.
Cherry picking is a logical fallacy that often has disastrous consequences in scientific research. It alludes to taking a particular position while ignoring a large amount of data to support your stand. The father of AIDS denialism, a 2008 Discover Magazine feature on Duesberg has HIV/AIDS expert Max Essex suggesting: ‘…history will judge Duesberg as either ‘a nut who is just a tease to the scientific community’ or an ‘enabler to mass murder’ for the deaths of many AIDS patients in Africa.’

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Destructive Legacy of Peter Duesberg and AIDS Denialism

August 17, 2014

Peter Duesberg
Electromagnetism can detect AIDS. The "Complete Cure Device" can wipe out the virus.
The Egyptian military made those claims earlier this year, but now they have backtracked after the announcement was widely denounced by scientists, including Egypt's own science adviser.
Nonetheless, people are still eager to believe the unbelievable. Egypt's announcement prompted 70,000 people to send emails asking to try the new treatment.
The Complete Cure Device is just one more false promise in the ongoing fight against AIDS. It is a reminder, too, that for 15 years, beginning in the early 1980s, AIDS was a slaughter, shrouded in mystery, of people in the prime of their lives.
Then came a breakthrough in 1996: A combination of drugs could control the virus, allowing infected people to live long and productive lives. Today, antiretroviral treatment for HIV and AIDS is widely available. An outright cure still eludes scientists, but the once deadly disease has become manageable.
So any claim for an unproven cure, offering hope that could deter patients from effective treatment, is cruel. But myths, false claims and outright fraud have persisted in the AIDS epidemic.
The bogus theories of Peter Duesberg, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, were responsible for a global setback to HIV treatment. Duesberg argued that combinations of drug use and promiscuous behavior caused the virus, and passed his advice on to South African health officials in 2000.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

   JULY 5, 2014
New York Times

Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?

At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the public believes“Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Turner, Davis, Coleman & Baker

HIV-Positive Pastor Found Guilty Of Knowingly Exposing Woman To Disease

By NewsOne Staff

A Georgia jury found an HIV-positive pastor guilty Tuesday of knowingly exposing a woman to the disease and faces 20 years for the crime, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Craig Lamar Davis (pictured) was said to have sat motionless as the jury read guilty verdicts in two counts of reckless HIV, both of which are felonies. Deliberations took less than an hour. The case was the first of its kind in Clayton County, G., which falls in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

“We are pleased with the verdict,” said Kathryn Powers, deputy chief assistant district attorney, one of three prosecutors in the case, told the Journal-Constitution. “They (jury) were able to weigh the validity of testimony of people who don’t believe AIDS or HIV exist.”
The jury reached a verdict Friday, but wanted to sit on it until Tuesday.

Prosecutors said that Davis , who is now divorced, was a married minister when he had an affair with two women and did not tell either that he was HIV positive, according to CBS Atlanta. During his trial, Davis admitted that doctors diagnosed him with HIV in 2005. And while he admitted having sex with a Fulton County woman, the former pastor denied a sexual encounter with his second accuser, Ronita McAfee of Clayton County.
“As Ronita was upset, panicky, thoughts running through her mind, the defendant’s reaction was to tell her, ‘don’t worry about it. It’s not a death sentence,’” Powers said during the trail. “‘Don’t you worry about it. There is medicine you can take if you catch it early.’”

Davis’ attorney, John Turner, contended that his client never had sex with McAfee and described her as a “nutcase.”
The harsh name calling did not surprise McAfee “I didn’t not expect it,” she said. “I expected it to be said. I just stayed strong in my convictions and continuously moved forward.”
In what may have been the oddest development during the trial, an expert witness for the defense  testified during that Davis’ crack cocaine use at the time may have caused him to be misdiagnosed for HIV and that no test on the market can definitively determine is someone has the virus.

The (current HIV) test is an antibody test,” (Dr. Nancy) Banks told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after her testimony. “They don’t know where those antibodies come from. They’ve never been able to isolate the virus from the protein.”
Banks, who testified on behalf of the defense, was asked to review Davis’ medical records during the time he was alleged to have been diagnosed with the virus. On Thursday, Davis said during his testimony he had used crack cocaine.
“When I looked at the admission history and his physical exam (records), I didn’t think he had a very good history,” Banks said. “The doctor neglected to ask him pertinent questions.”
“What questions?” Baron Coleman, an attorney working with the defense, asked.
“Drug use,” Banks said, noting that crack users often develop symptoms such as thrush and certain types of pneumonia that mimic the HIV virus.
“When people smoke crack cocaine, they can develop crack lung,” Banks said. “His (Davis) X-ray was consistent with that.” She noted that the pneumosistis, a pneumonia often associated with HIV, is usually detected post-mortem. She also said that thrush, a yeast condition also associated with HIV and AIDS, is a side-effect of cocaine use."

The prosecution balked at the argument.

McAfee, 38, says she has consistently tested negative for the virus that causes AIDS, but the Clayton County woman tested positive a a year after her relationship with Davis began.
Now Davis has to defend himself against a similar case in Fulton county. He is set to be sentenced for his conviction from the Clayton County case in February

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GUILTY: AIDS Denialism is a Dumb Defense

By Tammy Joyner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Clayton County jury found a Stone Mountain man guilty Tuesday of knowingly exposing a woman to HIV.
Craig Lamar Davis, 43, sat motionless in a packed courtroom as the jury read guilty verdicts in two counts of reckless HIV, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Davis was taken into custody. Sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 21.
Shortly before being taken into custody, Davis comforted family members, some of whom were crying.
The case is the first of its kind to be tried in Clayton County, prosecutors said after the trial.
“We are pleased with the verdict,” said Kathryn Powers, deputy chief assistant district attorney, one of three prosecutors in the case. “They (jury) were able to weigh the validity of testimony of people who don’t believe AIDS or HIV exist.” Powers also noted the jury’s verdict sends a strong message that it is incumbent that people infected with the virus notify people of their status.
James Walker, the attorney for the woman whose allegations led to the case, said he hoped the verdict “will give others the courage and fortitude to bring these types of individuals to justice.”
District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Tuesday’s verdict sets the stage for a similar case against Davis in Fulton County. The defense conceded Tuesday’s decision could make it tough to try the same case in Fulton.
“It’s hard to override 30-plus years of HIV prejudice and hysteria,” John Turner, Davis’ attorney said. “The (Clayton) jury’s decision reflects that. We clearly established reasons to question the results of (HIV testing). We handed them reasonable doubt on a platter but they chose to disregard it.”
The verdict ended a week of testimony from medical professionals and other witnesses, including a California nonprofit that refutes HIV testing. The Office of Medical and Scientific Justice flew in experts at its own expense to help in Davis’ defense.
“I’m just disappointed by the verdict,” OMSJ director Clark Baker said. He said his organization is considering filing claims against the doctors, hospitals and others who Baker believes misdiagnosed Davis since HIV tests on the market state they can not be used to definitively detect HIV.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lawyer Baron Coleman and His Court Jesters

Clayton County jury returns Tuesday to deliberate HIV case

By Kathy Jefcoats

JONESBORO — Prosecutors said Friday it’s “absurd” to believe a woman would knowingly have sex with a man who is HIV-positive but defense attorneys called the woman a liar.
“(She) lied,” said defense attorney John Turner. “She said they knew mutual acquaintances and that he pressure-washed her car. That’s a lie. If she lied about that, she could have lied about everything else.”
Turner represents Craig Lamar Davis, 43, charged with two counts of reckless conduct by an HIV-infected person. He was married and led the men’s ministry at an Atlanta church, leading some to refer to him as a pastor. Prosecutors allege Davis had unprotected physical relations with a woman at his Jonesboro home without disclosing he is HIV-positive.
Davis is also charged in Fulton County with the same charges involving a second woman. That woman testified in the state’s case and the jury is allowed to consider her account as they deliberate Davis’ fate.
Turner and co-counsel Baron Coleman of Alabama, and prosecutors Erman Tanjuatco, Katie Powers and Marcus Thorpe completed their cases by Friday and closing arguments began at 1:15 p.m. Neither woman is being identified by Clayton News Daily because they are considered victims of alleged sexual assaults.
The jury got the case after 5 p.m. Friday but returned to Judge Geronda Carter’s courtroom an hour later to say they wanted to stop deliberations and resume them Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Court is dark Monday because of the King holiday.
Before the short deliberation, jurors heard one last time from the attorneys. Because the burden is on the state to prove the charges, Tanjuatco and Powers spoke first and last with Turner and Coleman addressing the panel in between the two.
“The defense is absurd,” said Powers, who went first. “It’s smoke and mirrors.”
Powers said the case comes down to a battle of the experts. The state presented Davis’ treating physicians, infectious disease expert Joyce Drayton of Decatur, and Courtney Shelton. Both doctors told Davis he was HIV-positive in 2004 and 2005 and prescribed HIV medications for him.
Drayton testified that Davis had full-blown AIDS in 2005 when he presented at Atlanta Medical Center with thrush and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, known as PCP, an infection commonly found in patients with AIDS.
Drayton also testified that she counseled Davis on taking care of himself and preventing the spread of the virus to others. In fact, Davis brought another woman he had infected to Drayton’s office for treatment, the doctor testified.
Turner and Coleman brought in three experts, all considered “AIDS denialists” associated with Office of Medical and Scientific Justice. The group believes the HIV and AIDS viruses don’t exist and works to exonerate defendants accused of criminally exposing others to HIV. All three underwent a scathing cross-examination by Powers, who got them to admit they never examined or interviewed Davis and reached their conclusions based on incomplete documents provided by the defense attorneys.
One of the experts, Dr. Nancy Turner Banks, admitted she thinks AIDS is an “imaginary monster” that can be defeated if patients are emotionally balanced and drink water and eat cilantro. Banks also testified that HIV is not sexually-transmitted, a position backed by David Rasnick, who took the stand after Banks.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

HIV deniers play part in Atlanta bareback case

Project Q Atlanta
By Matt Hennie | Jan 16, 2014 | 12:44 PM
It's tough to tell what's worse in a metro Atlanta case criminalizing HIV: a prosecutor comparing the disease to a deadly weapon, the accused man arguing his HIV status can't be proven or HIV deniers spouting their junk science.

The trial of Craig Lamar Davis opened on Monday in a Clayton County court and quickly turned into a three-ring circus. Davis faces two counts of failing to disclose his HIV status before having sex, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Gay and HIV activists criticize the law, saying it prevents people from getting tested and further stigmatizes people with the disease. Prosecutors say Davis, 42, had sex with two women, didn't use condoms and exposed them to HIV.
But the case has put people with HIV and the tests used to detect the virus on trial as much as Davis.
A prosecutor overreached in his opening statement, going all weapons of mass destruction.
“When he wakes up in the morning, he has it with him. When he eats lunch, he has it with him. When he goes to bed at night he carries it with him,” Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Powers told a jury Tuesday. “Unlike the deadly weapons you can see - like a gun, knife or a bomb, this deadly weapon is something people have to rely on the defendant to tell them about.”
Davis has done his part, too, casting doubt on whether he's really HIV-positive, despite writing exactly that on jail intake forms after an arrest in 2009. Doctors diagnosed him as HIV-positive in 2005, according to prosecutors.
"Upon what my attorney just said, I would say no," Davis says in response to a reporter's question about whether he's HIV-positive. Watch his cofounding statements in the clip above.
His attorney, John Turner, weighed in. You know, to say that HIV tests are bunk.
Defense attorney John Turner told the jury not to be swayed by the state’s dramatic opening. Stick to the facts and the fact is, Turner said. ”There is no definitive test - scientific or medical for (the detection) of HIV. No such thing.”
So you say? Uh-huh. Where'd the notion come from? You can thank the HIV deniers of Los Angeles-based Office of Medical and Scientific Justice, which has inserted itself into Davis' case. Say what you want about whether bareback sex should result in criminal charges, but to argue that HIV doesn't really exist and tests that prove its existence are junk science is, well, a bit of junk science on its own.
“We expect this case will corroborate what we’ve found in all of our other cases … and that is the testing, diagnosis and treatment of HIV in this country is wildly inaccurate and inflated and incompetent,” Baker said.
The gay panic defense has gone mostly away, only to be replaced with an equally offensive HIV deniers defense. Oh sweet progress.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tommy Morrison Died Tragically of Denial

By Tom Friend |
Tommy Morrison died Sunday night of an undisclosed illness. But for all intents and purposes, he died of denial.
In 1996, Morrison was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In 1997, he told me he was still having unprotected sex with his first wife.
"I'll trust an attorney before I'll trust a doctor," he said.
I'm not sure how many wives he ended up with (I lost count after the fourth), but nothing ever changed. His last wife, Trisha, recently told's Elizabeth Merrill that they, too, had had unprotected sex. As far as Tommy was concerned, his HIV never existed. He searched high and low for rogue doctors who would assure him he was fine, who would clear him to go back to boxing. He was nothing without boxing, nothing without sex -- so he looked the other way.
He tried AZT for a month and threw it in the trash; he thought the HIV therapy drug taken by most HIV patients was propoganda. His family staged an intervention to get him back on meds, but he cursed at them and said, "I will lay down and die before I take any drugs." Magic Johnson tried to reach out to him in 1996 -- the same Magic Johnson who is thriving 22 years after his own HIV diagnosis -- and Tommy Morrison plum ignored him.
"I remember talking to Magic the day I announced I had HIV," Morrison told me in 1998. "He was preaching, 'Do what your doctor tells you.' Well, I didn't have a doctor then, so I got down on my knees and I prayed. Every day, I was like, 'God, what do I do?' Hell, I saw myself dying. And then I started getting all these books in the mail, and they all said, 'Don't worry about it. Just live your life.' So that's what I did."

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rethinking AIDS Denialism: Former Boxing Champ Tommy Morrison

Tommy Morrison's

 latest big fight

Former heavyweight contender

 has waged battles inside and 

outside the ring

In a house on the edge of a dead-end road, an old woman waits for her son to die. The call will come any day now, she says, and when it does, she wants her youngest boy to be buried in Sulphur Springs, Ark., with the rest of the family. She dreads and hopes for this call, if that makes any sense. Only none of it makes sense.

Diana Morrison crushes a Pall Mall, lights another and dissects her son's fate. She's matter-of-fact about it, barely emotional, perhaps because Tommy Morrison, former World Boxing Organization champion, former HIV cautionary tale, has stared at death before. But this time it's different.
Morrison with David Syner,
Producer of AIDS Denialist
 film "House of Numbers"

She says he has full-blown AIDS. She believes he's in his final days. His skin is jaundiced; his liver is failing. "He's too far gone," she says, flashing an incredulous look when asked whether he could recover. "He's in the end stages. That's it." She says Morrison has been bedridden for a year, can't speak and is being kept alive with the help of a feeding tube and a ventilator.

Tommy Morrison passed away Sept. 2 2013

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

AIDS Denier Clark Baker Needs a Real Job

HIV Denialist’s Suit Against Blogger Should Be Tossed, Sperlein Says

By Rhett Pardon, SAN FRANCISCO
Adult industry attorney Gill Sperleinfiled court papers Friday on behalf of Todd DeShong, a blogger accused of trademark infringement and defamation relating to his criticism of notorious AIDS denialist Clark Baker and his organization the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice (OMSJ). 

Baker believes the pharmaceutical industry promotes faulty HIV tests in order to sell HIV-suppressing drugs; DeShong, meanwhile, believes early HIV testing and treatment saves lives.

But the importance of accurate testing is well known in the adult entertainment industry, Sperlein said.

According to court documents, Baker first attempted to shut down DeShong’s website by filing a UDRP complaint, accusing DeShong of infringing the trademark “HIV Innocence Group.”

The UDRP arbitrator disagreed, ruling that OMSJ was actually guilty of reverse domain name high jacking because OMSJ clearly knew DeShong was legitimately using the mark when it filed its complaint, Sperlein said.

Undeterred, Baker and OMSJ sued DeShong in federal court for trademark infringement, defamation, and business disparagement.

But Sperlein and a team of attorneys came to DeShong’s defense filing two separate motions to dismiss Friday, arguing that the trademark claims should be dismissed because DeShong’s use of the mark was fair use and the defamation related claims should be dismissed because DeShong’s statements were either opinion or factually accurate.

Sperlein also argued that the claims were brought after the statute of limitations had passed.

DeShong’s pro bono defense team also includes another industry attorney, Gary Krupkin, who serves as local counsel; Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen; and Neal A. Hoffman of the Houston firm Bush & Ramirez.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

David Rasnick for the Defense: How AIDS Denialists Help Prove You Are Insane

Updated: Friday, 28 Jun 2013, 6:41 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 28 Jun 2013, 7:14 AM EDT

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) - A New York drug dealer imprisoned in the 1990s amid accusations he infected 13 young women with HIV lost his bid for freedom Friday despite having completed his sentence more than two years ago.
A jury in western New York found that Nushawn Williams, 36, suffers from a mental abnormality that makes him subject to "civil management" and will either be confined to a secure treatment facility or kept under strict supervision, according to the attorney general's office.
"With this determination, Mr. Williams will get the treatment he needs and the citizens of New York will be safer," said Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The Chautauqua County jury deliberated for just over an hour. A hearing will be held to determine Williams' level of management.
Williams, who now goes by the name Shyteek Johnson, completed a 12-year sentence for statutory rape and reckless endangerment in 2010.
But state officials sought his continued imprisonment and described him as a mentally disturbed, sex-obsessed drug user likely to infect more women if set free. A psychologist's report said Williams targeted vulnerable young women who were underage and/or drug addicted and "used charm and coercion to secure sexual contact."
Before the trial's start, Williams' lawyer John Nuchereno claimed that a new test showed that Williams isn't HIV positive. Nuchereno argued that without HIV, Williams is not a danger and should be freed.

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