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.

All information will be kept confidential.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How AIDS Denialism Can Kill You Part III: Lambros Papantoniou

In Memoriam, Lambros Papantoniou
by George N. Pavlakis, Rockville, MD USA
[Reposted in honor of Lambros]
Note that this story was originally posted in December 2009. I have been in touch with more of Lambros' friends who have confirmed the horrific acts of AIDS Denialists described in this touching essay. AIDS Denialists are on notice... you are on the minds of loved ones. SCK

What do you do about someone who claims to be an expert, serving up half-truths, twisting the facts in credible-sounding sentences and misleading a patient? There must be some rules that apply to someone who professes to be an expert and induces patients to stop their doctor-prescribed medication. These must be applied to prevent harm to more patients. And what if these actions lead to the patient’s death?

Such is the case of Lambros Papantoniou, a journalist living in Washington, a diplomatic correspondent for several Greek media institutions for more than 30 years and a man loved by all who met him. Even in the higher political echelons of Washington, he was affectionately known as “Mr Lambros”.

During a hospital stay approximately ten years ago, Lambros was diagnosed with AIDS and given anti-retroviral therapy. Following this, his interest in the AIDS problem skyrocketed, and he sought information on it. Although he was a diplomatic correspondent, he reported on AIDS issues several times.

 Unfortunately, Lambros attracted the attention of Andrew Maniotis, a scientist and self-proclaimed expert on many fields, and AIDS denialist. Dr. Maniotis is not a medical doctor, nor a pathologist, as he occasionally describes himself. He is not a tenured professor, nor a tenure-track candidate for a higher academic career. At times he denies he is an “AIDS denialist,” but this term accurately describes public opinions. He does not shy away from controversy and publicizes na├»ve opinions that contradict the established knowledge and medical science, trying to nullify the medical gains of generations of researchers and doctors.

Maniotis claims that Lambros was like a brother to him. With such brothers, who needs enemies? The two men became friends, and Maniotis visited Lambros often in the last few years, his influence growing stronger and stronger, ultimately convincing him that HIV did not exist. Lambros stopped taking his medication and the result was devastating. After his death, Lambros’s family and friends found his medication in his refrigerator, untouched since 2007. Instead of his life-saving doctor prescribed medicine, Lambros was convinced to consume Maniotis-promoted vitamins.

During 2007, increasingly influenced by Maniotis, Lambros became more aggressive in interrogating scientists and government officials about AIDS. In his attempts to discredit Dr. Robert Gallo, Maniotis urged Lambros to seek an interview with Gallo, hoping to confront him with an AIDS denialist agenda and publish articles containing slander and misinformation.

Dr. Gallo took the bait and spoke with Lambros openly and frankly. To his credit, Lambros published a series of articles in which he reported on the issue ethically and to the best of his ability. Undaunted by this failure, Maniotis intensified his efforts to convince Lambros of his outlandish ideas on AIDS. Lambros was finally convinced and published an extensive interview, in which Maniotis disputes all scientific facts about HIV and AIDS, advising HIV positive people, like Lambros himself, to stop taking their doctor-prescribed medication and to rely on vitamins and other unproven methods.

Unfortunately, Lambros’ non-scientific background and his personal vulnerability as an HIV positive person got the best of him, and he became more and more a spokesperson of the AIDS denialists, putting his complete trust in Maniotis.

This trust eventually cost him his life. He simply stopped taking his medication. Already hospitalized once, Lambros’s health depended on blocking HIV through anti-retroviral drugs. Without this protection, the virus continues to damage the immune system, until the patient becomes vulnerable to a multitude of common infectious agents, which would ordinarily be blocked by a functioning immune system. With the medication, he likely would have lived a longer and healthier life.

Having finally succumbed to Maniotis’ 'freindship', at several White House and State Department briefings in Washington, Lambros asked hostile nonsensical questions repeating the statements of Maniotis verbatim. He asked whether anyone had actually seen the virus. He accused the medical profession of poisoning the “so-called AIDS” patients with drugs.

In retrospect, Lambros’ increasingly erratic behavior can be partially explained by his deteriorating health. HIV ultimately landed him at Howard University Hospital under unclear circumstances. The most likely scenario is that he was found confused and disoriented and was taken to the closest emergency room. He had developed encephalitis, a common outcome of end-stage HIV infection. He was later transferred to Georgetown Hospital, where he died of encephalitis. During his more lucid moments at the hospital, Lambros told his friends he was dying of AIDS.

In the meantime, Maniotis, having the trust of Lambros’s family, was calling both hospitals and arguing about prescribed treatments, accusing medical personnel of trying to kill Lambros, all while denying the existence of AIDS. The doctors found the situation highly distracting and asked that Maniotis does not contact them. The Greek Embassy had to intervene and tell Maniotis to back off.

During this last period of his life, Lambros was clearly very sick and confused, making several statements reflecting this confusion. To their shame, AIDS denialists are promoting these statements on the Internet in order to build up their own agenda, disrespecting the memory of a sick and confused man, and, of course, not acknowledging their part in his death.

"Nobody really knows why he's gone," claims Maniotis. But in the end, Lambros knew, and so do we. He died of encephalitis following the collapse of his immune system, an outcome of HIV infection. We know from millions of other cases that, had he taken his anti-retroviral medicine and prevented further damage by HIV, he could have had many more productive years.

Some of us who knew him also feel a bit guilty at times about not being able to protect him more from predators like Maniotis.

Consequently, we feel that along with celebrating his contributions, his achievements, his life of giving, of helping many people in his community, we also need to tell his true story. Lambros was a defender of our democratic ideals, a stalwart defender of the truth, a man who gave freely of himself, his time and the limited money he had, helping countless people in his neighborhood in Washington, in cities throughout the U.S. and in Greece. He is missed even by those he criticized.
We must honor him by not allowing his death to be used to hurt others. We must not be silent, as silence did not become Lambros himself.

As a generation of AIDS activists realized some time ago, Silence = Death.

May 28, 2009 - Lambros Papantoniou of Washington D.C. passed away peacefully this morning.

He was 63, weeks shy of his birthday on July 4th, the American holiday which filled this proud immigrant son of Greece with immense honor.

Mr. Papantoniou, known to official Washington for decades as "Mr. Lambros," was the Washington diplomatic correspondent for the Greek daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos, Radio Thessaloniki, and the U.S.
weekly newspaper Greek News.

He was born on July 4, 1945 in Mandra Xanthi, a village in Greece's Western Thrace region. His parents were refugees, who fled from Asia Minor in 1922 to settle in Greece.

He studied law at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, and arrived in the United States in 1973. He studied international law and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his Master's Degree and Juris Doctorate.

In 1975, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, he began working as a journalist, specializing in U.S. foreign policy issues relating toGreece, Turkey, Cyprus and the Balkans. Over the course of a prodigious career, he was correspondent to many Greek and Greek-American Media, and participated at numerous foreign policy conferences and panels in the United States, Greece, Cyprus andAustralia.

A member of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, D.C., he is survived by three sisters and one brother in Greece, one brother in Boston, and his beloved nephew Stavros Stavrakis, who resides in Philadelphia with his wife Vasiliki and their children Prometheus, Aristotle and Elektra Cynthia.


  1. Let me get this straight, Seth. He was diagnosed with AIDS 10 years ago and went on ARV therapy. Took the meds until 2007 and then died two years after stopping the meds. Wow, it's amazing how much of a typical, text book story this is.
    If he was diagnosed with AIDS and not just HIV+, that means he probably had a low T~Cell count. With the meds, he lived a healthy life for 8 years. Stopped the meds and was dead in two years.
    Do you think any of the denialists will see this text book example and make a change? Or will they continue to kill others?
    Of course that is a rhetorical question.

  2. JTD
    The author of the essay was a friend of his whose first language is Greek. The essay has been copyedited for minor grammar. Still, it is unclear if he was diagnosed with HIV or AIDS 10 years ago. Either way, what happened with Lambros is exactly what we fear can happen in denialism. It is not the crazies and what they are is the vulnerabilities of those who may listen.

  3. Another one bites the dust ?


    "Winnie was such a lovely friend. She was fun-loving, with a huge sense of humour and a wonderful laugh, but she was also fiercely determined to support those whom she felt had been misled about AIDS and AIDS medication.
    As you know she was a dedicated volunteer at Continuum Magazine, which is where I met her."

  4. JTD, I only have second-hand knowledge of the case via George Pavlakis, but it is my understanding that Lambros P did indeed start receiving ARVs about 10 years ago, and took them until 2007, when Maniotis persuaded him to stop. That decision to stop taking ARVs killed Lambros P, within 2 years. During that time, those who knew Lambros P say that he became increasingly mentally disturbed. Once it became clear that he died of AIDS-related encephalitis, caused by an OI within the brain, the reason for his confused mental condition became clear to his friends.

    Lambros P was well known in the Greek professional community in the USA, and also among Washington-based journalists and the Diplomatic Corps.

    One significant feature of this case is that a prominent man died of AIDS as a direct result of the actions of a specific, known AIDS denialist. Lambros P joins the very many less well known, or unidentifiable, people who have suffered the same tragic fight over the years at the hands of the AIDS denialist movement.

  5. Wait, so he was sick BEFORE ARVs? Unheard of! And somehow these uber-AIDS-causing-meds made him...better(?) until he stopped them? Wow! That is almost exactly as one would predict using common sense. Now how do you suppose the denialists rationalize this away? On that token, how many more will they rationalize away until they finally get a clue?

  6. I like Pavlakis' comment:

    "We must honor him by not allowing his death to be used to hurt others. We must not be silent, as silence did not become Lambros himself.

    As a generation of AIDS activists realized some time ago, Silence = Death."

    Of course, speaking openly and honestly about what actually happened to the denialists' victims draws predictable "dancing on their graves" accusations or Celia Farbers "I want to contribute toward a much needed silence".

    Of course silence is what the denialists want - because they don't want people asking too many questions about who is responsible for setting up the denialist trap.

  7. This post also makes me more concerned about Noreen and what is going on that we haven't heard from her in forever.

  8. So much for continued ARV treatment

    TAC loses one of its long standing members from Atlantis, Cape Town: Uncle John Vollenhoven
    31 August, 2009 - 11:05 — moderator

    Uncle John, a 59 year old TAC member who had been openly living with HIV, will be missed. He joined TAC in 2000 and was one of the founders of TAC Atlantis branch on the West Coast of Cape Town. He was very active in the community through gardening projects for support groups. He was also one of the first members to receive ARV treatment with the TAC Treatment Project under Dr Peterson at the time when ARV’s were not available in South Africa. He served as a Treatment literacy educator in the local clinics and hospital in Atlantis. Many TAC members know him as Uncle John.

    We are sad to inform you that he passed away on 29th August 2009 at 13h35 after a long struggle with his health. He leaves his wife, his five children, his branch members and support group members, including members from “Beat it” behind. His contribution to the struggle will never be forgotten.

    We salute you Uncle John for your leadership and contribution in the struggle against TB and HIV in South Africa. We will remember you. Rest in peace! Lala Ngoxolo Qabane! Sikwathi Tutwini nakwizizwalana zakho Akuhlanga lungehlanga Thuthuzelekani

    For any contribution towards the funeral please contact Terens Crow 078 161 7558, Tantaswa Ndlelana 021-422 1700, Deena Bosch 021 422 1700 and Fredalene Booysen 073 206 3611.

    Vuyiseka Dubula

    TAC General Secretary

  9. Snout is right. Lambros Papantoniou will not be forgotten. His Greek professional friends are furious about what happened to him. They will never forget the role Andrew Maniotis, who is also a Greek, played in his death. It's a small world, the Greek professional community in the USA. Personally, I hope that Lambros's real friends find a way to have Maniotis prosecuted for what he did. Professional and cultural consequences seem too little a punishment for his actions, and the law should be brought into play. That's not my call though, although I wish it were.

    Although Lambros P embraced AIDS denialism in the last 2 years of his life, it is now clear that this happened while he was suffering from the neurological complications of AIDS. He was literally not of sound mind at the time (of course most of the AIDS denialists are also not of sound mind, but they usually don't have a medical reason for their conduct, at least not one of infectious origin). I don't know if the AIDS Truth folks will add Lambros P to the "Denialists who died of AIDS" page. Personally, I don't think they should as, like I say, he wasn't really an AIDS denialist. That page, by the way, is one of the most effective single pages on AIDS Truth. It reminds wannabe AIDS denialists of what could happen to them if they join that lethal clique and embrace its teaching. And it focuses the minds of journalists on what the real issues are - that AIDS denialism is a culture of death.

    I suspect that there would be much more of a PUBLIC outcry against AIDS denialists if their internet activities had taken place in the years between 1985 and 1995, when of course there WAS no internet. In those years, AIDS was taking its maximum toll in the USA, and the steady onslaught of deaths and obituaries focused the minds of the public. Nowadays, thanks to ARVS, far fewer people die of AIDS in the USA, so as the folk memory of the "bad old days" fades, the evil activities of the AIDS denialists attract less attention, and hence less criticism, from the "real world".

    The same dynamics apply to the activities of the anti-vaccine crazies (Andrew Maniotis is one of them, by the way). These people would not have been tolerated in our parents' and grandparents' generations, when childhood (and some adult) infections killed so many more people than die nowadays. Society has forgotten just how horrible some of the childhood infections could be, and how awful it was for parents to lose their children to pathogens that are now vaccine-preventable. It's a paradox that vaccination has been so successful as to remove the fear of death that drove society's scientists and physicians to develop the very vaccines that are so successful........ Instead, fear of imaginary, rumored, alleged or trivial side effects now lead people to fear the vaccines, and ignore the lethal pathogens. It's a crazy, sad world.

  10. It's an apparent paradox that the successful campaign against many common infectious diseases has actually given the Denialists room to deny.

    David Crowe is one of the HIV Denialists who also deny that poliovirus causes polio. Crowe can do this because the consequences of denial are not immediately apparent at least in Western countries where polio is virtually eradicated. If people in Western countries were still dying or being crippled from polio then there is no way that people like Crowe could play these silly games.

    Denialism can only thrive when the consequences of denial are not immediately apparent. Likewise the clinically latent period between infection with HIV and progression to AIDS gives the Denialists scope to deny. Unfortunately, for most people the consequences of denial will eventually catch up.

  11. Poodle Stomper: Noreen posted on a poz listserv a couple of days ago. She didn't mention her current state of health.

    John Moore: Of course Lambros belongs on the AIDStruth list of denialists who have died. He bought Maniotis's lies, quit the ARV treatment that was working for him, got sick, and died. He was both in denial and actively spreading denialist. His countrywoman Maria Papagiannidou - Saint Pierre has also reportedly been sick with PCP.

  12. "David Crowe is one of the HIV Denialists who also deny that poliovirus causes polio."

    I hadn't heard that before. Sadly this would also not come as a surprise.

  13. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it!"

  14. I hadn't heard that before. Sadly this would also not come as a surprise.

  15. "HIV Denialists who also deny that poliovirus causes polio" are examples of what Mark Hoofnagle(of Denialism Blog/Science blogs) calls "Crank Magnetism",i.e. if you believe in one form of pseudo-science you're more likely to believe in other forms. So the AIDS denialist is also an anti-vaccinationist.(Or if you believe in *mythic* creatures you may also *not* believe in real viruses).

  16. "" *faints*
    The stupidity is too much.

  17. And now that Christine's post mortem has proven she did not die of the mythical AIDS , what are you and your parasites going to come up with now.

    Kyle Shields

  18. Is this how you keep your funding going by posting old blogs with comments on it to make it seem like people are interested in your site?

    Must be a sad state of affairs for you or is it just grant application time again?

    Exactly where is the proof that HIV causes AIDS? and pleeeeease don't reference the debunked rubbish at AIDSTRUTH again.

  19. Why Anonymous?

    The reason for reposting the Lambros story will be obvious very soon. It needs to be side-by-side with my next post.

    I spoke with another friend of Lambros' this evening. Lambros was loved by many people. Their hearts were broken when they learned that he had stopped taking his antiretrovirals. They remain outraged that Andrew Maniotis interfered with Lambros' medical care... calling his doctors to insist that Lambros not receive treatment for HIV. I am hoping that people continue to contact me with their AIDS Denialism experiences.

    Thanks for your comment.

  20. I know that Maniotis even claimed that Lambros' doctors told Maniotis over the phone that Lambros had AIDS. Maniotis has claimed this was in direct violation of Lambros' HIPAA rights.

    When I read that by Maniotis, I knew it sounded fishy. If that were true, Maniotis would definitely have filed suit against those doctors. Yet from what you posted above, Maniotis and the doctors had the express permission of Lambros' family to discuss the situation!

    Boy, this Andrew Maniotis is quite the liar. Let's not forget he lies about his credentials. He also lied, slandered and libeled Gallo to such an extreme that Maniotis was forced to publicly apologize AND correct all the lies he told about Gallo!!

    Yeah, Andrew Maniotis has all the credibility, integrity and humanity of a typical AIDS Denialist!

  21. I just recently came across this "AIDS denialism" business and I am stunned. How on earth are there people that listen to this insanity? How on earth are there people that stop their medications listening to insane theories that make absolutely no sense?

    The whole AIDS denialism is a bizarre theory that has no basis. The only intelligent "denialist" is Duesberg, but his theories are so obviously flawed and proven wrong. He has gone the wrong way from the beginning and his ego apparently does not allow him to retract his bizarre theories despite the overwhelming evidence disproving them. The rest of the AIDS denialists can not be taken seriously at any level. Their arguments are totally laughable. Unfortunately there are people who believe them with tragic consequences, as in this case. The whole thing is pathetic.

    1. OMG, comments like this make me feel misanthropic. Just how people can be so stupid and allow to be manipulated to such an extent, is a mystery to me. Are we all sheep in the end of the day? I guess we are. Just open your mind and allow yourself to think, you have such a thing as brain, which normally gives some reasoning capacity, if you are lucky )) To believe in hiv-aids scam is so ridiculous nowadays, only complete idiots do it, those who don't bother to think.