Science Skeptic or HIV Disbeliever?

Dear Christine,

I recently read the article about you in Newsweek called "The HIV Disbeliever." I was astounded by your comments, but as an atheist, I can't condemn you for not believing in what most everyone else does. I also consider myself a scientific person. AIDS is a matter of science, not belief, and with this being a serious medical issue, not believing could cost you your life.

Best wishes,

Brandy D.

Dear Brandy,

Being a religious skeptic myself, I appreciate your letter and your concerns. Despite attending church regularly for the first 14 years of my life, I've never been able to believe in God - at least not the version portrayed in the bible, anyway - and have never felt drawn to a particular religion, even though I've tried. At my parent's urging, I once agreed to accept Jesus in a ceremony at our church. Afterwards, everyone participating enthusiastically testified to suddenly feeling the presence of Jesus in their hearts. But when it was my turn to speak, I had to admit I felt nothing in particular. I couldn't pretend something in order to go along with the crowd, comply with authority, or make my parents happy.

I tried religion again after I was diagnosed HIV positive. I had read that people with AIDS derived comfort and strength from religion and I hoped it would do the same for me. But after trying out several churches of various denominations, I realized that even in a time of crisis, the beliefs still didn't ring true for me.

I find myself in a similar situation with HIV and AIDS. Since the science doesn't add up, participating in the mainstream AIDS system requires leaps of faith I don't feel comfortable making. I cannot follow a medical doctrine that makes little sense simply because it's widely accepted or authorities say itŐs true.

Since no HIV tests actually test for HIV, and no antibody or amplification tests have been validated by the direct finding of HIV, the idea that positive results or viral loads indicate HIV infection seems a matter of faith rather than science.

The 1984 declaration that HIV caused AIDS was made without sufficient evidence, and 20 years later, the best proof scientists can offer to explain how an apparently harmless virus manages to devastate the immune system is mass consensus that it does.

I'm not willing to risk my life and health by taking toxic drugs that despite a startling lack of evidence for their safety and efficacy, are popularly believed to save HIV positives from the hell of AIDS. In fact, there are no studies in the medical literature that substantiate the sort of miraculous patient recoveries featured in the media, and there is no scientific proof for the popular mantra "Treatment = Life." Such proof can only derive from studies comparing matched groups of HIV positives taking and not taking AIDS meds and no study of this kind has been attempted since 1987 when AZT was approved for use. AZT remains the only AIDS drug ever subjected to a true placebo control trial. Today, AZT is regarded as too toxic and dangerous to be administered the way it was during approval studies, and FDA records show the AZT trial was compromised by serious violations of protocol ranging from unintentional mistakes to deliberately altered patient data, unblinded controls, and drug sharing between participants.

In my opinion, AIDS and religion share many common denominators: Acceptance of concepts that conflict with logic and evidence, authority that does not tolerate challenge, indirect answers to direct questions, and the shunning and damning of dissenters. If you check into this issue further, you too may find that AIDS is more like religion than science.

Meanwhile, I remain open to the possibility of a life-altering religious experience and to new information on AIDS that would prove HIV is the cause.

Thanks for writing,



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