Reprinted from: Questioning AIDS with Christine
Maggiore, Awareness Magazine November 2002
My Bout of So-Called AIDS
By Christine Maggiore
This past March, I had the unsettling experience of being diagnosed
with an AIDS defining condition. The news arrived with cruel precision
on the 10-year anniversary of my testing HIV positive, coinciding
perfectly with the orthodox axiom that we get a decade of normal
health before our AIDS kicks in.
The diagnosis was based on a grade 3 Pap smear with cervical dysplasia,
a result that insinuates cancer. Devastating enough on its own,
my HIV positive label added a layer of complication.
As you may know, cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer were added
to the AIDS definition in 1993 causing the number of women classified
with AIDS to increase notably. Even though some 65,000 Americans
are diagnosed each year with cervical cancers, and only a small
fraction of these (about .0015%) are among women that test positive,
HIV + cervical abnormalities = AIDS.
I imagined Dr. Matilde Krim cackling with delight at this seemingly
tragic turn of events. Director of the orthodox AIDS research group
AmFar, Krim had pronounced me "delusional" in a national
television broadcast last fall for daring to consider myself healthy.
According to the good doctor, I am merely enjoying the so-called
latency period between testing positive and getting sick. During
her interview, she did everything short of wish I would die of AIDS.
As an outspoken representative for alternative AIDS views, a full
time mascot for healthy HIV positives, and a new mother for the
second time, tackling this challenge was the last assignment I wanted.
The diagnosis was totally inconvenient to my life and work. I fell
prey to despair, called my husband and sobbed into the phone. Together,
we recovered my rationality. I dried my tears and asked the doctor
to perform another test.
Given the unreliability of diagnostics in general, and the fact
that Pap smear slides are read by lab technicians for a matter of
seconds, this seemed a perfectly reasonable request. She refused,
however, imploring me to "stop being in denial," and acquiesced
only after I politely but unrelentingly insisted. Holding my own
was emotionally exhausting, and in the end it felt more as if she
were humoring me than respecting my judgment.
The second Pap came back grade 2, a slightly less concerning level
of diagnosis. According to my doctor, this suggested the presence
of Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, a supposedly contagious condition
associated with cervical cancer. Since I have never been diagnosed
with a sexually transmitted disease, my husband’s never had
one, we’ve been together for six years, and all my previous
Paps have been normal, I questioned the new results. My skepticism
seemed to reinforce her notions I was lolling in denial. Our conversation
I cited information refuting the HPV/cervical cancer hypothesis,
Professor Peter Duesberg’s well-referenced deconstruction
in particular. I recalled how the assumption that HPV caused cervical
cancer had risen to popularity in the late 1970s following the complete
failure of the Herpes Virus/cervical cancer hypothesis of the 1960s.
That according to studies, half the American adult population is
infected with HPV yet only 1 percent of women develop the cancer,
and while equal numbers of men and women have HPV, men rarely develop
My doctor responded by recommending I see a specialist.
After much discussion, the new gynecologist acknowledged the presence
of HPV only correlates with cervical cancer in some cases, and thereis
no evidence of a direct, causal relationship.
Both gynecologists agreed I should disregard the second test and
consider the one indicating cervical dysplasia to be correct. Both
recommended a colposcopy (a fairly invasive and painful procedure),
to prepare for a biopsy, and urged me to act promptly. Instead,
I decided to gather other opinions from holistic health practitioners.
In consultation with a naturopath, I determined I would follow the
gynecologists’ advice and act as if the worst-case scenario
were true, that I had cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. Together,
we created a protocol that would serve to better my health no matter
what diagnosis—if any—were correct. This program included
detox, colon hydrotherapy, digestive enzymes, daily juicing, food
combining, some new supplements, and regular exercise—something
I’d slacked off on since the birth of my daughter. On my own,
I added ozone therapy to the regimen.
Life went on as normal, apart from the whirr of the juicer every
morning and arranging for childcare during the ozone infusions.
Although I vacillated between dauntless, nervously hopeful and scared,
my confidence in what I know about HIV and AIDS did not waiver.
What makes sense in times of health makes the same sense in time
of health challenge. I felt no temptation to suddenly regard my
positive HIV test as an illness in need of treatment. Sometimes
I worried how others might interpret or use my situation, but the
possibility of cancer did not inspire any panicked denouncing or
erosion of what I understand about science, medicine, natural health,
HIV and AIDS. If given a choice, I would have preferred not having
to deal with another dreaded diagnosis, but as long as life dished
it up, I accepted the opportunity to learn.
In August, I had a new Pap smear performed by a third gynecologist.
I used an assumed name and did not mention my HIV status. This time
the result was normal.
My doctor was at lunch when I called with the good news, so I left
a message with the front office manager who was totally unimpressed.
She explained, "That happens all the time. Most women get an
abnormal Pap after having a baby. We just run the test again and
it usually comes back normal. If not, the doctor gives them this
little cream and that takes care of it."
Until that moment, neither doctor had mentioned an abnormal test
was normal after childbirth, that second smears are routinely performed
in such cases, or that there was any "little cream."
I have since discovered that the overwhelming majority of my female
friends—all HIV negative, some with children—have received
abnormal Pap results like mine. For them, a second test was a matter
of course rather than a hard won concession. In every case, their
results reverted to normal with no therapy.
Testing HIV positive often means being treated differently—with
prejudice, based on unfounded assumptions, and as though well informed
decisions are elaborate forms of denial. It seemed the dysplasia
diagnosis confirmed my doctors’ beliefs about HIV, and my
supposed illness was the expected outcome. I felt frustrated, and
even humiliated. I had to insist on getting what everyone else receives
without discussion—the chance to be a healthy human being
until proven otherwise.
Whenever I speak in public someone invariably asks, "If HIV
doesn’t cause AIDS, why do a lot of people who test HIV positive
get sick and die?" I think a better question is: How does anyone
who tests positive remain well?
Between the initial devastation of the diagnosis, the subsequent
social isolation, dire predictions by doctors, lab tests measuring
our remaining time, medical care that assumes our inevitable early
demise, AIDS organizations poised to usher us into death, negative
expectations of friends, family and the public, constant media reports
on the incurable fatal virus, pressure to consume toxic drugs, to
regard ourselves as infected, abnormal, and ill, pitches to sell
off our life insurance, exchange work for disability, and get a
handicapped parking pass, and the orders to keep a safe, latex-covered
distance from people we love, I wonder how so many of us manage
According to official definitions, I had AIDS a few months ago.
I’ll never know if the detox, ozone treatments, and dietary
changes "cured" me, if the diagnosis changed along with
my name, or as with most women, my cervical abnormalities went away
on their own…if they ever existed in the first place. Of one
thing, however, I feel certain: My knowledge and convictions prevented
me from accepting an unverified diagnosis, engaging in unnecessary
invasive procedures, and from believing my ability to live in health
had come to a crashing halt.
All too often, our options are limited by medical authorities that
encourage us to believe the worst, disregard the facts, deny our
intuition, doubt our health, and quietly obey orders. I offer my
experience with hopes that those of you also labeled HIV positive
will create a foundation of knowledge that supports your choices
and that enables you to act in your best interests when faced with
life’s many challenges.