by Liam Scheff
published at GNN, Accuracy in Media, and Tutto in Vendita
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As a journalist who writes about AIDS, I am endlessly amazed by the difference between the public and the private face of HIV; between what the public is told and what’s explained in the medical literature. The public face of HIV is well-known: HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that particularly preys on gay men, African Americans, drug users, and just about all of Africa, although we’re all at risk. We’re encouraged to be tested, because, as the MTV ads say, “knowing is beautiful.” We also know that AIDS drugs are all that’s stopping the entire African continent from falling into the sea.
The medical literature spells it out differently – quite differently. The journals that review HIV tests, drugs and patients, as well as the instructional material from medical schools, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and HIV test manufacturers will agree with the public perception in the large print. But when you get past the titles, they’ll tell you, unabashedly, that HIV tests are not standardized; that they’re arbitrarily interpreted; that HIV is not required for AIDS; and finally, that the term HIV does not describe a single entity, but instead describes a collection of non-specific, cross-reactive cellular material.
That’s quite a difference.