What is AIDS Denialism?

The following essay was originally a letter in a series for a long interview process for the Village Voice. Find the earlier exchanges and context [Here].

Denialism: The inability to ask questions; the suppression of investigation; an attack and silencing of critical thinking.

This letter refers to many things, but most of all the drugging of orphans in New York City in government clinical trials. Read that story [Here].

azt pregnancy

bone marrow toxicity

drugs 1

exam 1

genentech vaccine

generally healthy


gtube 2

icc baby

healthy volunteers

I see this push to drug incessantly, without consideration of the actual effects on the patients – orphaned children in this case – like an ‘August Madness.’ You put the name “Aids” in front of some people – well-intentioned perhaps, liberal by and large – and all critical thinking, all small-scale compassion, all normal sense of boundary with human beings blows away and is replaced by a fervor to drug despite pain from the drugs, to drug without permission, without consent; to drug even through machinery – tubes inserted surgically, for the children who dare refuse, or whose vomiting and diarrhea is their only available protest.

I’m thinking about the term that the pharmaceutical activists, who man the Wikipedia and AidsTruth.org, have chosen for those of us (like myself) who talk critically about Aids.

“Denialist.” What does it mean? There is no single way of thinking about Aids from a critical point of view. I’m critical of the tests, and drugs, and the severity of the diagnosis; some people are on about causation, some about just the drugs, some about just the general theory (sex). But no one ‘denies’ that a lot of people died in the early and mid 80s, or that many more people died in the early 1990s after the introduction and in the first blush of high-dose AZT monotherapy, and that mortality reduced after the doses were lowered, and the new drugs took AZT’s place.

Or that African mortality (poverty, etc) far outstrips what we now experience in the Western world (though not 200 years ago, or even 100, or even 50, in some parts of the country and Europe). I don’t know anyone who ‘denies’ that people have died, or the numbers – but we’re willing to look at drug toxicity as a problem. We’re willing to look at the severity of the diagnosis as a problem; we’re interested in complexity, the details of an applied technology, social and scientific history and inheritance, diagnostic differences from state to state, region to region, country to country – or lab to lab, agency to agency, and test to test. And apparently, to a few people with bullhorns, that makes us ‘denialists!’

The other ‘denialists’ they’re drawing a parallel to are people who deny the German military and medical holocaust against the Jewish and other peoples in Europe. Who denies that? I don’t know anyone who denies that. It is in me to remember – my people are doctors, Russians, Germans, and Jews. How can I not understand the Holocaust? But does everybody forget that the German Holocaust was based on ‘scientific’ principle?

That it emerged from Eugenics? From emerging sciences of population control and monitoring, based on valuation of people as ‘worthless eaters,’ ‘feeble-minded’ and the ‘unfit’ – those unfit to breed. Do we forget that this country – our country – carried out over 60,000 forced sterilizations, up to 1979? Germany over 300,000 on their own non-Jewish citizens, before the ‘final solution’ was made a reality on the Jews of Europe? Sweden – little socialist-democratic Sweden – over 60,000 state-mandated sterilizations for the purposes of ‘healthy breeding?’

This was science. It wasn’t called ‘denialism’ or ‘nazi-ism.’ It was just science, in practice. Science is not a church. It is not supposed to be unquestionable, or received as a holy writ. Science is not, by nature, perfectible. It is always contestable, improvable, and must remain, always, open to re-evaluation. Technology is something people do well, but it is not, by its nature, ethical, or ‘right.’ It’s just something we, as a species, create. So, what is an HIV test? What do AIDS drugs do in the body? What do they do, have they done, to these children?

If we can’t ask these questions, we are ‘denialists,’ to be sure.

– Liam Scheff