I’ve been wondering for several years, and I’ve also been asked quite often, “When will HIV/AIDS theory be abandoned? How will that happen?”
According to Yogi Berra, prediction is very hard, especially about the future. The only solid basis for attempting predictions is to extrapolate from the past and present, which can’t take account of the “unknown unknown”—the totally unforeseeable stuff—waiting to trip up even the most judicious and careful projections.
But when it comes to HIV/AIDS, there aren’t even comparable cases from which to extrapolate. Sure enough, plenty of beliefs in science, and a fortiori in medicine, have been found wanting over the centuries, that’s how understanding has advanced; “scientific revolutions” have overturned, displaced, repudiated long-held beliefs—about atoms, about the Earth’s age, about the relation between chemicals in living and non-living entities, about literally innumerable matters.
However, HIV/AIDS isn’t just a belief in medical science, it’s a huge industry, of direct benefit to many groups and to enormous numbers of people at many levels of society and throughout the world (see “Vested Interests”, p. 212 ff. in The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory). Researchers benefit from expenditures on HIV/AIDS that are 10 to 100 times more per patient or per death than is spent on diabetes or cardiovascular disease (Fair Allocations in Research Foundation) . Africa gets far more for HIV/AIDS-related matters than for anything else; for instance, while researchers in developed countries make a good-enough grant-living from HIV/AIDS, academics and researchers and their assistants in African countries enjoy largesse that others in those countries couldn’t even dream of having. Drug companies make enormous profits. Researchers and drug companies are able to carry out clinical trials in Africa that would never be approved in developed countries (DRUGS OR FOOD?, 25 December 2007; ARE INTESTINAL WORMS GOOD FOR US? ARE THEY GOOD FOR AFRICANS? FOR AFRICAN CHILDREN?, 30 December 2007). Tens of thousands of organizations are involved in HIV/AIDS, and innumerable individuals—very much including so-called activists—make their living from HIV/AIDS-related activities.
Of course, if the scientific community were to proclaim a consensus that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, others would fall in line. But what might move the scientific community to reach such a consensus? All the funding agencies, all the official institutions international as well as national, all the editors of the most entrenched and prestigious journals and the “peer” reviewers they choose, all the science journalists who have specialized in covering HIV/AIDS, are vested in HIV/AIDS dogma—vested in terms of career, reputation, plain self-interest.
Those are the facts. Documented testimonies are freely available. Scientific papers challenging any aspect of HIV/AIDS dogma are routinely rejected by Nature, Science, Lancet, JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, etc. “Dissidents” are persecuted shamefully (DISSENTING FROM HIV/AIDS THEORY, 8 December 2007). Thousands of signatories to petitions that HIV/AIDS be rethought understand that they had better keep that belief separate from their work, and some unknown number are even unwilling to have their names publicly known.
So, one cannot reasonably expect that some epidemic of heart-changing by the powers-that-be will transform this situation. If the mainstream scientific consensus is to change, it will have to be pushed by external forces to reconsider the evidence.
This situation prompted me to take special notice of a sentence in a mystery I was reading (Philip Kerr, “The One from the Other”):
“Hard to comprehend, yes. But not so hard to believe.”
The accumulated evidence forces belief, forces one to accept that, indeed, the mainstream medical-scientific community ignores competently presented and substantively supported views that run counter to the contemporary bandwagon. The evidence forces intellectual acceptance of the fact that this is the way things are. But we rebel against that emotionally, because we cannot comprehend, grasp, that medical science is so very different from how we have been conceiving science to be: objective, self-correcting, concerned primarily and only with truth.
That ideal view of science was not obviously misguided up to perhaps the middle of the 20th century, when one could still understand much about scientific activity as the result of an intellectual free market in which individual truth-seekers collaborated and competed. However, roughly since the Second World War, science has increasingly become a matter of knowledge monopolies and research cartels (for a longer discussion, read my essay on 21st-century science).
At a personal level, I find that I cannot comprehend that individuals should be so impervious to evidence or so uninterested in the whole subject. Like other human beings, I tend to judge others by myself. I came to be an HIV skeptic through a particular combination of personal experience and objective evidence. Subsequently, I make naturally the common yet mistaken assumption that others exposed to the same objective evidence would draw the same conclusions. But others don’t have the same background of personal experience that I do, and it is that personal background that explains why I took an interest in the topic in the first place and why I was able to view the evidence in a non-bandwagon manner.
I suggest that I’m fairly typical of HIV/AIDS dissidents in this. Books, articles, blogs, letters to the editor, and more, have been produced by dissidents under the implicit belief that the HIV/AIDS paradigm can be toppled by presenting the evidence against it. We have to comprehend that this is not so.
Certainly it was necessary to make the scientific case. But that has been overwhelming for a long time now, and the question becomes, How can the evidence be used to bring down this bandwagon? What social or political forces can be harnessed that are sufficiently influential to stand against this colossal combination of vested interests? How can those forces be enticed to take a fresh look at beliefs that have become so entrenched? Who would benefit from it?