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Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy 1st Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0387794754
ISBN-10: 0387794751
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Editorial Reviews


From the reviews:

It's a slender and punchy book, engagingly written and sharply observed, a fascinating insight into what the author describes as a "wacky and destructive world".... Kalichman is generous and thoughtful company, he assiduously attends to the denialist creed, thoroughly debunking their theories without bitterness or rage. An epilogue posits that all forms of medical denialism―whether cancer, AIDS, or autism―could be "part of one movement to promote public mistrust in science and medicine."

-Talha Burki, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Volume 9, Issue 10, October 2009

"Seth Kalichman has superbly captured the contradictions inherent in AIDS denialism. He has deftly captured its religious-like fervor, its vociferous proponents and passionate opponents as well as its destructive force when legitimized by the South African President. AIDS denialism has left confusion in its wake as it undermined public health efforts to curb the greatest health challenge of the 20th century. Kalichman vividly shares his experiences, understanding, and dilemmas as he unraveled this phenomenon piece by painful piece."

-Salim S. Abdool Karim, Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS, Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Director of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

"Significant advances in the prevention and treatment have lead to fewer numbers of new infections and extended and improved the lives of those affected by the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS. However, myths and misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS still abound and pose a real threat to our progress. In Denying AIDS, Seth Kalichman provides a fascinating look into the thinking of those who propagate AIDS myths and the negative impact it has on our response to a deadly disease. He shows us how AIDS pseudoscience has at times confused the public and threatened sound public health policy. Anyone who cares about the global HIV/AIDS pandemic should read this book."

-Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO CARE USA and former Director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Assistant Surgeon General, and Member of the 2000 South African Presidential Panel on AIDS

"Seth Kalichman is an excellent scientist passionately committed to saving lives through the prevention of HIV/AIDS. This excellent volume examines the detailed history of HIV/AIDS denialism as well as its damaging impact throughout the world. HIV/AIDS denialism and its proponents have created confusion when the clear provision of scientifically accurate communication was most needed. At all levels, denial of AIDS results in a failure to face up to one of the greatest health threats of the century."

-James Curran, Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Coordinator of the 1981 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections" and former Director of the CDC HIV/AIDS Division.

"AIDS denialism is destructive and rides on the back of mistrust in science and medicine through our internet world. Seth Kalichman brilliantly uses a psychological lens to expose the wacky world that creates and maintains its presence despite the untold numbers of deaths and suffering it has caused. The book is a wake up call to policy makers and scientists, particularly in places most affected by the pandemic, that denialism must be confronted if we want to bring it under control. A must read for those who want to know more about the power and influence of pseudoscience."

-Michael Merson, Director, Global Health Institute at Duke University and Former Director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS.

"Inadequate health policies in South Africa have reportedly led to some 330,000 unnecessary AIDS deaths and a spike in infant mortality, according to estimates by South African and US researchers. This carnage exceeds the death toll in Darfur, yet it has received far less attention. Seth Kalichman, a US clinical psychologist, shows in Denying AIDS how words can kill."

-John P. Moore, Nature 459, 168 (14 May 2009)

"In this important book, Seth Kalichman provides important insights into the convoluted world of AIDS denialism … . It is … directed at HIV scientists and care providers, and at journalists who cover HIV-related health issues. … This book is a superb and unique examination of a fascinating and important phenomenon. It is also an excellent read and will be interest to all who have an interest in the HIV pandemic … ."

-Ronald C Hershow, Doody’s Review Service, May, 2009

"Kalichman has recently written a book about the denialist movement, entitled Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy, which outlines the history of denialism as well as its consequences. … Kalichman … book will help people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. … the book will help sort out the misinformation that exists on the topic of HIV and AIDS and can cause such harm to newly diagnosed people just looking for legitimate information."

-Bryan Birtles, Vue Weekly, Issue 717, July, 2009

"Kalichman’s book is well-written, timely, thoroughly researched … . serve as a resource for anyone interested in critical thinking … . It’s also the best work I’ve seen … in evaluating the psychology of the believers causing all the trouble. … So buy it! All royalties go to the purchase of anti-retrovirals for people in Africa, so you not only help yourshelf but you help undo some of the damage done by denialists … ." (MarkH, Science Blogs, May, 2009)

"Kalichman’s most impressive accomplishment is … globally understood the denial discourse. … Denying AIDS includes six chapters. … Kalichman’s book is a major accomplishment. He points us in the direction where our work must go next. We must do as he recommends, confront our denials knowing that we will never conquer them." (Anthony Lemelle, Journal of African American Studies, Vol. 13 (3), September, 2009)

"Kalichman (Univ. of Connecticut; The Inside Story on AIDS, 2003) has written a poignant and well-documented exposé of the scientific and sociopolitical forces involved in the organized movement of AIDS ‘denialists’ … . These naysayers reject science, contradict medical advice, and actively spread myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings to refute reality. Their malignant distortions can result in more individuals refusing to be tested, ignoring their diagnoses, or rejecting lifesaving treatments. … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers." (P. Wermager, Choice, Vol. 47 (1), September, 2009)

"The book focuses on AIDS denialism and people who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. … ‘Denying AIDS’ will help create more awareness of denialism and that his event at the Co-op was just a start." (Kira O’Grady, The Daily Campus, December, 2009)

From the Back Cover

Denying AIDS: Denialism, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy

Seth C. Kalichman, Storrs, University of Connecticut

Paralleling the discovery of HIV and the rise of the AIDS pandemic, a flock of naysayers has dedicated itself to replacing genuine knowledge with destructive misinformation―and spreading from the fringe to the mainstream media and the think tank. Now, from the editor of the journal AIDS and Behavior, comes a bold exposé of the scientific and sociopolitical forces involved in this toxic evasion. Denying AIDS traces the origins of AIDS dissidents’ disclaimers during the earliest days of the epidemic and delves into the psychology and politics of the current denial movement in its various incarnations.

Seth Kalichman focuses not on the "difficult" or doubting patient, but on organized, widespread forms of denial (including the idea that HIV itself is a myth and HIV treatments are poison) and the junk science, faulty logic, conspiracy theories, and larger forces of homophobia and racism that fuel them. The malignant results of AIDS denial can be seen in those individuals who refuse to be tested, ignore their diagnoses, or reject the treatments that could save their lives. Instead of ignoring these currents, asserts Kalichman, science has a duty to counter them.

Among the topics covered:

  • Why AIDS denialism endures, and why science must understand it.
  • Pioneer virus researcher Peter Duesberg’s role in AIDS denialism.
  • Flawed immunological, virological, and pharmacological pseudoscience studies that are central to texts of denialism.
  • The social conservative agenda and the politics of AIDS denial, from the courts to the White House.
  • The impact of HIV misinformation on public health in South Africa.
  • Fighting fiction with reality: anti-denialism and the scientific community.

For anyone affected by, interested in, or working with HIV/AIDS, and public health professionals in general, the insight and vision of Denying AIDS will inspire outrage, discussion, and ultimately action.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 1 edition (February 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387794751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387794754
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,546,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mr. Kalichman writes under the heading of "contemporaneousness" (p. 157-158) that

"To understand AIDS one should not have to look back further than the past few years. For the consumer-reader, if a scientific article was published before 2000, I would say it can be considered dated, perhaps even ignored. [..] Any writing in the area of AIDS that relies on sources from the 1980s should be suspect. Of the more than 116,000 scientific articles listed in the PubMed database concerning the HIV disease process, or HIV pathogenesis, over 31,000 have been published in the past 5 years. AIDS scientists are basing their conclusion that HIV causes AIDS on these current studies[..]."

This is a most remarkable admission. Criticism of the HIV theory of AIDS predates the year 2000 considerably. Duesberg made his case against the HIV theory in 1987, and the Rethinking AIDS movement "flourished", purely in relative terms, in the 1990s. Criticisms of the paradigm were given the same response then as they are now: that they are nuts, and that the correctness of the HIV theory of AIDS is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And yet, according to Kalichman, HIV has only been actually, truly, reliably proven to cause AIDS since 2003, and the earlier papers (85,000 of them, by his count) cannot be relied upon! So were AIDS rethinkers then correct in questioning the HIV theory of AIDS between 1987 and 2003?

Kalichman essentially concedes that the self-correcting mechanisms of medical science were inoperative in the field of AIDS research at least until 2002, a time period during which the HIV theory of AIDS was actually unproven, but nevertheless considered proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Then how can we know that these self-correcting mechanisms are working now?
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Format: Hardcover
My favorite subject is: myself. So I was thrilled to discover that Kalichman has written a book all about me, an AIDS denialist. He has never met me but that doesn't matter because all of us denialists are the same anyhow.

I used to call myself an AIDS dissident because of my, as I learned from this book, "crusading religious and political overtones" and not as I thought previously, because this word means dissenting, having a different opinion from most people. Kalichman explains that what characterizes my opinions is not dissent but sameness. True, some denialists deny the existence of a disease called AIDS, some accept that AIDS exists but deny the existence of HIV, some accept that both AIDS and HIV exist but deny that HIV causes AIDS, some accept that HIV causes AIDS but deny that HIV is sexually transmittable, some deny only that the HIV test is reliable, and some don't deny any of these things but reject the drugs. All of us who hold such opinions are "'suspicious thinkers' prone to conspiracy theories and other wacky beliefs." We are no different from holocaust denialists like "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Like them, I have "encapsulated delusions ... conspiracy-theory-prone personality style ... and ... tend to be overly independent in [my] thinking." Furthermore, I am "characterized by a fear of homosexuality, or even homophobia." It is understandable that Kalichman thinks this of me. I live in the Netherlands, where different-sex marriages are still legal, though who knows for how long. That's why my spouse (male) and I (female) grabbed our chance while we still could and married although we realized that by doing so we would arouse suspicion of being homophobes.
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It actually took me a significant amount of time to finish this book, as I have been juggling several other projects the last 6 months, but it was ultimately a worthwhile read that I would recommend to those either new or unaware of the subject matter.

As as general overview of content, the work contains a summation of the psychological, political and social contexts surrounding what is commonly refereed to as "Aids Denialism". This view is championed by a very fringe group of individuals who hold the view that: HIV does not exist, HIV is not the cause of AIDS, Anti-retroviral drugs cause AIDS, AIDS deaths in Africa are a myth, as well as numerous other conspiracy mongering ideas on the subject.

As strange as this sounds (even stranger for me as I come from a microbiology background) these views can and do have dire implications on the lives of numerous people, and this book shows the reader the harms and implications of this dangerous thinking (especially in South Africa).

Upon completion of the book, you will likely feel both anger and remorse at the lives that have been torn apart by this twisted and nonscientific ideology.

The content is engaging, but the writing does tend to leave a bit to be desired (particularly towards the latter half of the book) as it comes off as heavy handed and cliche ridden. While this is only a minor gripe, some additional work during the editorial phase I feel could of alleviated some of these problems. Do not take these minor literary critiques as cause to dissuade you from reading this, as It is overwhelmingly good writing and information, just not quite as polished as it should be.
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