HIV-Aids link irrefutable

May 21, 1999

Your interview with Kary Mullis demonstrates how little has been learned by British journalists about Aids in the past decade ("Cresting controversy", THES, April 23).

The clinical association between HIV and Aids has been irrefutably demonstrated in countless epidemiological surveys since the late 1980s. In a nutshell, where there is no HIV, there is no Aids. It is cruel and mischievous to suggest Aids is some magical consequence of promiscuity among "gregarious people".

In reality, the sinister-sounding "Aids establishment" Mullis is going against, "all guns blazing", consists mainly of overworked doctors treating many hundreds of thousands of HIV-infected people.

May I remind readers of Deborah Lipstadt's memorable summary in Denying The Holocaust of the process described by distinguished American anthropologist Marshall Sahlins: "Professor X publishes a theory despite the fact that reams of documented information contradict his conclusions. In the 'highest moral tones' he expresses his disregard for all evidence that sheds doubt on his findings. He engages in ad hominem attacks on those who have authored the critical works in the field and on the people silly enough to believe them. The scholars who have come under attack by this professor are provoked to respond. Before long he becomes 'the controversial Prof. X' and his theory is discussed seriously by non-professionals, that is, journalists. He soon becomes a familiar figure on television and radio, where he 'explains' his ideas to interviewers who cannot challenge him or demonstrate the fallaciousness of his argument".

Sounds familiar?

Simon Watney Director, Red Hot Aids Charitable Trust * How should the academic community deal with ideas that offend mainstream opinion? Join the THES/Nexus Soapbox debate at www.thesis.co.uk

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