Thursday, August 23, 2007

Great Article About HIV/AIDS Denialism

Thanks to Orac, I found this great article by SciBlogger, Tara Smith and academic neurologist, Steve Novella. I am also very excited to discover another great neuroscience blog.

I highly reccommend the reading. As Orac writes, it is essential reading on HIV/AIDS denialism. I have very personal reasons for my extreme objections to this brand of denial. It is nothing short of deadly. Watching loved ones waste away slowly, is horrible. I've lost an uncle and a couple of friends to it. I will not go into great detail, but I volunteer some of my time providing in home help to those with HIV/AIDS.

I have no tolerance for people who spread this kind of bile. Anyone who wishes to spread this kind of bile, will not be tolerated here. I don't have the patience for it.


I seem to be getting a lot of traffic to this post, which I did not expect. So I feel that I should expand a bit on this, I would have done so initially, but I wrote it just before I went to bed and posted a different time stamp so it would go up this morning - kind of an experiment with that idea.

I am learning more and more, that denialism is rather like those old commercials for Jay's potato chips, denialists just can't stop with one. Since I have been tackling the issue of neurological disorder denial, I have gotten a few cranks emailing me, one of them nearly every day. Not a one of them has stopped with their pet theories about neurological issues, more than one has referenced HIV/AIDS denial, cancer denial and evidence based medicine denial, along with several different varieties of denial.

To anyone who has read this blog with any regularity, it is well understood that I have a very personal connection to neurological disorder denial. Here, I have explained something of my personal experience with HIV/AIDS, which explains my anger at this particular brand of denialism. But this is a problem that runs much deeper than any one brand of denialist woo. For many denialists, as I mention above, it is a pervasive mode of thinking. I term it pathological credulity.

Folks that have read this blog fairly regularly, probably understand something else about me, I am not afraid to talk about my faults. I like to think that I'm a pretty decent person, but I also think it's important to take ownership of my faults. In that vein, I will admit that I am those, i.e. I am pathologically credulous. This is, in large part, why I think that it is all important to fight denialism, to respond to it with as much evidence as possible. Aware of my problem, I do my best to compensate for it, through education. Unfortunately, many others who fall into this category, do not wish to do this. They will buy into the most insane, obvious crankery and accept it as gospel.

The problem is that too often, they are very adept at sounding sciency, as it were. A whole lot of damage is done, because normal, sane people listen to what they say and because it sounds like they know what they're talking about, accept it. This is especially dangerous when it comes to HIV/AIDS denial. African nations have set public policy in accordance with this brand of woo. I have a friend who is dying because she listened to this bull and refused to take medicines that could have extended her life indefinitely, until disease had ravaged her body beyond repair. There are some anecdotes in Tara and Steve's article that talk about others who have been and are being victimized by this pervasive, deadly denialism.

It would be wonderful to just be able to dismiss the cranks. Unfortunately, there are real world consequences, sometimes dire, to denialism. It is important that we fight it. It is important to be aware of it, to not accept something on it's face, just because someone saying it sounds like they know what they're talking about. Mark and Chris Hoofnagle, at Denialism Blog are an excellent resource, in this fight. Chris has written an excellent piece on recognizing crankery for what it is, across the board.

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