Sunday, June 17, 2007

Review-Journal suggests HIV may not cause AIDS?

The back page of the Sunday Las Vegas Review-Journal's Viewpoints section always includes a collection of quotations that the newspaper finds somewhat interesting or, usually, dubious. It's not something that's available online.

Today's explainer of one of those quotes was nothing short of dangerous and shocking. Here's the whole thing, bold-faced where your attention needs to go:

"Well, sir, there were scientists who said the world was flat an there were scientists who said HIV doesn't cause AIDS." -- U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., responding to Russell Moore, a dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who scoffed at "apocalyptic" scenarios for global warming painted by the "secularist environmental movement" during Senate global warming hearings on June 7. In fact, it's Sen. Boxer's constituent, renowned University of California, Berkeley biochemist Peter Duesberg, who most prominently holds in his book "Inventing the AIDS Virus" that the "HIV-causes-AIDS" hypothesis fails to meet any of Koch's four postulates for disease causality. Medical scientists usually require such a hypothesis to meet all four.

Whoa. The R-J's editorial board does not believe global warming is caused by people, so the implication here is that the question of whether HIV causes AIDS is an equally suspicious notion. Never mind that Duesberg's claims in a 10-year-old book have been taken apart bit by bit by a long list of credible scientific organizations and journals, particularly his chronologically incorrect notion that AIDS could be caused by HIV medication like AZT, which is a pretty stupid idea seeing how many thousands of AIDS patients died in the years before AZT was developed to slow the progress of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health, in fact, has a full explanation of the HIV-AIDS link on its website. Plus, here's a lengthy list of links to studies and reports confirming the connection. And, of course, there's the disastrous example of South Africa, where President Thabo Mbeki's denial of the HIV-AIDS connection dissuaded many of his citizens from heeding warnings about how to avoid contracting HIV and from submitting to HIV medication treatments. (Mbeki has since backed off, by the way, seeing how South Africa has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.)

It is baffling and shocking that a major, legitimate daily American newspaper would toss out such a notion, even more baffling than the idea that Sen. Boxer ought to be held responsible for the nutty claims of one of her 36.5 million constituents.

The newspaper needs to clarify this bizarre remark as soon as possible.


John K said...

These people are beyond help. Who says something so stupid in 2007? SCARY.

Heidi said...

Hear that? That's the sound of me finally cancelling my subscription. THis newspaper is ridiculous.

Ray said...

This happens far too often with some journalists, they try so hard to be "balanced" that they will scrape up *any* contrary opinion. Unfortunately in their zeal to manufacture "balance," they will turn to nutjobs like Duesberg and present his blatherings without noting that he's not even in the same time zone as rational, much less "mainstream," scholarship.

MJ McLean said...

Leaving aside for the moment the utter inanity of what the R-J said, I think 'Heidi' has made the mistake too many make and has equated the opinion department with all the other departments. Anyone who's lived here long enough knows the RJ opinion department is populated with looney-tunes who rarely bother to check facts. Here's a hint, 'Heidi:' the internet is populated with the same sort of people, except they don't bother to separate their opinions from what they pass off as news. As for what 'Ray' suggests, there is a perfect example of what happens when journalists start ignoring one side of a story. It's called Fox News.

Heidi said...

MJ: But even in the editorial department they have to adhere to some basic facts. This is just cuckoo. I'm amazed they didn't take issue with Boxer's comment that the Earth is round!!!

V.S. said...

I think the R-J explainer was merely corroborating what Boxer said: That, historically, some scientists have gotten it all wrong (like Duesberg). I don't *think* he was pushing the "AIDS virus is a hoax" theory.

He pointed out the irony that far from a fundamentalist wacko like the dean who testified, an eminent professor from Berkeley (of all places) held that contrarian view.

It's only the last sentence where it gets a little dodgy. He probably meant that sentence to be part of his summary of what Duesberg wrote, not his own fact in support of Duesberg, but it's so clumsily written that it sounds like it could be the R_J writer giving us a supporting argument for what Duesberg wrote. I think it's more a problem with bad writing than bogus AIDS etiology, but that's only a guess.

Speaking of bad writing...

"shocking that a major, legitimate daily American newspaper..."

Well, it's a daily, and it's American anyway.

When I first began visits to Vegas fifteen years ago, I avidly read the R-J and Sun. They weren't online then. I couldn't believe how poorly written and edited they were. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar abounded.
The same ludicrous spelling and grammar could also be found in the glossy hotel/casino literature, and this added to the whole town's deliciously philistine ethos.

I think the papers spell better now, but from my online reading they hardly qualify as major dailies.

I guess you said that, because Vegas now has more than a million people and is a major city, so its papers must be major as well. I don't think so. IMO, they have lagged behind the rest of the city's progress.

TheStripPodcast.Com said...


I won't disagree that the R-J should have a much larger circulation than it does and has not grown really at all since I worked there in the late 1990s, let alone along with this off-the-charts boomtown. But it is a paper of 200,000+ circulation in a large metropolitan area and on most days does a serviceable job of providing the national, international and local news. I've seen worse larger papers, better smaller ones. Also, many of its alums have gone on to very big jobs, so there have been great journalists there from time to time. One, Michael Weissenstein, is now reporting from the Mideast for the AP.

In order to appreciate the point being made here, you must know that this is not a newspaper that would ever strive to bolster Barbara Boxer's position on anything, much less her view that global warming is caused by human activity. The last sentence which you call 'dodgy' is the clincher; it removes doubt that the purpose here is undermine Boxer's statement by pointing out that there's a scientist at a respected institution in Boxer's state who has made a legitimate case against HIV causing AIDS. The use of "In fact" also denotes a departure from Boxer's position.


Anonymous said...

Denying global warming is not enough: the RJ editorial and opinion page has also scoffed at the ozone hole. They rail at taxes while supporting the war against Iraq. Don't they know that war costs money? Tax money?

-John Farley