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Archive for March, 2008

Christine Maggiore was by all counts an average professional woman going about her business until one fateful day when she took an HIV test sponsored by her company and it came back positive.

After a stint as an AIDS activist and the poster child for how AIDS will randomly strike just about anyone, even a healthy young woman in her prime, Ms. Maggiore began to question the death sentence she’d been handed.

The result of her questioning lead to her book, now in it’s fourth edition, titled What if Everything You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? and her Web site.  Both refute the belief that HIV causes AIDS and that the only way to cope with either is to get on some heavy duty drug cocktails.

I’m not about to say she’s 100% right about HIV not causing AIDS, but I do think her book is worth reading because it brings to light some very important issues surrounding the whole HIV/AIDS experience.

Most disturbing are the experiences of numerous people who have tested HIV positive that are recounted at the end of her book.  I had no idea how difficult it was for someone who tested HIV positive to get medical care for something as common as a sinus or ear infection.  Let’s suppose two people walk into a doctor’s office with the exact same symptoms.  The only difference between the two is that one patient is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive.  The HIV negative patient is given an antibiotic, advised to rest and drink fluids and wait it out.  This patient has a sinus infection–a disagreeable, but definitely survivable ailment.  The HIV positive patient is pushed to get on AZT or some other highly potent HIV cocktail.  After all, he suffers from AIDS.  This has happened to people complaining of flu, colds, pneumonia, and even excema.  If you are HIV negative, it’s the flu, a cold, pneumonia or excema.  If you are HIV positive, it’s AIDS.  As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to get normal medical care if you are otherwise healthy, but happen to have tested HIV positive.  HIV positive people have reported going from doctor to doctor, and not being able to get any sort of proper care until they give up on doctors and try out some alternative healthcare.

The author herself had two children, but she ended up needing to go with midwives and home birth because the only way she’d be allowed to give birth in a hospital was to agree to take AZT throughout her pregnancy and schedule a C-section.  AZT is a known terratogen, so I can understand her reluctance to expose her unborn child to it.  C-section births can be lifesaving at times but they carry enough risk that it should only be a last resort.

When Ms. Maggiore suffered the tragic loss of her younger child, it was an ordeal to get the coroner to do an actual autopsy–he just automatically reported the child died of AIDS.  It turns out she died of a fatal anaphylactic reaction to amoxicillin, which she’d been prescribed for an ear infection.  This type of allergic reaction is more common than most people realize.

Another result of the HIV causes AIDS paradigm is that tremendous amounts of resources have been diverted away from fighting starvation, which by the way causes a lot of the AIDS-like symptoms, to treating HIV with drugs.  In many parts of the world where people are starving, we are sending enormous amounts of money over to get them not food, but pharmaceutical drugs.

It is a fact that at least 25 percent of the people who are diagnosed with AIDS do not test positive for HIV.  Those who do test positive for HIV don’t have much of it.  Yet the presence of that virus in their system justifies a huge amount of discrimination against them.  They are often denied jobs, insurance, and no one knows how to relate to them because they have this dreaded disease.  If you happen to be pregnant when you test positive for HIV, your birth options are severely curtailed and you are pressured into taking HIV medication while you are pregnant.  This has lead to a group of children who suffer from AZT-related deformities.  Parents who opt to not continue treating their children with AZT have been threatened with removal of custody.  Many people with HIV have opted to discontinue taking AZT because their AIDS symptoms start once they get on the drug, and often they stop as soon as they get off the drug.  In fact, AIDS symptoms are a known side effect of AZT, so there is doubt as to what is really cause AIDS here.

I bring all this up because it is important to know that people who test HIV positive are allowed to be treated differently than people who don’t.  This is a form of discrimination that we as a society allow.  It’s possible there may still be good reason for this discrimination, however it’s important that we acknowledge that it is discrimination.  It’s discrimination based on whether or not you carry a particular virus–one that at least 25 percent of the time is not even present in the patients who are sick with the disease it is supposed to cause.

This viral discrimination of HIV positive people has set us up as a society to accept other forms of viral discrimination.  As we keep hearing about diseases like SARS and bird flu, both hyped up as extremely dangerous, our fear of any person or animal caught carrying the virus that’s blamed for these ills increases–to the point where we’re willing to put up with them being treated badly in the name of our protection.

People have spoken to that effect.  Accroding to this article, in the wake of SARS, a public health policy maker has said:  “The need for public health law reform is urgent.  It should have provisions for surveillance, vaccination, treatment, isolation and quarantine in a way that gives decisive powers to health authorities while respecting the Constitution.  The need for effective state compulsory power is beyond doubt. But that’s not a given in our country, which is now so tied to the rhetoric of individual rights. It seems we’ve lost the tradition of the common good.” (emphasis mine)

Anyone who has studied or experienced the various totalitarian regimes which have risen and fallen during the last century know all too well what can happen with “effective state compulsory power.”  As a society we’re too enlightened and experienced to easily fall for wholesale persecution of people based on race, religion, disability or sexual preference.  Even the possibility of persecuting people of Middle Eastern origin in the wake of recent terrorism is pretty remote because there will be too many people calling it racism.

However, the possibility of persecuting people based on what kinds of viruses they test positive for is not only a possibility, it’s a reality.  And with the media talking about new scary diseases and their scapegoat viruses, it can easily get worse.

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