Midweek Cuckoo: Dissenting Opinions
My kooks today are a trifecta of sorts. They are linked in such a way that the two causal agents would never have been able to do the damage they had without the third, and the third may never have done the damage he did without the influence of the other two.
I’m speaking of South African President Thabo Mbeki, and his two ‘advisors’, Anthony Brink and Anita Allen. Together, they are the top three AIDS dissidents in the country [word doc].
So what is an AIDS dissident? In short, it is anyone who dissents the medically and scientifically verifiable truth about HIV and AIDS, and who thinks that their complete lack of education in the field qualifies them to disagree with 20 years of medical experience. These are people who believe such things as ‘HIV does not cause AIDS’, ‘ARVs will kill you faster than the virus’, and ‘AIDS only happens to gay people.’ These are all lies that it takes only a few minutes and an internet connection to disprove, yet no amount of evidence can convince the liars they are wrong. As I see it, when the truth is so easy to find, those who perpetuate blatant untruths are either medically insane, willfully lying, or fatally ignorant. It may be that they are lying to themselves as well as you, but that doesn’t make it any less of a lie. I would compare AIDS dissidents to Holocaust deniers (a subject for another Wednesday, perhaps). Someone who can say that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS is just as deluded as someone who can say that there were no Nazi death camps. The big difference comes in that while Holocaust deniers only insult the families of those who died, AIDS dissidents have the power to kill, and have done so. As such, they deserve all the scorn and disgust you can level at them.
Anthony Brink was an advocate and part time jazz musician, practising law in Petermaritzburg. In 1996 Brink came upon the writings of international AIDS dissidents and fell headlong down the rabbit hole. He hasn’t come up to breathe since. He is the convenor and international chairman of the Treatment Information Group, who have declared a veritable war on AZT, a widely-used antiretroviral. They claim it’s more toxic than the virus, and Brink even tried to take Glaxosmithkline to court because he says it ‘killed’ a friend. Doctors say the friend died of an opportunistic infection, all too common in HIV patients whether they are on medication or not. We’ll never really know what the outcome of the trial might have been, because Brink claims he ran out of funding. Personally i wouldn’t be surprised if the multinational gave him a call saying ‘We know you’re full of crap, you know you’re full of crap, and we can prove it. We will murder you in court so go ahead, make our day.’
According to Allister Sparks, Brink gained the president’s ear as follows:
[Brink] became convinced … that the drug AZT was dangerously toxic. ‘A medicine from hell’ he called it in an article in a Johannesburg newspaper in March 1999. This prompted a response defending the drug from Desmond Martin, president of the Southern African HIV/Aids Clinicians’ society. After more exchanges, Brink contacted Mbeki and sent him copies of the debate between himself and Martin. ‘That was the first time I became aware of this alternative viewpoint,’ Mbeki told me.
[Allister Sparks, Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa (Jonathan Ball: Cape Town, 2003) pg. 286]
Let’s get something straight: yes, antiretrovirals have side effects, and some can be quite serious. None of them are serious as dying of AIDS. People regularly take drugs that are just as dangerous for cosmetic problems (Accutane, a common treatment for acne, causes liver damage and severe birth defects and is a schedule 5 drug). No scientists denies that there are side effects. But they are managable, and are blown out of all proportion by AIDS dissenters like Brink. So why lie about it? Well, this is one case where i get to turn a favorite altmed argument around – Brink is currently employed by the Rath Foundation, a ‘pharmaceutical company’ that makes multivitamins and claims they treat AIDS. Brink tells people AZT will kill them, Rath sells them some vitamin C tablets instead. I wonder if Brink earns commission on everyone who buys Rath’s pills?
Anita Allen describes herself as “not a member of the HIV-causes-Aids sect”. In my opinion, she’s not a member of the “firing-on-all-cylinders” sect either. Here’s another quote from her:
No one as far as we know has been able to come up with evidence proving the HIV-causes-Aids hypothesis anywhere in the world. Plenty have tried, but no one has yet succeeded.
Even if she knows she’s lying, you’d have to be insane to think you could get away with a whopper like that one. If you’re really interested in this woman’s insanity-fueled diatribes, go read some of her articles. The titles alone should warn you they contain hysteria and conjecture, and no real facts. Anita’s qualification for making medical statements about AIDS and HIV? She’s a journalist. Yup, you know, one of those people trained to report the truth and the facts without bias.
Anita says it is she who is responsible for Mbeki’s view on AIDS:
It was close to midnight and the fax machine went off…what came through the fax was a handwritten letter from Mbeki, saying he had read her letter expressing concern about the HIV/Aids question and that he wanted to meet with her in the morning to discuss it. [ http://www.purewatergazette.net/farber.htm ]
Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, took this information and instead of gaining a real medical second opinion, he used it to delay ARV rollouts in South Africa, shortening unnecessarily the lives of tens of thousands of people. How Zuma can be fired as deputy president for a little corruption, but Mbeki stays in power after negligence leading to genocide, is beyond me. Here’s a quote from our esteemed leader that says it all:
Now I do believe that is a sensible thing to ask: does one virus cause a syndrome? A virus cannot cause a syndrome. A virus will cause a disease.
[Reply to a Parliamentary question; 20 September 2000]
Lets look up the dictionary definition of ‘syndrome’: A group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease. Maybe if he had taken the two minutes to pick up a god damn dictionary, he wouldn’t have mislead so many people, or been so mislead himself.
Granted, this was a while ago and the controversy has died down. Do you think that Mbeki has rescinded his views just because his minders steer him clear of the subject these days? Sometimes he slips through their grasp and is able to talk to the press before they can shut him up. The results would be funny if so many people didn’t idolize this man and take him seriously. For all the damage Zuma may have done by telling people he took a shower to reduce his chance of getting HIV, Mbeki has done much, much worse.
The man is a moron; it’s a crying shame you can’t impeach him for it. And the people who lead him to his moronic views are a self-important liar and an ignorant fool. It’s our responsibility to shame them to the best of our ability, and hope they are eventually so publicly humiliated they retreat into their little delusional world and are never heard from again.
Thanks to Brian for the tip-off.