HIV denialists spread misinformation online -- consequences could be deadly; and more

August 20, 2007

HIV denialists spread misinformation online--consequences could be deadly

The Internet is serving as a fertile medium for "HIV denialists" to spread false ideas about HIV/AIDS, which could have terrible public health consequences, say scientists in a policy paper in PLoS Medicine.

"It may seem remarkable that, 23 years after the identification of HIV, there is still denial that the virus is the cause of AIDS," say Tara Smith (University of Iowa College of Public Health) and Steven Novella (Yale University School of Medicine). But with the arrival of the Internet, HIV denialist organizations such as "Reappraising AIDS" have reignited their campaign to spread misinformation.

There is a consensus in the scientific community that HIV is the cause of AIDS, based upon over two decades of robust research. Deniers must therefore reject this consensus, say Smith and Novella, "either by denigrating the notion of scientific authority in general, or by arguing that the mainstream HIV community is intellectually compromised."

It is therefore not surprising, they say, that much of the newer denial literature on the Internet reflects a basic distrust of authority and of the institutions of science and medicine. Distrusting mainstream medical practitioners, many HIV deniers turn to unproven "alternative" medicines in search of treatment.

Many members of the general public do not have the scientific background to critique the assertions put forth by these groups, say Smith and Novella. Those who believe the false information spread by HIV denialists could end up putting themselves at risk of HIV infection (e.g. by abandoning safe sex), while those who are already infected could end up seeking unproven, ineffective remedies.

"The effect of denial groups on public perception of HIV infection is an area ripe for careful research," they say "as this denial can have lethal consequences."

Citation: Smith TC, Novella SP (2007) HIV denial in the Internet era. PLoS Med 4(8): e256.

IN YOUR ARTICLE, PLEASE LINK TO THIS URL, WHICH WILL PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE PUBLISHED PAPER: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040256

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-04-08-smith.pdf

CONTACT:
Tara Smith
University of Iowa
Epidemiology
200 Hawkins Drive
C21F GH
Iowa City, Iowa 52242
United States of America
+1 319-384-5755
+1 319-384-5004 (fax)
tara-smith@uiowa.edu




Making performance-based funding work for health

Performance-based funding provides powerful incentives to scale up the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria, argues a team of authors from the Global Fund.

Citation: Low-Beer D, Afkhami H, Komatsu R, Banati P, Sempala M, et al. (2007) Making performance based funding work for health. PLoS Med 4(8): e219.

IN YOUR ARTICLE, PLEASE LINK TO THIS URL, WHICH WILL PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE PUBLISHED PAPER: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040219

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-04-08-low-beer.pdfCONTACT:
Daniel Low-Beer
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Performance Evaluation and Policy
Vernier, Geneva 1214
Switzerland
+41 22 791 1929
daniel.low-beer@theglobalfund.org
-end-


PLOS

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