Sunday, May 11, 2008
In the last couple days, I've been reading about the wonderful world of HIV denial, whose proponents state that either HIV doesn't exist or that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. This is, of course, dead wrong. If you're interested in how we know this, avert.org has a nice summary of the data, "Evidence that HIV causes AIDS".
And then I ran across the sad, tragic and depressing story of how HIV denier Christine Maggiore's 3 year old daughter died of AIDS-related pneumonia. Mrs. Maggiore is HIV-positive and has written and self-published a book entitled "What if everything you thought you knew about AIDS was wrong?". And as predicted by dissonance theory, Mrs. Maggiore still holds to the view that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. How could she do otherwise? To change her mind now would be to admit to herself and to the world, not only that she's been wrong about HIV all along but also that she is at least partially responsible for the death of her child. It's a terrible thing to face up to, and I doubt that I would have the strength to do so if I was in her shoes.
This is why science, skepticism and open-minded examination of the evidence is so important: Because beliefs have consequences. When we examine the validity of claims like "HIV causes AIDS", we're playing for all the marbles. Reaching the correct answer really does matter.