Vital information missing in the documentary House of Numbers

By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah & James Gurney
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house of numbers
I recently watched a documentary film suggested by one of my subscribers called ‘House of Numbers’. The documentary consists of interviews with scientists and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) denialists, discussing the link between the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS, the severity of AIDS in South Africa and, unbelievably, whether or not HIV exists at all. The film was directed and produced by, and starred, Canadian-born Brent Leung (a psychology graduate from the University of British Columbia). The documentary is poor, even from a technical standpoint. It is poorly organised, unfocussed and repeatedly – and comedically – punctuated by clips of Brent in strange locations. Brent’s level of knowledge and understanding, and that of some of the people featured in the film, is comical bordering on the absurd. At one point Brent implied that the only proof we have for the existence of the HIV is pictures of the virus. In the future I am going to talk about some of the scientific inaccuracies of the documentary but first I would like to talk about a woman who featured in the film and how it shows Brent’s dishonesty.
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house of numbers
The documentary stars a woman named Christine Maggiore who tested positive for HIV in 1992. In the movie, Christine talks about her experiences with HIV tests and HIV medication. She casts a shadow on the HIV test by saying, “How can we say that HIV is the cause of AIDS when we don’t know, based on current tests, whether or not any one diagnosed positive actually has HIV?” and later encourages other people who have tested positive for HIV to stop taking medication, as she believes it caused the death of eight of her coworkers.
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“I remember in 1992 when I first tested positive, I became involved in an organisation woman at risk. There were eleven of us at the time on the board and involved in the group. All of us except three were on the medication. In the year and a half I was involved with women at risk, every single woman in that organisation on the drugs died. Every single one. Except the three of use who were not taking them.” – Christine Maggiore
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house of numbers 2
Now Christine has no medical or scientific background, which begs the question why is she the one in this movie saying that you should stop taking HIV medication altogether? It probably has something to do with the fact that no one with a medical or scientific background would ever say something so stupid and dangerous. At first I thought it was very cruel of Brent to have Christine in this film. She came across as an uninformed, scared woman, who was simultaneously trying to make sense of what was happening to her and then, conflictingly, trying to pretend nothing was. Her segments were emotionally charged and at one part she broke down into tears from a mixture of sadness and frustration whilst talking about questions she believed were unanswered about HIV. It almost seemed as if she was some random person that Brent picked up off the street to be in his documentary. Although Christine was saying the most horrific and dangerous things on film, part of me felt sorry for her. All that quickly changed when I decided to do a little research on her.
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Christine was not some random uninformed woman off of the street. She was the founder of the AIDS denialist organisation, Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives. The organisation believes that AIDS is not a major problem in Africa and that the current epidemic is nothing more than fearmongering by the pharmaceutical industry. They also believe that HIV tests are inaccurate and helped develop legal strategies for 50 HIV positive mothers to avoid having their children tested or treated for HIV. Unlike a lot of people with crazy views out there, Christine stood by hers. Whilst pregnant, Christine refused to take antiretroviral medication which would have reduced the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV during her pregnancies. She also breast-fed her children even though she was aware of studies that show that HIV can be transmitted from mother to child through breastfeeding. She also refused to get her children tested for HIV. She publicly stated on American TV that both of her children had “excellent records of health” and “they’ve never had respiratory problems, flues, intractable cold, ear infections, nothing. So, our choices, however radical they may seem, are extremely well-founded.” Seven weeks after making these statements her daughter died from an AIDS related illness.

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house of numbers 5
An autopsy on the dead three-year-old revealed that her thymus (a specialised organ of the immune system) was wasting away, which is consistent with clinical and morphologic studies of HIV damages to the organ. P24 capsize protein (a component of the HIV particle capsid) was discovered in her brain tissue and she was underweight and under height, which is consistent with chronic illness. The coroner (James Ribe) concluded that she had died of Pneumocystis pneumonia in the setting of advanced AIDS.
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As you can imagine, Christine was not happy with the findings of the coroner and despite being shown a tape of the coroner explaining his findings, Christine refused to believe that her daughter died of AIDS. She is quoted as saying, “I am a devastated, broken, grieving mother, but I am not second-guessing or questioning my understanding of the issue.” Christine had the autopsy reviewed by a fellow AIDS denialist, Dr Mohammed Al-Bayati, who is author of the book ‘Get the Facts; HIV Does Not Cause AIDS’. He concluded that  her daughter died from an allergic reaction to amoxicillin. It should be noted here that Dr Mohammed Al-Bayati is not a medical doctor, nor is he board-certified in human pathology – he has a Ph.D in animal disease pathology. The fact that she was willing to believe a vet instead of medical professionals shows how desperate she was to be told that the death of her child was not her fault. The results of the autopsy have since been presented to an independent medical examiner who agreed with Ribe that AIDS, not amoxicillin, killed the three-year-old.
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house of numbers 6
This all happened in 2005, four years before the movie was released and before she was interviewed for it. The woman we are seeing on film has not only lost a child to AIDS but was responsible for her increased risk, lack of diagnosis and lack of treatment. Yet unbelievably, here she is saying that you should stop taking medication and that there is no link between HIV and AIDS. The fact that she has the balls to be in this documentary and to continue giving out the same dangerous advice that contributed to her own daughter’s death, leads me to believe that she is broken.
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The death of Christine’s daughter was a huge story nationwide in America and in the following years, Christine and her husband faced legal action and accusations of child endangerment. There is no doubt in my mind that Brent must have been aware of the death of Christine’s daughter, yet this vital piece of information was missing from his documentary. It shows that Brent has no conscience and that he has cherry picked the evidence to back up his predetermined views on HIV/AIDS. It shows that this documentary is not (as Brent said) an “objective examination of the idea the HIV causes AIDS”, but is instead a distortion of reality that can – and probably has – lead to the death and suffering of many innocent people.
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I know now that some of you reading this will be saying, “Myles, never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” It’s true that Brent could be one of the stupidest documentary film makers out there. It is possible that he took Christine’s claims at face value and did not do any background check or further research of her claims. He could truly believe that coming off of HIV medication can help you live a long and healthy life because he has not seen any evidence that contradicts Christine’s story. The last 10 seconds of the documentary show that Brent was aware of the dangers of coming off of the medication and that he willingly leaves out yet more vital information that contradicted his ludicrous theories. The credits end saying, “The filmmakers acknowledge with sadness the passing of three generous contributors to House of Numbers before the completion of the film” and list three names followed by the line, “Their deaths were unrelated to HIV.” One of the people listed was Christine Maggiore whose death certificate states that the cause of death was disseminated herpes virus infection and bilateral pneumonia, with oral candidiasis as a contributing cause, all of which can be related to HIV infection.
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House of Numbers 7
So to recap, the woman who Brent had in his film telling people to come off of HIV medication and who cast a shadow on HIV tests, had a daughter who died before the documentary had even been filmed, from an AIDS related illness. The woman herself then also died from AIDS related illnesses, ahead of the film’s release. All of this vital information is missing in the main dialogue of the film and the only reference to Christine’s death is in the final 10 seconds of the credits. I honestly don’t know how Brent sleeps at night knowing that he has made this film.
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6 thoughts on “Vital information missing in the documentary House of Numbers

  1. I think this time you’re right on the money. It is far more likely that this asshole knew all about the daughters death and chose to leave that information out because it didn’t fit the reality defying narrative he was creating.

  2. That is one of the most depressing blog posts I’ve read in a while. I think C0ncordance did a video on this woman. I’m tempted to take the ferry over to Vancouver and ask the psyc department at UBC whether or not they actually cover the concept of cognitive dissonance in their required course work.

  3. Pingback: Outright lies in the documentary House of Numbers | Myles Power (powerm1985)

  4. In addition to setting up the unfortunately named Alive and Well organisation, Maggiore was also a board member of Rethinking AIDS, the main North American AIDS-denialist lobby group, which funded Leung’s film to the tune of at least $25,000. The minutes of their June 2006 board meeting are posted on the internet, and record:

    “Bob Leppo (the principal financier of RA) moved that RA board authorities authorize the RA foundation to make grants for a wider range of purposes, including films and video. Seconded by Charles Geschekter…

    “Robert Giraldo moved that the RA foundation make grants for Brent Leung’s film based on available funds (Leppo’s money). Seconded by Christine Maggiore. Unanimous agreement…”

    http://www.tig.org.za/Minutes_RA2006.htm

    Robert Leppo is a San Francisco venture capitalist who is also listed as the executive director of an earlier AIDS-denialist film made by Maggiore’s husband Robin Scovill in 2004 called “The Other Side of AIDS”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Other_Side_of_AIDS

    According to Celia Farber (who was also heavily involved in the production of Leung’s film), by as early as 1999 Leppo had already “contributed more than $1 million to the dissident cause.”

    http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/hiv/cfflames.htm

  5. Pingback: Time travel and HIV tests in the movie ‘House of Numbers’ | Myles Power (powerm1985)

  6. When I found out about Christine Maggiore, her daughter, and Kim Bonnell, I thought gosh, what an idiotic documentary! They all dies of aids!

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