By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah
In 2009 Brent Leung released the AIDS denial movie, House of Numbers. Brent claims the movie was an 'objective examination of the idea that HIV causes AIDS' but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I have previously discussed how the movie missed out vital information when it featured a woman talking about the benefits of not taking anti-HIV medication, but failed to mention that both herself and her daughter died of AIDS before the film was even released. It also failed to mention that both deaths could have been prevented by the drugs. The film is also guilty of telling barefaced lies. In this article I am going to discuss an example of this and where the film changes from misleading to simply dangerous.
Above is a short one-minute clip of the movie, where we see Liam Scheff and Nancy Padian talking about a ten-year study on heterosexual transmission of HIV. You might be wondering who these people are; Liam Scheff, according to the documentary, is an investigative journalist, but a quick Google search reveals that Liam prefers the title of 'conspiracy realist'. The reason why Liam gives himself this title and not the title of 'conspiracy theorist' is that he believes the term 'conspiracy theorist' to be a conspiracy theory by the government to cast a shadow on people like him... ಠ_ಠ. I don't think I could adequately explain just how bat shit crazy Liam is and I therefore suggest you check out his website and YouTube channel to see it for yourself. There you will find the ramblings of a mad man.
Liam admits to being a truther, a creationist and an AIDS denialist. He also believes that the Boston marathon bombing was a ‘false flag operation’, that Facebook is run by the FBI (yet he owns a Facebook page which he frequently posts on), and that JFK was assassinated for standing up to the CIA. He is also an anti-vaxxer and has taken it upon himself to produce a comic book about the ‘dangers’ of vaccinations. The comic book is called ‘The Geneticals’ and stars the world’s first team of vaccine-damaged superheroes, who banded together to ‘fight bad science’ and ‘search for a cure for their toxic state’. You would think that after writing his own superhero comic book that he would be a fan of the whole genre, but noooope! One of the more interesting claims made by Liam on his website is that Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ is some kind of mind control. It is totally baffling to me why Brent would want someone in his documentary who subscribes to every conspiracy theory going, especially when he is trying to produce a movie that is an ‘objective examination of the idea that HIV causes AIDS’. Because one thing we can all agree on is how objective conspiracy theorists are!
Nancy Padian is a medical researcher at the University of California, San Francisco and the lead author of the paper ‘Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-year Study’, which is being discussed in the film and was one of the first large-scale studies of heterosexual transmission of HIV.
Nancy begins to talk about her study and says, ‘I did a study of the heterosexual transmission of HIV in California and we recruited individuals who were infected with HIV. Then we recruited their sexual partners and we look at whether transmission has occurred.’ As she is saying this, we are shown a picture of the front page of her published research. We then cut to Liam, who tells us that no one in this ten year study contracted HIV from their partners. ‘How many of them of them do you think, after ten years with the world’s most terrifying virulent disease came up positive? Nobody. Nobody. Nobody who was negative came up positive. Zero.’ You might be wondering why Liam is the one discussing the findings and not the scientist who conducted the study. This is because Brent wants to fool the viewer into thinking that no one in the study contracted HIV from their partner and Liam was probably the only one interviewed who was stupid enough to lie about the research. He is not misinterpreting the data, he is flat out lying and therefore so is Brent. Nancy’s study shows that HIV can be transmitted through heterosexual sex and notes that male-to-female transmission is approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission. Even in the low resolution copy of the film I found I could clearly see on the front page of Nancy’s paper that it says, ‘Overall, 68 (19%) of the 360 female partners of HIV-infected men (95% confidence interval (Cl) 15.0-23.3%) and two (2.4%) of the 82 male partners of HIV-infected women (95% Cl 0.3-8.5%) were infected.’
I find it hard to understand why Brent thought that it was acceptable to have a man lying about a piece of research on the transmission of HIV (a deadly virus!) in his documentary. I also don’t understand why he missed the opportunity to ask one of the many scientists who have dedicated their lives to HIV/AIDS who feature in his documentary about the paper’s findings. FFS, the documentary featured the woman who actually wrote the paper! Do you think she believes that no one in this study contracted HIV from their partners? The level of deception is truly unbelievable.
We then cut to Nancy, who begins to talk about the difficulty of being infected by HIV through sexual contact. She correctly says that HIV is more difficult to transmit than most other sexually transmitted diseases. For example, the probability of contracting an STI through vaginal sex for a woman per sexual encounter is 30-50% for Chlamydia, 47% for Gonorrhea, 50-70% for Hepatitis B and only 0.1% for HIV. The problem I have here is the deceitful editing, which makes it look as if Nancy is backing up Liam’s claims that no one in her study contracted HIV from their partners.
The film also shows a picture of a sign that reads, ‘Prevent AIDS use a condom for safe sex’ at the same time as incorrectly stating that HIV can’t be transmitted by heterosexual intercourse. By doing this, the documentary heavily implies that condoms are pointless because if you can’t get HIV through heterosexual sex, then what’s the point in using one? I realise that when something is implied it is often open to interpretation, but everyone I have shown this documentary to have all said the film is implying that condoms are pointless, when I asked them about this specific segment of the film. I can’t stress enough the dangers of having unprotected sex if your partner is HIV positive. HIV is a very dangerous, very real virus that is responsible for the death and suffering of millions of people. HIV CAN! be transmitted though heterosexual intercourse to both sexes and the main way of reducing the risk of transmission to your partner is to wear a condom. Reckless infection of a person with HIV is considered to be a crime here in the UK. If you are found guilty you will spend time in jail and most likely have your name disgraced in the papers.
In this short clip – less than one minute long – Brent has shown us how deceitful he is willing to be. There is no doubt in my mind that Brent knows the results of the study, especially after interviewing the author Nancy Padian and having the front page of her research in his documentary. By featuring someone in his film who is lying about the findings of the study, Brent is lying himself, to the people watching his documentary. By implying that condoms are useless, Brent has solidified his position in my mind as one of the most disgusting human beings that have ever lived.