By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah
I am currently in the middle of research for a series of videos critical of the AIDS denialism movie House of Numbers. For my research I have been watching extended interviews with the scientists in the documentary, researching various AIDS denialist organisations and finding out about the people within these groups. I have been doing this for about 3 months now and for the whole time I have been unable to get rid of the feeling that I have heard all this AIDS denialist stuff before. Whilst researching the AIDS denialist organisation Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, founded by the late Christine Maggiore, I had the unsettling feeling that I had seen their logo quite a lot in the past, but was unable to put my finger on where I had seen it. Then it hit me! I remembered exactly where and when I first heard of AIDS denialists. It was back in 2002 when I was still at college and it was on a website belonging to my favourite band at the time; Foo Fighters.
As unbelievable as it sounds, Foo Fighters were once heavily promoting the theory that HIV does not cause AIDS and AIDS does not exist. Not only did they have a link to an AIDS denialism page on their website’s sidebar, but they proudly had a relatively large banner at the bottom of their front page linking to it, which reads: “If you have ever lived or loved in fear of AIDS, click here for a reality check and to find out what the AIDS establishment isn’t telling you.” Although the old website is long gone, it can still be found using the Way Back Machine and the full transcript can be viewed here.
The page consists of an introduction to AIDS denialism, which states that “The band has come out in support of Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives, an organization dedicated to helping open the dialog concerning AIDS” and then has a list of “Good Reasons for Good People to Question AIDS”. The reasons listed by this rock band asking you to question AIDS are really incorrect statements with no basis in peer-reviewed research or the real world. They include “AIDS is Not a Disease” and “HIV is Not Proved to Cause AIDS” which even back in 2002 had been proven beyond all doubt to be incorrect. For the most part these statements are relatively harmless and can be passed off as the ramblings of a madman, but the others have real potential of doing great harm. “AIDS declines predate new drug therapies”, “Everyone is Not at Risk”, “Africa is Not Being Destroyed by AIDS” and “HIV Tests Do not Test for HIV”. Each statement was accompanied by a short paragraph going into detail as to why they believe each statement is correct.
HIV tests do not test for HIV
I am going to cut the Foo Fighters some slack here and only talk about the tests that were about before 2002. The short paragraph states that the HIV tests do not specifically test for the HIV virus and instead test for antibodies produced in response to the virus. They then go on to say that the test is non-specific as antibodies produced in response to herpes, hepatitis, the flu, vaccinations, malaria and pregnancy can give false positives. The test they are talking about here is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The problem with the ELISA test is not that it gives false positives, it’s that they can give false negatives. There are certain medical conditions that may mask the signs of HIV infection that medical doctors are aware of and therefore use different tests. However HIV has a window period of about three months where antibody tests may give a false negative (although most people will have detectable antibodies approximately 30 days after infection and 97% of people have detectable antibodies by three months). Again, medical doctors are aware of this, which is why they ask for people who may have been at risk at one point to repeat the test over a large time range. The Foo Fighters then go on to say that the manufacturer’s statements warn that this antibodies test is not to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV. They use this as the proof that HIV tests do not work when they should have been asking: if this test can’t be used to confirm the presence of HIV infection, what can? They use a western blot – in healthy low-risk populations, an indeterminate result only occurs in 1 in every 5,000 test. When used in conjunction (like in the United States) the likelihood of a false positive is between 0.0004 to 0.0007 and false-negative 0.003.
AIDS declines predate new drug therapies
This is the paragraph in which Foo Fighters talk about how apparently the official (American) definition of AIDS was expanded to include additional illnesses in 1993. They then go on to say that AIDS deaths peaked in America in 1994, two years before the new AIDS cocktails (a combination of drugs designed to suppress HIV replication) were made available for general use. This is a flat out LIE! The Foo Fighters here are not misinterpreting the data, they are flat out lying about it. The number of AIDS related deaths in America peaked in 1995, with 41,699 deaths compared with 40,629 in 1994. In 1996 the numbers of AIDS related deaths drastically decreased because of the introduction of the AIDS cocktails, to 31,130 and then to 16,685 in 1997. The Foo Fighters later go on to say that these cocktails fail for 50% of patients, which is another example of an outright lie from them. The decrease of AIDS related deaths after the introduction of the cocktails is proof of their effectiveness. The Foo Fighters also claim that they cause liver failure in 1 in 10 users and physical deformities in up to 80%. It is true that some drugs designed to suppress HIV replication, and drugs designed to manage AIDS related illnesses, have some very unpleasant side effects. But the drugs taken by one HIV infected person will be different from another and you therefore cannot lump all side effects together and say that 1 in 10 will have liver failure. It also doesn’t help that the Foo Fighters are being very vague about what specific drug or combination they are talking about, but I believe its one called Zidovudine (AZT). The drug is a reverse-transcriptase inhibitor that was approved for use against HIV in 1987. Although the drug is effective towards HIV, it also has some nasty side effects including lipodystrophy (degenerative condition of the body’s adipose tissue). This is what I believe the Foo Fighters are referring to when they say that 80% of users of the drug have physical deformities. Why they decided to use the word ‘deformities’ and not ‘lipodystrophy’ is obviously to let the reader’s imagination run away with them.
“Everyone is Not at Risk”
The paragraph that follows this statement makes no sense to me. They seem to think that because the chance of becoming infected with HIV is very low that we should ignore it. This paragraph also contradicts everything they have said previously because by saying that you are not at risk of developing AIDS they are also acknowledging the fact that HIV causes AIDS. You should be under no illusion that everyone (including the small population of the world who are immune to one strain of HIV) is at risk. Just because the likelihood of you becoming infected is low, does not mean you should dismiss it. For example the chances of contracting Polio in England are very low, but this does not mean that if I were to have any children in the future that they wouldn’t be vaccinated.
Even though they have now removed all links to Alive & Well (who they played a benefit gig for) and removed this page from their website, they have not come out and stated that they no longer beleve this garbage. By not doing this and having this dangerous misinformation on their site for so many years, they will have caused a lot of suffering in the world. There may well be people out there now infected with HIV after reading this information on this influential bands website.
Because of this I say with every fiber of my being: FUCK! you Foo Fighters!