In my videos and articles critical of the AIDS denialist movie ‘House of Numbers’ I have always said that there is no doubt in my mind that the documentary will be responsible for a lot of pain and suffering in the world. Although I have been publishing work on the subject for over a year I have only just received my first email backing up what I already thought.
This letter shows incredible bravery and I wish this chap all the best in his future.
I just watched every episode of your series Debunking of House of Numbers. I’m writing this after almost dying last month from pneumocystis pneumonia because I’ve bought into the Rethink-AIDS bullshit since 1994. I’ve probably been HIV positive for six years, but lived in denial about my health regarding it. Also, I had a whole routine based on advice from denialists to keep from getting an HIV test; previous to last month, the last one I got was in 1996.
In 1994, My father and I heard a radio show by Dr. Robert Willner who also wrote a book that we bought called Deadly Deception. It was something my father and I bonded over during a drive across the United States. The book was terribly written but then lead me to other books by John Lauritsen and Peter Duesburg. I probably read each book three or four times so I could argue and convince friends there’s nothing wrong and lets all stop worrying about AIDS. I currently have a group of friends and a partner that are joining me in reeducating ourselves after what I consider to be very damaging brainwashing I did to myself over these years, and regurgitating denialist information to them as well.
My partner and I have been together for sixteen years, and he followed my advice on how to lie to doctors about having “just gotten an HIV test anonymously so I don’t need one now.” Because I didn’t want to know my HIV status, I put a lot of pressure on him to not learn his also and now I have to live with the guilt from that. Legally, my general practitioner could probably have me thrown in prison for lying to him, but he’s stood by me and assures me that he can make me whole and healthy again. The guilt I also feel for convincing my parter to listen to my repeating denialist misinformation and watching House of Numbers with me and sharing articles about evil drug companies is unprecedented. He is also HIV positive, we found out last month also after I was hospitalized.
We’ve spent the last four years together with all the health problems for which you would think any rational gay man would get an HIV test.
We would have blood work with all sorts of anomalies but insist to medical personnel we just had an HIV test so let’s look for another reason. Low platelets, candida, rashes, unexplained ocular problems, low testosterone, etc. My cabinets now are full of elixirs and vitamins to address each of the symptoms of those issues without once realizing that there’s a bigger health problem within me.
I wrote this because in the last episode you said something about a documentary like House of Numbers is probably doing great damage to people’s health and I want you to know that it certainly is and did in my case, and to thank you for producing them. It’s going to be a long recovery for me and I’m spending the time reeducating myself, and trying not to place too much blame on myself for believing the mis-information.
I’m educated and fairly street-smart so it’s hard to understand how I got here. In high school in the 1980’s, I was the one demanding my gay friends use condoms. I moved to Florida in 1991 for school and continued to make sure I used them and we were all being responsible. After ingesting the denialist information, I remember being someone sad because I felt I could have had so much more fun in Florida had I only known then that “condoms didn’t matter, it’s really just the poppers and drugs you have to stay away from.” That was my attitude because Duesburg, Lauritsen and the website rethinkaids caused me to believe it.
So when I got pneumonia in February/March (maybe January?), I just told myself that my dad has had pneumonia so why is this any different? I went to the hospital once, and my own doctor three times in March, lying each time about having been tested recently so I was given antibiotics and sent home each time. My partner was out of town so I literally lied on the sofa for two weeks, my body destroying itself to feed the pneumonia and not eating anything except the wrong antibiotics. It never occurred to any of the health professionals, especially my doctor that someone would flat-out lie to them about having an HIV test and saying it was negative when in fact no test was ever done. The second time I went to the emergency room, they did a test without my permission which is legal if the patient is unresponsive, which I was.
When my doctor came to see me in the hospital a few days later and I had to explain my denialist views and how I had lied to him… that was one of the lowest points of the whole experience. I thought he was going to tell me he can’t treat me and walk out the door. He assured me he’s seen worse and I’ll be OK, but “now you know you were wrong.”
I actually don’t remember much about how I got to the hospital, but I was told I was about two hours away from dying after passing out on the floor of my bathroom when my partner, now back home called and ambulance and I spent a week in the hospital loosing more muscle mass from the pneumonia, but being treated remarkably well by the medical staff. In one month I went from 162 pounds to 135 pounds (73.5kg-61kg). I did get the impression from the medical staff I was a rarity since my CD4 count was 21 and who the hell waits that long to get treatment in this modern age? Because of modern anti-viral medication, it’s rare they see someone with pneumocystis pneumonia anymore as an introduction to his hospitalization. The first few days in the hospital, I could not believe there was all this fuss over someone who “didn’t deserve it” and honestly felt I deserved to die, based on how wrong I had been for so long about taking care of myself.
Now I have to live with looking like an AIDS patient from 1992, which is rare to see but quite noticeable in my neighborhood. I feel like a skeleton walking to the store; it’s embarrassing. I even have Kaposi Sarcoma, which I have had visible since November 2013, but because I “don’t do poppers” I completely denied that’s what it could be. My doctor, who has treated HIV positive patients since the beginning, didn’t even think that’s what the lesions on my neck and face were because I had lied about having been tested (always two months ago, always negative) and because he hasn’t even seen KS in fifteen years.
I’m on antivirals and responding well, so there is some hope but I’m still at the point in being sickly where I don’t know what it feels like to be healthy, and I’m doubtful I ever will be again. I know I will, but right now, it doesn’t feel that way.
Over the weekend, I threw away a stack of House of Numbers DVDs I had made to give to people because I really believed it at the time and thought everyone should see it. That’s how manipulated I was. Two years ago, I mailed a copy anonymously to an acquaintance who I was sure would benefit from the movie and knowing he wasn’t actually HIV positive and could stop taking his medications. I hope he threw it away and didn’t watch it. I know he’s still taking anti-virals and healthy.
Again, thank you Myles, for producing your series debunking that terrible movie (which I got from Pirate Bay), thanks for reading this. I wrote all this so you can know some real-world results on how damaging propaganda like that can be to just a common working man in Saint Louis, MO, USA with a fairly normal life.