Today’s denialists undermine HIV prevention and stigmatize Africans with HIV
June 21, 2014
Posted by on
Yesterday’s AIDS denialists claimed HIV did not cause AIDS. With insignificant exceptions, that stupid belief has gone the way of the dodo. Although that belief was all over the internet, it had little influence on policy except in South Africa, where it delayed government support for anti-retroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and to treat HIV infection.
Today’s denialists accept that HIV causes AIDS but they deny – despite evidence to the contrary – that a large proportion of Africans infected with HIV got it from blood through skin-piercing procedures in health care and cosmetic services. Today’s HIV-from-blood denialists are influential and dangerous:
• They draft and fund HIV prevention messages that ignore risks in skin-piercing procedures.
• They stigmatize HIV-positive Africans and threaten them and their families by blaming them for sexual misbehavior.
• They promote racist stereotypes of African sexual behavior by claiming that most African adults with HIV (more than 200 in 1,000 in several countries) got it through heterosexual sex (whereas elsewhere in the world less than 1 in 1,000 adults gets HIV that way).
• They mismanage research to avoid unwanted results; researchers who are denialists do not ask about or report skin-piercing procedures as risks for HIV.
In sum: today’s HIV-from-blood denialists contribute to Africa’s continuing high rates of HIV infection. Whereas most of yesterday’s denialists were outside the medical profession and had little money to play with, today’s HIV-from-blood denialists are led by medical professionals in WHO, donor governments, and leading universities. Medical professionals have a conflict of interest when it comes to Africa’s HIV epidemics: Recognizing and admitting infections from blood on skin-piercing instruments would motivate and empower the public to demand safer and better health care. Health care professionals divert critical attention by blaming infections on victims’ sexual behavior.