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Biology 103
2001 Third Web Report
On Serendip


Debbie Wang

In Junior High, when we were in sex education class, we were told about AIDS and HIV. We learned that being HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive eventually led to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which eventually led to death. We were taught this and never really doubted it. The AIDS pandemic is global and an estimated 40 million people are infected. None of them have been cured. The amount of funding for AIDS research is not small. A plentiful amount of drugs are available to patients diagnosed with AIDS or HIV. Some AIDS patients take "cocktails" of pills, which often lead to serious physical side effects. Some "cocktails" can mean ingesting 25 pills a day. There has been much talk about finding an AIDS Vaccine, but there have been no definite results as of yet.

. She created a stir in the media when she appeared on ABC News 20/20(1). Her person She has been called an unfit mother, a heretic, and has been compared to those who believe the Holocaust never happened. The reason for such a stir is because she is HIV positive, doesn"t take any medications whatsoever, questions whether HIV causes AIDS, has published a book called What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?, has unprotected sex with her husband, has an untested 3 year old son who she breast-fed at birth (the virus can be transmitted in utero, during birth, or through breast feeding), and is pregnant with her second child. Her name is Christine Maggiore and she as well as other dissidents have aroused both anger and support from AIDS and HIV communities.

The difference between being HIV positive and having AIDS is that having AIDS means that a person must be HIV positive and either have a T-cell count below 200 or have one of the CDC"s (Center for Disease Control) 28 opportunistic infections. Christine Maggiore started questioning the connection between HIV and AIDS and the HIV and AIDS testing process when certain things she was told about AIDS and HIV did not add up with her situation. She speaks about how she "started really thinking about what AIDS doctors and educators told me rather than just accepting everything as true and correct." Doctors had told her that from her T cell count, she had a recent new infection. However, she claims that she hadn"t had contact with an HIV positive person since 1985. In addition, she was nine years into what was supposed to be a seven year death sentence and she had no signs of sickness. Her T cell count did not match up to the facts either. She said that her first T cell count did not make sense either. The count was 1700 when she knew that she had gone through some medically induced immune suppression(2). After reading as much information she could about AIDS and HIV transmission, she still had no answers that proved that she her HIV positive status was going to guarantee AIDS in her future. No medical journal has ever "proved to her that [HIV] is dangerous". The ELISA and Western Blot tests are used to detect antibodies to HIV as opposed to measuring the virus itself (6). She thinks that the HIV testing of antibodies are too over sensitive and that they could show up positive if you had a flu shot or if you"ve ever been pregnant, which the CDC does not agree with (5). When she shared her ideas to others, there were both warm and cold reactions. She sought out the community (some of which are AIDS and HIV scientists) that supported her thoughts of questioning whether HIV caused AIDS and started the website Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives (3).

Those who support Christine Maggiore and her ideas argue that the reasons why most of the AIDS and HIV medical world and the big name AIDS activism organizations don"t support this questioning is because there is too much money already going into the ideology the HIV causes AIDS and many are making profits off of it. One source asked, " So is it research dollars? Grant funding? Drug company support? Personal reputations? Or just a fear that what they believe, what they"ve based everything on, is wrong?" (4). Maggiore has not had her son or her husband tested because she fears that the stigma of HIV will "wrongly describe him as ill when he is not". During pregnancy, she refused to take anti-HIV drugs like the widely used AZT. Her decision was based on AZT being a drug that destroys forming DNA chains, and not wanting to expose her child to "toxins" (1).

In retaliation to Maggiore"s ideas, the organization amfAR (The American Foundation for AIDS Research) published a statement in the New York Times that stated, "HIV causes AIDS. To argue otherwise costs lives." in which they say that there is no doubt that HIV causes AIDS and that treating HIV infection with drugs treats AIDS(8). In addition, Dr. Mathilde Krim of amfAR spoke out in response to Maggiore"s appearance on 20/20 saying that amfAR is appalled at the support Maggiore has from AIDS and HIV scientists. AmfAR placed a statement that "Those who exploit their reputations as scientists to propagate unfounded alternative claims regarding the cause of AIDS are contributing to the growth of the epidemic and to the death of human beings" (7). Others have also attacked Maggiore in asking whether she"d be able to explain all the deaths that have occurred because of the pandemic, and that Maggiore assumes that the 420,000 Americans who died of AIDS were victims to their prescription drugs(5).

I am not able to make a decision on my opinions of this controversy. The way I see it, either way, there are people dying from AIDS and there has not been a cure yet. I would not trust myself with understanding the scientific or biological aspects of HIV or AIDS. I think that in this controversy, there is a fine line between freedom of speech/self and the potential of putting others" lives at risk. In one aspect, I support the possibilities of questioning the "facts" and not taking everything at face value. In other respects, claiming that which is unsure can be taking a risk with the emotional and physical lives of those who are affected by AIDS and HIV.


WWW Sources

1) ABC News 20/20- Unafraid of HIV: Mother Defies Conventional Wisdom about AIDS

2) Survivor"s Story: The Trials and Tribulations of Christine Maggiore

3) Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives

4) Gadfly online: The trials and tribulations of Christine Maggiore

5) The HIV Disbelievers

6) AIDS: A Second Opinion

7) Dr. Malthilde Krim Refutes AIDS Denialists on ABC"s 20/20

8) Article Published in New York Times: HIV Causes AIDS



Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

11/28/2005, from a Reader on the Web

/biology/b103/f01/web3/wang.html More recent developments in the life of Christine Maggiore: Eliza Jane Scovill, the 3 year old daughter of Christine Maggiore and Robin Scovill died in May 2005. The death was "unexplained" and therefor an autopsy was done by the Los Angeles county coroner, who found that she had died of AIDS-related pneumonia caused by Pneumocystis carinii. Christine and Robin of course deny that this could be true, and hired Mohammed Al Bayati to review the coroner's report. A discussion of the whole affair can be found here:

12/09/2005, from a Reader on the Web

Dear Serendip, Please use caution when promoting the controversial views of people like Christine Maggiore. As with Maggiore, my brother-in-law was diagnosed HIV positive during the early 80s. He lived ten years, fought a long and terrible battle for his health and his life, and died when he was 36 years old. We believe that it was the virus - and not the treatment - that killed him. Christine Maggiore has achieved fame as a kind of urban mythologist: a person who makes up stories that people desperately want to hear and believe. But I feel that she has acted irresponsibly, not to mention that her many cavalier statements are offensive to those of us whose family members have not survived. The green people and the far left may love Maggiore, but only because she plays into their ideology. Were she a religous person - say a Christian - who attributed her good health to a miracle of God, would you still respect her opinions? Would you still publish her "research?" Please consider all sides of the debate. And please do not demonize medications that can help so many. I will leave you with a story of my own - one that is based on personal experience: There were two sisters who contracted HIV in the early 80s from sharing needles. Neither of them sought treatment because they were convinced that it was the AIDs drugs that were killing people, not the HIV virus. One sister eventually developed AIDS and, after ten years, died. Her sister was at her side. She has not developed AIDs. We need to recognize that denial is not a treatment, much less a cure. Sincerely,



Peter's picture

@Robby, have you read the

@Robby, have you read the papers presented by Dr Gallo when he "proudly" announced to the whole world that HIV is the cause of AIDS?

May 4, 1984: Gallo and colleagues publish 4 back-to-back articles in the journal Science. One of these papers reports on the “isolation” of virus from 36% (23/64) of AIDS patients investigated, and from 86% (18/21) of pre-AIDS patients investigated. (Gallo RC, et al. Science 1984; 224: 500-03.)

Need more proof? Why don't you read, investigate and form your own conclusion? Do not just take the words of these people.

Did you guys know that the test used to confirm HIV, which of course is Western Blot, has different interpretations? And they differ from not just from country to country but from laboratory to laboratory. You can be HIV positive with as few as 2 bands (African model) to as many 4 bands (Australia, France)? How do you think that makes it an accurate predictor of HIV? Why is that the case? Precisely because there WAS NEVER a GOLD STANDARD when it comes to proving the validity of these HIV tests. GOLD STANDARD = HIV Isolation/purification.

@Anonymous, it's also unbelievable that people believe in everything they read in newspapers without even bothering to check it up. I pity you.

Anonymous's picture

Law and Order

I watched an episode of Law and Order:SUV and decided to look up alternate HIV treatment and the thought that HIV does not cause AIDS.... I had never heard of it prior to last night ..... it's amazing that people believe this.... WOW

Robby's picture


I think this is insane first of all show me one person who has AIDS who does not also have HIV. Right now all the proof that we do have does point in the direct of HIV causing AIDS and HIV treatments have been successful. I think that people need to NEVER stop their medication because other people say HIV might not cause AIDS. Unfortunately people do stop because of stuff like this, and then they die.