House of Numbers

September 26th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, aids, bad science | 95 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, 26 September 2009, The Guardian.

This week, listening to the Guardian Science podcast, I had a treat. Caspar Melville, editor of New Humanist magazine, leader of something called the Rationalist Association, had been to see two films at the Cambridge Film Festival. One was a dreary creationist movie that famously misrepresented the biologists interviewed for it. This was obvious bad science, he explained. But the other was different: House of Numbers, a new film about Aids, really had something in it.I have now seen this film. It presents itself as a naïve journey by one young film maker to discover the science behind HIV. In reality it’s a dreary and pernicious piece of Aids denialist propaganda.

All the usual ideas are there. It’s antiretroviral drugs themselves that are the cause of symptoms called Aids. Or it’s poverty. Or it’s drug use. HIV doesn’t cause Aids. Diagnostic tools don’t work, Aids is simply a spurious basket diagnosis invented to sell antiretroviral medication for a wide range of unrelated problems, and the drugs don’t work either.

It would take two months of columns to address all the bogus claims of this film, and that blizzard, perhaps, is the point of making it, with all the classic rhetorical devices that have been honed by Aids denialists and creationists over decades. It engages, for example, in repeated overstatement of marginal internal disagreements about the details of HIV research, to the extent that 18 doctors and scientists interviewed for the film have issued a statement saying that the director was “deceptive” in his interactions with them, that it perpetuates pseudoscience and myths, and that they were selectively quoted to make it seem as if they are in disagreement and disarray, when in fact they agree on all the important facts.

At one point there is an extended sequence explaining that you can’t take a picture of the HIV virus: or maybe you can, but if you can, different scientists disagree on how, and whether their method is best. This is an infantile world view where stuff only exists when you can easily take a photograph of it, and where the internet, compound interest, and magnetism don’t exist either.

There is a memorable skit on diagnostic tests, where the film-maker manages to find one woman working in a marquee in a shopping centre in Africa giving HIV tests, who accidentally misinforms him about why she is asking for information on his health risk behaviours. In the film, this becomes a dramatic exposé: the HIV diagnosis is a tautology, they suggest, a basket diagnosis for sick people of any kind who engage in risk behaviours, the blood test is unreliable, a piece of theatre, and the diagnosis is only made because the tester has asked if you are gay or inject drugs.

But people working on the front line of HIV testing are often told to ask about risk behaviours during a test, because testing is also a great opportunity for education about prevention. Furthermore, as an interesting statistical aside, knowledge about your pre-test likelihood of having a condition also helps the tester to correctly interpret any diagnostic test: because as we have covered in this column, for terrorist screening, for predicting violence in psychiatric patients, indeed for anything, the likelihood of a false positive with any test is higher where the population prevalence of a condition is low. In any case, HIV tests are so reliable that in 2007, an HIV negative woman won $2.5 million in damages after she was treated for Aids without a proper diagnosis, since there was no excuse for the mistake that her doctor made.

But am I protesting too much? As you read these words, is doubt creeping in? So tests aren’t so good? So there is controversy? It’s all so complicated. So many details. Maybe there’s no smoke without fire. And so, maybe, I should ignore this film: but it’s so profoundly misleading that you can’t stop yourself.

There is an interview with Christine Maggiore, who talks about her difficult decision to go against medical advice by refusing Aids medication, medication, and how much better she felt as a result. What the film doesn’t tell you, as you shout at the screen, is that Christine Maggiore’s daughter Eliza Jane died of Aids and PCP pneumonia three years ago, at the age of three, and, as I reported nine months ago, Christine Maggiore herself died two days after Christmas 2008 of pneumonia, aged 52 (the film finally acknowledges her death in the last 2 seconds of the film, at the end of the lengthy credits, in small letters).

We see Neville Hodgkinson, the Sunday Times health correspondent who drove their denialist reporting in the 1990s. There is Peter Duesberg, who you will remember from a recent column, when academic publishers Elsevier forcibly withdrew an article by him in one of their journals. I could go on.

Do you give idiots a wider audience when you respond to them? Are they marginal and irrelevant? I’d like to believe that they are. But the duping of Caspar Melville (who has since recanted from his uncritical response to the film, albeit only on his blog), and the attention-seeking smugness of Cambridge film festival in putting on such a moronic film, both suggest otherwise. I will never know the right way to deal with any of these people, and I will always welcome advice.


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95 Responses



  1. T.J. Crowder said,

    September 28, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Some observations:

    1 – There is no scientific controversy about whether HIV causes AIDS. There is, at most, a PR “controversy,” and we know how easy those are to create.

    2 – In my view, all of the energy one needs to spend denying this sort of denial is calling it what it is (without hyperbole) and pointing whomever one is speaking with about it to AIDSTruth.org, and in particular to their “Debunking denialist myths” page (aidstruth.org/denialism/myths). These are well-researched, well-referenced, calm, considered discussions of the myths (and before anyone screams “straw man” I point you at the comments on Dr. Melville’s blog, in which many of these very myths are purveyed as fact). None but the most truly exceptional among us will do a better job than that in a blog comment, and to make the effort is to lend currency to the mistaken idea that there is a controversy. My only complaint is their use of the term “denialist” which is unnecessarily emotive.

    3 – It’s useful to question our ideas and assumptions, even when (perhaps especially when) they’re well-established. And anyone reading AIDSTruth.org‘s excellent debunking FAQ with an open mind will see ideas being questioned in a thoughtful, responsible way. (Read their discussion of Myth #11, for instance.) Science is about questioning the status quo; but doing so with evidence and repeatable methodology.

    4 – Banning anything (books, movies, behavior) must be a last resort when all other courses have been exhausted.

    5 – The comparison of “denying” AIDS is caued by HIV and yelling “Fire!” in a crowded cinema is a frightening and dangerous one. Given the scale of harm this particular denial can cause (I’m thinking of those 385,000 people in South Africa) there may well be something in it, but even if there is, we need to be reluctant and unhappy to make such a comparison, not enthusiastic. And moreover, taking action on such a comparison (e.g., banning) may well cause, rather than prevent, further harm, which calls into question bothering to make the comparison at all.

  2. mrmuz said,

    September 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    What’s the Homeopathic cure for AIDS going to be then?
    The immune system is failing because lymphocytes aren’t being made. The body is alive but not working properly (and so, dying). So the opposite of that isssss….. something dead but otherwise working correctly.
    Extremely watered down pus?

  3. Petanque said,

    September 29, 2009 at 6:25 am

    A quick check on IMDB to look at the reviews of House of Numbers reveals some positive reviews, but none that reflect the response in this column.
    www.imdb.com/title/tt1311710/
    This looks like a situation to be remedied, but how do you get a review – or column such as this – quoted on IMDB? Maybe login and add something to the User Comments …

  4. SteveGJ said,

    September 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    @T.J. Crowder

    4 – Banning anything (books, movies, behavior) must be a last resort when all other courses have been exhausted.

    oh dear – banning things “when all other courses have been exhausted” is surely not the criterion for such an action. I’m a reluctant banner at the best of times, but surely the criterion must be more if the good thereby achieved is clearly, and vastly outweighed by the loss of freedom.

    As an obvious example, we have banned many drugs. It’s actually quite difficult to make a case that this has clearly gained us anything compared to other approaches, like legalisation and taxation. We could start pointing at smoking, or alcohol, or prostitution, or big Macs or any number of other perceived social evils, let alone banning films or books because “all else has failed”.

    Whilst the science for AIDs/HIV is very strong, we have to be very, very wary. Go back less than than three decades and the debate on the cause of gastric ulcers was considered signed and sealed. It took a maverick approach to prove that all completely wrong after the original paper was badly received (and there was evidence more than 30 years before that). In another area, that of continental drift, proper debate was closed down for more than a century by what amounted to ridicule and peer-reviewed censorship.

    Now 99% of science controversy will not be of that ilk – but who is to say when some orthodoxy will not be overturned. I also know this sounds like the classic argument of the charlatan (they laughed at Einstein etc.), but see where orthodoxies got us with teaching reading, the nature of dyslexia and a host of other things.

    Be very, very careful before you speak of banning anything, and making it sound like the action you take when you finally are unable to persuade everybody (which is what point 4 read like) it is the action of the exasperated.

  5. csrster said,

    September 30, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Presumably the homeopathic cure for AIDS is a really, really, small amount of unsafe sex and/or intravenous drug use.

  6. p said,

    September 30, 2009 at 10:05 am

    “In other words, why have Duesberg an his ilk gained so many followers among the ordinary populace?”

    because AIDS education is in shambles

  7. MedsVsTherapy said,

    September 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    “I don’t think these people will go away if you ignore them – I wish they would.”

    –I agree strongly. Best to air out these ideas in the light of day. A generation ago, NO ONE would question a physician. As they gave us thalidomide and HRT. Nowadays, maybe the population in general is a bit too skeptical of the Medical-Pharmaceutical Complex, etc., and far too trusting in the Woo-Magic Supplement Complex, but at least it presses those in the know to sharpen explanations and clarify beliefs.

    Plus, the old “give-them-enough-rope” argument. As the one commenter noted, the director came across very poorly at the post-viewing debate.

    Finally, I don’t know what relevance this has, but I have been a sentient adult before and throughout the entire history of the HIV issue, and have a hard time believing how anyone could see this as a manufactured “illness” to sell patented drugs. It stuns me that anyone could possibly entertain this thought for a minute. but possibly, this is only because I watched the issue appear and unfold. Man, I thought Shilt’s “And the Band Played On” was way late in the game, but Shilts has since died after enjoying years of recognition for this seminal work, and that chapter of the HIV issue has long passed, and new chapters continue to be written. 25+ years. Wow. I guess there are young adults out there who never knew a time without HIV as a public health issue.

    Banning things: While it might be good to ban things (addictive drugs, fireworks, etc.) or actions (murder, etc.), it just is not a good idea to BAN information. Nor to censor information. This is very fresh over here in the US, as those of us opposed to the vague national-health-care proposals fight to learn about details, only to be inappropriately branded as dangerous extremists for asking the govt pointed questions.

    Here, the current leadership is considering simultaneously propping up failing newspapers in order to continue their purveyance of favored views, and censoring the hugely successful talk radio in order to quash the purveyance of disfavored views.

    We need to be careful what we wish for, when considering censorship, becase eventually the “other party” will be makign the judgments regarding what is OK for our comrades to hear, and what us not OK. –BTW: on this side of the pond, I have loved following the FOI efforts in the UK! Keep it up!! “Information wants to be free.” Kraftwerk.

  8. skyesteve said,

    September 30, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Sorry, but Bill Thompson argument just doesn’t wash – unless of course he’s prepared to show a film which denies Nazi atrocities against Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, Russians, etc. Or perhaps one that says that Stalin was a lovely cuddly grand-dad that didn’t hurt a fly. Or maybe there’s scope for a documentary which shows that the abolition of slavery in the USA was a bad idea. Propaganda does what it says on the tin and has no place at a “serious” film festivalin Cambridge or anywhere else.
    Oh, and banning information is not the same as banning disinformation and out and out lies!
    P.S. the FOI Acxt in this country is rapidly becoming a joke!

  9. Staphylococcus said,

    October 1, 2009 at 3:55 am

    HIV is a Misdiagnosis said

    “Those drugs are proven to be dangerous and toxic in hundreds of studies at the NIH… Both to adults, and to unborn children, so I really do not find that theory questionable. Mitochondrial DNA damage. Look it up and consider those implications and another illness they mirror… And if you look at the statistics more people died of AIDS annually when EVERYONE was being drugged at diagnosis. Isn’t it you guys that are always quoting the statistics? Well you obviously read selectively.”

    No one denies that certain medications can have nasty side-effects. It’s always been a case of weighing up the whether you’d rather have a deadly disease instead. The funny thing about calling out on stats and evidence is that you really need to provide some. So go on.

    “I did not see a Dissident film. I saw a younger perspective of some very valuable questions and points that can be verified as good plausable questions… If you are a researcher like myself that verifies things in the mainstream before I believe them.”

    Oh I see, a “younger perspective”. I like the way you twist that, you should be in PR. In order to “verify” things, you need to think critically (and not just take to an idea because it’s of a different perspective that you happen to agree with).

    “The youth of today are not stupid. They have music bands challenging the likes of flouride.(an entire album dedicated to flouride the poison) They have issues with these authoratative people that keep trying to tell them whats good for them while they stand by and see the harm for themselves. They don’t trust pharmacueticals, and they think doctors are aggressive and untrustworthy. Oh yes… I am loving the younger perspective. Talk to any young people lately. Oh yes there is hope.”

    Bwahahaha don’t make me laugh bitterly. I’m glad I don’t know any of these young, misinformed fools you speak of. The people I know can actually think rather than automatically jumping on the “anit-establishment/authority” bandwagon no matter how moronic the idea.

    “Also let me add… given that there has been no debate of the opposing theories I would say that somewhat implies guilt on the side (the mainstream) that refuses to participate.”

    No, it means there’s nothing to debate. Don’t they teach basic reasoning skills any more? Would you have a serious debate with a flat-Earther? A gravity denier (intelligent falling is real lolz!!!1!)? There are kooks everywhere, it doesn’t mean you have to take them seriously.

    “What is so “denialist” about groups of scientists who wish to lay it all on the table, debate, prove, and verify that the current theory is correct when seemingly the scientific process has been skirted around in this particular instance.”

    If you even bothered to read the scientific literature on the issue, you would realise there is nothing to discuss except specifics. The issue has been settled for a long time.

    “I will repeat myself… the fact that the mainstream refuses to participate in such an endeavor to me only implies guilt and well somewhat makes them the one in denial… cause they are denying that their theory could be flawed… and believe me… Historically it is not the first time the human species has been subject to grave miscalculations.”

    Again, demonstrating you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Why don’t you go and actually read the experiments instead of denialist websites? You never know, you might actually learn something.

    What amuses me most about this crap is the fact that it’s so damn inconsistent. Microbiologists take the same theoretical framework to studying any pathogen and it works. But you don’t hear idiots denying the existance of herpes, hepatitis, tuberculosis, meningitis or any other infectious diseases. No, it’s always HIV (and not even any of the other viruses from the retroviridae family). It’s just beyond belief.

  10. matijs said,

    October 1, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Just so everyone knows, Casper Melville, has made an appology and has explained himself on the latest episode of Science Weekly, the Guardians science podcast. He also states he doesn’t value ‘House of Numbers’ as a serious documentary.

    I do not think we should blame Casper Melville too much. He is not the boogie-man in this story. After all he did do his research and appologised, albiet a bit late. He also made sure that after screening the film there was a discussion about the film, discussing and debunking some of the ‘facts’ stated in it.

    What I am more worried about is that this film is winning awards and is now officially selected by the Raindance film festival. Which is a lot more worying, seeing it won’t supply the viewers with an open discussion afterwards, and it will give more credence to the film as a serious documentary.

    On Facebook, the ‘Hous of Numbers’ fan-page has 1002 fans… and yesterday, while I was having my coffee in Soho I got a flyer on my table promoting the film, which will be shown at the Apollo Cinema.

    I am angry about this film, very much so… but Casper Melville Isn’t the one to blame here.

  11. HeXetic said,

    October 1, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Am I the only one put off by Ben’s capitalisation of HIV (an acronym) in this article where at the same time he spells AIDS (also an acronym) as “Aids”?

  12. henrywilton said,

    October 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    @HeXetic

    Am I the only one put off by Ben’s capitalisation of HIV (an acronym) in this article where at the same time he spells AIDS (also an acronym) as “Aids”?

    Sigh.

    Have a look at the Guardian style guide entry about this.

  13. HeXetic said,

    October 1, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    @henrywilton

    That explains it, though I still don’t like it. I prefer the Economist’s guidelines on acronyms:
    www.economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=673905

  14. henrywilton said,

    October 1, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    @HeXetic

    The Economist’s guidelines, and indeed its writing style, are more to my taste too. Perhaps Ben could start writing for the Economist?

  15. henrywilton said,

    October 1, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Also, if Ben adhered to the Economist’s guidelines, he wouldn’t have been allowed to write “HIV virus”.

  16. bse303 said,

    October 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

    @ Matijs

    Check out Elliot Grove of Raindance gushing about House of Numbness…

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gcCLBxHXUg&feature=player_embedded

    What a cock!

  17. matijs said,

    October 2, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Thanks Bse, but do I want to? I’ll just get really annoyed…

    Maybe, we should invite those deniers to prove there point by giving them HIV and not give them any medication. If hey really believe what they are saying…

  18. Robert Carnegie said,

    October 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I personally am puzzled why any literate non-specialists are vigorous HIV deniers, and in particular why this film was made. In some cases a secondary reason is that people will simply say anything for money, and may wish to advertise that to people who have money and who want something unpleasant said by proxies. Or perhaps in some it’s a sincere opinion on what is certainly an important issue. Or, media attacks on HIV and AIDS science and prevention and treatment will probably contribute to the spread of the disease. Who wants that to happen? There come to mind religious groups, who observe that HIV is commonly spread in the course of committing a sin – some religious groups count medical treatment, with or without maintenance of hygienic sterility, as a sin, including Joyce Grenfell’s Christian Scientists – and also people concerned about overpopulation which will probably be alleviated by HIV, or hoping to benefit economically from a lot of poor people dying, for instance the population of Africa. There are valuable natural resources there. And, of course, the medical companies themselves. The more people there are sick, the more customers there are for treatment. I’m not saying that the medical industry is going out and spreading AIDS, I’m just noting that the motive exists. When it happens, they benefit.

    As for objecting to films, since discussion is liable to be managed and curtailed, evidently the proper thing to do in a public showing is to shout at the movie while it is on. Comments should be apposite and brief, so as not to interfere unduly with the presentation whilst still pointing out its deficiencies, and it also may be desirable to exercise or rest your voice in advance, or both, if you aren’t accustomed to using it in that fashion. Standing up aids production, but increases the likelihood of being identified and thrown out, so judge whether it’s worth it. Ideally you could use a background-cancelling array microphone transmitting to the PA system, hide it in your popcorn, and possibly disguise your voice or accent. If you can do a good Tom Jones, that would be almost perfect.

  19. TeeD said,

    October 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    @bse303

    Grove is now being celebrated on the main denialist message board:

    forums.aidsmythexposed.com/main-forum/5567-house-numbers-most-important-film-our-time-15.html#post36358

    Perhaps he can sign up and join in the fun, offering alternative health tips to people with CMV colitis – after all, it’s tough to do worse than “a teaspoonful of raw coffee.”

    As you can probably tell, I’m unable to follow Grove’s sage advice to “just forget the topic for a minute.”

    It’s interesting that he says he hadn’t seen the film before – I wonder if anyone associated with the festival had actually seen it before accepting it for a showing?

  20. amanda0 said,

    October 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    The film hasn’t come around yet, but I recently read that one of the administrators of the Raindance festival received many letters and threats about the film – and so went through it, taking notes every 15 seconds, trying to note inaccuracies or bias. When he finished and said he didn’t find anything of note.

    This blog entry uses emotional language itself and is more on the propagandist side. Of course I’ve heard those arguing against AIDS use such language too. But hey, I look for a world where anyone can ask really serious questions without getting things blown up. It’s that emotional reaction that makes for bad science.

  21. Marcus said,

    October 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    The pattern of engaging and then disengaging with denialists out of sheer exasperation has played itself out countless times on the internet. I think denialists fall in love with the idea that they have uncovered some vast conspiracy and then interpret everything they see in terms of that framework. Any reasonable challenge to their world-view immediately becomes just another manifestation of the “deluded” mainstream.

    If they were interested in a reasoned debate they wouldn’t be denialists. An open mind and a few hours on PubMedd makes deanilism impossibility.

    As for demonstrably and purposefully misrepresenting sources, surely that should be enough to get a film banned.

  22. henrywilton said,

    October 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    @amanda0

    Eighteen of the (expert) interviewees complained that the film misrepresented them, whereas one (presumably inexpert) administrator couldn’t spot any inaccuracies. (Rather like Caspar Melville.) Well that’s all right then.

  23. Staphylococcus said,

    October 7, 2009 at 4:00 am

    @amanda0

    “It’s that emotional reaction that makes for bad science.”

    No, it’s an emotional reaction in the absence of any worthwhile evidence that makes for poor arguments. It’s a common theme amongst gay rights deniers, anti-vaxers, etc. Luckily for Ben, he has this:

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=search&term=HIV

    10166 articles and counting. Is it any wonder that with the thousands of hours that have gone into producing such great science – which is summarily dismissed in minutes by a surly crowd of closed-minded idiots hell-bent on some ridiculous “anti-conspiracy/establishment” presupposition – that people sometimes get a little upset?

  24. WebriQ said,

    October 8, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    This film is a valuable piece of information to each and everyone who care and fight for eradication of AIDS.

  25. Terry Collmann said,

    October 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    @HeXetic – HIV is an initialism, not an acronym, “a word formed from the initial letters of other words” (Oxford English Dictionary). Aids is an acronym, and should therefore be written like other words.

  26. talbot said,

    October 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    You may be interested to learn that “The Spectator” has organised what seems to be a denialist evening:

    www.spectator.co.uk/shop/events/5402473/spectator-debate-a-world-without-aids.thtml

    It entails a screening of “House of Numbers” followed by a panel discussion involving the film’s director alongside 3 scientists associated with the denialist movement. The panel does not include a scientist to refute the denialist message. Perhaps Ben should attend?

  27. HeXetic said,

    October 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    @Terry Collmann

    I hardly think the distinction is valid in this case, considering that AIDS is interchangeably expanded to Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the second style being identical to the expansion of HIV (initial letters).

    Are there any scientific or medical publications which spell it “Aids”?

  28. Lisa Power said,

    October 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Unfortunately, this film is now being offered greater credibility as part of the Spectator’s Debate Series. From the publicity sent unsolicited by their marketing department:

    Spectator Series Debate ‘A world without Aids?’, which features the UK premiere and sole screening of House of Numbers Cards on Wednesday 28th October. This exclusive screening of the controversial new award-winning documentary House of Numbers will be followed by a panel discussion from leading authorities in their field:

    Professor Beverly Griffin, Imperial College London
    Dr Joe Sonnabend, founding editor of Aids Research
    Rt. Hon. Lord Norman Fowler, Former UK Secretary of State for Health
    Professor Charles Geshekter, The California State University
    Brent Leung, Director/Producer of House of Numbers

    The theme of the debate is that a generation had its attitudes towards sex coloured by the theory that HIV, a lethal new virus sweeping the world. The award-winning documentary argues that a world without HIV/Aids may be closer than we think. Many of the documentary conclusions are controversial, for example a research community in disarray, 90% of global HIV infection corresponding to areas of great poverty and squalor which may be the real enemy.
    For more background information visit www.spectator.co.uk/AidsDebate

    Tickets to this are £35. I suspect the Spectator think it’s all a jolly jape for poking liberals with, or at least making a few bob off us all turning up to complain. But I’m horrified they’re giving it credibility.

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    October 15, 2009 at 8:43 am

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  30. thatgingerscouser said,

    October 17, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Hey there… I’m in Tanzania, Africa at the moment having just visited 40 of the countries of this wonderful and infuriating continent (13 more to go…) as part of the Odyssey Expedition www.theodysseyexpedition.com.

    As a film maker and Bad Science fan, I’m seriously considering putting together a documentary set in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – a naïve journey by one young film maker to discover WHERE THE HELL EVERYONE OVER THE AGE OF FORTY HAS GONE.

    Seriously.

    This is no joke. The life expectancy in Zimbabwe has dropped from 60 to 40 in just a few years. A third of the population of Lesotho is living with HIV. There are now more people in SSA under the age of 18 than over. The sheer number of people dying here is just astronomical. Almost everyone I speak to has lost a friend or family member to AIDS.

    I would never lobby for a film to be banned. But I would welcome the makers of the film being taken to court and forced to defend what they are supporting by making this disgusting kind of propaganda: the death of a continent.

    Graham Hughes
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

  31. heavens said,

    October 22, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Ben, you should ask people seeking an HIV test about their risk factors because that information is necessary to figure out the likelihood of a false positive.

  32. tyrexden said,

    October 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    i’m amazed of all the people poo-pooing this film, when they haven’t seen it, and apparently are unaware of the issues at hand.

    Please realize, that dissidents to the flawed hiv=aidsd theories have no hidden agenda. They are not trying to sell vitamins. They are not making money off of this. They simply want the truth to come out.

    The majority of dissidents are people who are actually hiv+ (as determined by the hiv antibody test).

    Consider this… the main people trying to quash this film are Big Pharma, doctors who thrive on hiv business, and med-taking hiv+ people who were swindled into the whole dogma.

    The dissidents, on the other hand, are random doctors, viralogoists, mathematicians from random fields of study, and hiv+ people who do NOT take meds.

    Deny this film all you want, but the fact is, is that the med-taking poz people are all sick, and the non-med taking hiv+ population are well.

    If you are hiv negative, you likely haven’t studied either side of the issue, let alone one of the sides, so stop acting like you are in a position of knowledge.

    All dissidents have studied the current hiv=aids dogma, and guess what… they found it to be flawed. there is a reason for that. its not about money or fame…. Its about the needless suffering of millions who have been hoodwinked.

    hiv=aids is the bad science. don’t argue… study the topic for yourself.

  33. heavens said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Tyrexden, you’re spreading wildly false generalizations. The “med-taking poz people” are not all sick, and the “non-med taking hiv+ population” are frequently quite ill after the usual asymptomatic phase. Some of the “dissidents” are IMO just looking for an excuse to not disclose their status to and be responsible about condom use with new partners. A remarkable number of “dissidents” change their minds the first time they get an opportunistic infection: suffering through MAC when you’re “sure” that HIV doesn’t harm the immune system is a real wake-up call.

    On average, those that refuse the meds die sooner. They may *look* healthy for up to about ten years — HIV takes a long time to destroy your immune system — but they don’t live normal lifespans, or anything even close to it. I’ve talked to a lot of HIV+ people on both sides of the fence, and I’ve spoken with exactly zero “dissidents” that have a confirmed infection dating back more than 20 years. They do exist, but they’re very, very rare. By contrast, I can name offhand quite a number of meds-taking HIV+ people that have exceeded the 20-year mark. They may not be perfectly healthy, and they frequently have firm opinions about specific side effects from the drugs — but they’re alive, and that’s more than the vast majority of committed dissidents can say.

  34. gezznz said,

    October 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    A lot of smug back-patting going on in these comments. How naive to assume that hiv=aids is God’s truth! It is only hypothesis! Most of medicine is hypothesis! It is well known in the field that these hypotheses are controversial; it is only the public that assume otherwise.

    A film like this is not the main danger to society. The danger is to believe the medical and pharma media unquestioningly. A tragic amount of damage has been done by this, as future history books (or websites) will reveal.

    A medical system that has an unholy relationship with commercial interests has been a recipe for disaster: the cancer and AIDS industries are prime examples of this relationship taken to extremes.

    No real solutions have been put forward by orthodoxy, while preventive strategies and non-toxic treatments have been repeatedly downplayed or rejected.This is the issue you should be using your intelligence to address.

  35. JustinSmith said,

    November 1, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Ben, since in your piece above you ask for advice about how to deal with these “idiots”, “denialists” making a “moronic film”, may I suggest that you direct your word count towards scientific analysis rather than such childish ranting. You list a few of the important questions being asked in the film but you offer no scientific answer to them – instead you chose to insult. The most dangerous propaganda is that which attempts to brand people who challenge a hypothesis as “denialists”. If I am correct (and please do correct me if I’m wrong) medical science has made mistakes in the past and large numbers of people have suffered. These mistakes came to light because of people constantly challenging a hypothesis. This is the scientific process, which is degraded by the use of the word denialist. The best way to silence these “idiots” is to answer their questions!

  36. elvisionary said,

    November 3, 2009 at 9:10 am

    tyrexden, you may not be able to see the irony in your statements:

    “Deny this film all you want, but the fact is, is that the med-taking poz people are all sick, and the non-med taking hiv+ population are well. If you are hiv negative, you likely haven’t studied either side of the issue, let alone one of the sides, so stop acting like you are in a position of knowledge.”

    So you, I take it, are in a “position of knowledge” to make such certain statements about whole groups of people? I’d be grateful if you could point us all to the source of this knowledge – presumably a large-scale controlled trial proving that HIV+ individuals live longer on average if not taking the meds than if they do. No? Can’t provide that? Is that because, perhaps, you’re not talking from a position of knowledge at all, but of ignorant presumption?

    I am not an expert in this subject myself – I have to rely on the research of others and evidence to form my opinions. I am open-minded about the possibility that the scientific establishment could ultimately be proved wrong in certain ways over this issue. But if they are proved wrong, it will be through science.

    In the meantime, heavens (above) has pointed to a very plausible reason why people who are HIV+ might be fooled into believing that they are better off without meds – in effect, they get none of the short-term side-effects, but that means they get none of the long-term benefits either. The emotional advantages of not accepting the link just add to the attractiveness of taking such a position (and you don’t need to believe that this is about giving people a licence to behave irresponsibly).

    Does this possibility not even make you pause to think?

  37. elvisionary said,

    November 3, 2009 at 9:18 am

    gezznz, I’d love to see you provide a bit of evidence for your claims – particularly about the “cancer industry” – we’re all familiar with the normal accusations on AIDS.

    As for your assertion that preventive strategies have been repeatedly downplayed or rejected, primarily about HIV/AIDS. Presumably you didn’t notice the vast global campaign, over 25 years, for the use of condoms (and in some places, abstinence). A massive preventive strategy happily supported by the scientific establishment for the very simple reason that it can be proved to be effective. It’s noticeable that those who have undermined this preventive strategy have been the very people you are seeking to defend – those who deny a link between HIV and AIDS.

  38. prezbucky said,

    November 7, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Concerning the acronym debate, my preference is for AIDS to be capitalized throughout.

    If you want an example of a really awful/logically absurd/invalid acronym, look no further than the popular “acronym” used to represent Obstetrics & Gynecology:

    OBGYN

    The letters are pronounced: O B G Y N

    What does that stand for, Old Bitches Giving You Nookie?

    The proper acronym would be OG, or it could be abbreviated, rendered as slang, as ob-gyn. The OBGYN fallacy is sofa king we Todd it. I laugh at it.

    As for claims that the AIDS scientists’ comments were pulled out of context, well, I don’t know how you can read anything else into their statements than that which they said. Were they drugged when they said those anti-AIDS-status-quo comments? Was Leung holding a gun to their heads? If not, why shouldn’t we take their statements at face value?

    As for why 18 of them are now wishing to retract their freely given testimony, it’s easy enough to surmise why:

    They’re feeling the heat from their bosses or (if their actions are no longer answerable to the AIDS Establishment) maybe they’re being threatened by other tactics. Maybe their families have been threatened. Who knows? But I can tell you this:

    When someone says “I like chicken” on camera, and weeks later revises — refuted — that statement, there are two possibilities:

    A) The person lied… he really doesn’t like chicken

    or

    B) The person was ordered/coerced to take back the statement.

    I’m guessing that in the cases of the 18 interviewees, the likely scenario is the latter.

    When they make statements which logically shake the foundation of HIV/AIDS knowledge as we previously knew it, that’s powerful. And I know Brent wasn’t holding a gun to their heads. They blew the lid off this themselves with what… they… willfully and in right mind… said. Give them all lie-detector tests.

  39. prezbucky said,

    November 7, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Anecdotally:

    I am Caucasian/white. I know fully that I am Caucasian/white. Nothing could convince me otherwise. If anyone asked me a question about my blood-line, my answers would reflect my personal knowledge that I am Caucasian/white, because I KNOW that I am. I am without doubt in the matter.

    The impact of the statements of these scientists — top HIV/AIDS scientists and administrators all — is huge, because those statements show an incontrovertible level of DOUBT of what HIV/AIDS is or if it even exists as we think (thought) it exists. I am white. I would never say to anyone, anywhere, that I am not white. These experts, who stand as godheads in the veritable AIDS pantheon, denied their whiteness, so to speak. Which leaves me to question:

    If they have such doubts, what should the rest of us believe?

    Thanks and take care,

    Tom

  40. kwilk said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:36 am

    I recently attended a screening of House of Numbers and I thought, at the very least, it was a very interesting presentation.

    I am a student currently studying clinical laboratory science and minoring in philosophy and with the Q&A session following the film I have learned to really appreciate my philosophical studies.

    Following the film Leung faced wave after wave of scientific scrutiny by various members of the scientific community. He fell back repeatedly on the stance that he couldn’t necessarily argue against these indiv on the deeper concepts of science because he was just presenting the information he received from those scientists he interviewed.

    It is difficult to argue the adequacy of the film’s concepts unless we were able to see the interviews in their entirety. Yet, after viewing the film and listening to the discussions I think their may be something to what Leung is presenting. I felt that the Scientific community was making valid arguments but lacked the overall insight that the film was portraying.  It is dissatisfying that when scientists are presented with an argument that opposes their own that they automatically feel attacked.  I think that the purpose of the documentary was to present a side of AIDS/HIV that is not traditionally accepted or heard and to take it as only one side of the argument not the absolute truth. Philosophy has taught me to be a critical thinker and have an open mind.  This debate hit me from two stances, both my scientific self and philosophical self. Too often scientist relay on the scientific aspects of an issue and see it narrowly in that way alone. Consider acupuncture.

    Twenty to 30 years ago the majority of scientists and medical professionals thought that the use of medication was the only effective way to treat the problems of body and they ridiculed the practice of alternative “medicine.”  Because alternative medicine did not advocate to the concepts of science that was traditionally accepted it was not taken seriously, even if the alternative medicine practices worked in certain cases.  Nowadays, however, it is common to hear a physician advocate for acupuncture.  The importance here is that somewhere all the lines a shift in thought occurred that encompassed the practice of something outside of the traditional scientific boundaries.  The scientific community was able to think critically about the issue, learn to have an open mind, and accept a practice that went against traditionally dominated scientific practice.  This is what I think this film is attempting to portray, not an attack on the traditionally scientific practice and understanding of AIDS/HIV but the establishment of a separate idea that may have an impact on the disease and the need for open mindedness and critical thought about the issue.

  41. theopensource.tv said,

    February 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    I wouldnt be so quick to knock what they’re trying to uncover in the documentary, the truth is stranger than fiction.

    Check out these other very interesting documentaries on Health:

    The World According To Monsanto
    In Lies We Trust – Dr. Len Horowitz
    Nutricide – Codex Alimentarius – Dr. Rima Laibow
    The Brotherhood of Darkness – Dr. Stanley Monteith
    Colloidal Silver – Dr. Robert C. Beck
    Suppressed Medical Discovery – Dr. Robert C. Beck
    Shots In The Dark – Lina B Moreco
    Food Inc.
    Eating
    We Become Silent – The Last Days of Health Freedom
    Vaccination – The Hidden Truth

    You can watch all of these full documentaries at: www.theopensource.tv/browse-Health-videos-1-date.html

  42. theopensource.tv said,

    February 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    By the way, well said Quilk! Summed it up nicely, its very helpful to have a philosophical background when looking at this type of material :)

  43. Santos said,

    March 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    oh this documentary. Recently, I sat down with parents of one of my patients (Im an HIV/AIDS Case Manager) along with my patients doctor informing them that their son, no longer wants to continue taking medication. because after watching this documentary, he is convinced he does not have HIV. This patient is going into hospice in a matter of days.

  44. Jeff said,

    April 12, 2015 at 7:10 am

    I marvel that this topic even continues to be debated. Not only does HIV not cause AIDS, but to harbor any belief that it is even possible at this point in my opinion represents new heights for humanity in group-think idiocy, self-delusion and suspension of all ability and willingness to reason and think on our own. There is nothing to debate any more.

    1. Every year since 1981 the US Job Corps and US Army have tested for HIV and found it to be present equally in men and women. AIDS victims on the other hand continue to be 90% male in the US and Europe. HIV theory DONE.

    2. Every year since 1981 the same tests show .4% of people to be infected with HIV. And yet this is supposed to be an infectious disease. All infectious diseases spread exponentially into a population. HIV theory DONE.

    3. The hallmark of AIDS when it first appeared was Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is a cancer. Cancer is not caused by immunodeficiency and never has been. KS did not appear in risk groups other than gay males. It was strongly linked to Amyl and Butyl nitrate use and has all but disappeared in AIDS cases since it stopped being used popularly in the nightclub and bathhouse scene.

    4. AIDS is defined differently everywhere but most often defined as any number of indicator diseases in the presence of HIV. If defining a disease in terms of its putative cause does not give you suspicion into the science behind proving what the cause is, then nothing will. It shows how desperate the proponents of the theory are. Who else in history felt the need to do that? While we searched for a cause to Polio, did we immediately define it in terms of the first microbial candidate that appeared?

    5. Different AIDS risk groups get completely different diseases and have over 100 fold variance in rate of death. Viruses don’t discriminate on the basis of their hosts sexual preference or drug habits. If you are in the ‘general population’ group, there are 1.5 million HIV infected every year in the US, and 20,000 supposed AIDS deaths in that same year (www.avert.org/worldwide-hiv-aids-statistics.htm). Doing the math on that, it would take 75 years for those 1.5 million people to die of AIDS. If you are a blood transfusion recipient or hemophiliac, the official statistics give you a prognosis in the single digits.

    6. There is no animal model for HIV. We can’t give it to a single animal and get them to develop symptoms.

    7. To explain the thousands of HIV-negative cases that are undeniably AIDS despite the tautological definition (young gay men in the early 80s with very low CD4 counts, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, uncontrollable pneumonia) a new virus was proposed, ‘HIV2’ to account for these.

    8. On the continent of Africa, AIDS sufferers are 50% male and 50% female, while in Europe and America it continues to be 90/10. A virus does not know what continent it is on.

    9. In contrast to every other real viral disease, where the virus is ubiquitous in the host while the patient is symptomatic, live HIV virus is undetectable in supposed HIV+ patients.

    The HIV theory is DONE people. To believe in it is fantastic idiocy.

    Real AIDS cases in America and Europe, that is to say true cases of immunodeficiency abnormal for a given age group, where patients are not on AIDS drugs, is a phenomenon of premature aging of the immune system, caused by hyperproliferation of white blood cells in response to various threats. White blood cell proliferation from underlying stem cells is limited by telomere lengths, which shorten in stem cells with every new white blood cell they pump out. In other words, like every other tissue type in the body, the regenerative capacity of white blood cells are not infinite. They are limited by telomeres. The body will only make so many of them. When they run low, the the famous CD4/CD8 ratio has been shown to decrease (Harley, Liu, Blasco). Rita Effros has shown this to be the cause of AIDS, but still attributes this telomere shortening to HIV. But if you admit that AIDS is telomere shortening of the immune system’s stem cells, you don’t need HIV anymore. Any chronic infection or foreign invader will do. (www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6220/436.figures-only)

    In Africa, people are dying of age old diseases that are the result of poverty. And on all continents they died in huge numbers from AZT, and continue to die from the new retroviral cocktails.

  45. Jeff said,

    April 12, 2015 at 7:13 am

    I marvel that this topic even continues to be debated. Not only does HIV not cause AIDS, but to harbor any belief that it is even possible at this point in my opinion represents new heights for humanity in group-think idiocy, self-delusion and suspension of all ability and willingness to reason and think on our own. There is nothing to debate any more.

    1. Every year since 1981 the US Job Corps and US Army have tested for HIV and found it to be present equally in men and women. AIDS victims on the other hand continue to be 90% male in the US and Europe. HIV theory DONE.

    2. Every year since 1981 the same tests show .4% of people to be infected with HIV. And yet this is supposed to be an infectious disease. All infectious diseases spread exponentially into a population. HIV theory DONE.

    3. The hallmark of AIDS when it first appeared was Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is a cancer. Cancer is not caused by immunodeficiency and never has been. KS did not appear in risk groups other than gay males. It was strongly linked to Amyl and Butyl nitrate use and has all but disappeared in AIDS cases since it stopped being used popularly in the nightclub and bathhouse scene.

    4. AIDS is defined differently everywhere but most often defined as any number of indicator diseases in the presence of HIV. If defining a disease in terms of its putative cause does not give you suspicion into the science behind proving what the cause is, then nothing will. It shows how desperate the proponents of the theory are. Who else in history felt the need to do that? While we searched for a cause to Polio, did we immediately define it in terms of the first microbial candidate that appeared?

    5. Different AIDS risk groups get completely different diseases and have over 100 fold variance in rate of death. Viruses don’t discriminate on the basis of their hosts sexual preference or drug habits. If you are in the ‘general population’ group, there are 1.5 million HIV infected every year in the US, and 20,000 supposed AIDS deaths in that same year (www.avert.org/worldwide-hiv-aids-statistics.htm). Doing the math on that, it would take 75 years for those 1.5 million people to die of AIDS. If you are a blood transfusion recipient or hemophiliac, the official statistics give you a prognosis in the single digits.

    6. There is no animal model for HIV. We can’t give it to a single animal and get them to develop symptoms.

    7. To explain the thousands of HIV-negative cases that are undeniably AIDS despite the tautological definition (young gay men in the early 80s with very low CD4 counts, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, uncontrollable pneumonia) a new virus was proposed, ‘HIV2’ to account for these.

    8. On the continent of Africa, AIDS sufferers are 50% male and 50% female, while in Europe and America it continues to be 90/10. A virus does not know what continent it is on.

    9. In contrast to every other real viral disease, where the virus is ubiquitous in the host while the patient is symptomatic, live HIV virus is undetectable in supposed HIV+ patients.

    The HIV theory is DONE people. To believe in it is fantastic idiocy.

    Real AIDS cases in America and Europe, that is to say true cases of immunodeficiency abnormal for a given age group, where patients are not on AIDS drugs, is a phenomenon of premature aging of the immune system, caused by hyperproliferation of white blood cells in response to various threats. White blood cell proliferation from underlying stem cells is limited by telomere lengths, which shorten in stem cells with every new white blood cell they pump out. In other words, like every other tissue type in the body, the regenerative capacity of white blood cells are not infinite. They are limited by telomeres. The body will only make so many of them. When they run low, the the famous CD4/CD8 ratio has been shown to decrease (Harley, Liu, Blasco). Rita Effros has shown this to be the cause of AIDS, but still attributes this telomere shortening to HIV. But if you admit that AIDS is telomere shortening of the immune system’s stem cells, you don’t need HIV anymore. Any chronic infection or foreign invader will do. (www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6220/436.figures-only)