Here’s an important story we missed from last week.
A controversial research paper that argued “there is as yet no proof that HIV causes AIDS” and met with a storm of protest when it was published in 2009, leading to its withdrawal, has been republished in a revised form, this time in the peer-reviewed literature.
The reworked version of the paper, led by Peter Duesberg of the University of California, Berkeley, who is well known for denying the link between HIV and AIDS, was published in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology (IJAE) last month1.
“In my view this paper is scientific nonsense and should not have passed peer review. The thesis that HIV does not cause AIDS has no scientific credibility,” says Nathan Geffen of the South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign, who previously raised concerns about the article.
“It is just so far out that it is hard to respond in an intelligent way,” says [AIDS epidemiologist Max] Essex, adding that it is “unfortunate” to see Duesberg continuing on a “dangerous track of distraction that has persuaded some people to avoid treatment or prevention of HIV infection”.
Credit: Ars Technica via The Skeptic’s Dictionary on Facebook
This article is multi-faceted, this is a complicated topic. Should you allow publication of such obviously contrarian views? The scientific ethos lends itself to skepticism but ideas must be out there to argue. Fine. But what happens instead is that contrarians ignore the comments and questions lodged against the paper and tout the fact that the paper has been “peer reviewed”, lending credibility to it that it may not deserve. Ultimately, it relies upon the reader carefully reviewing the entire story. That’s a bit scary.
This piece ends with an optimistic note: that the AIDS denialist idea may be on it’s last legs. The evidence has not been produced to support the contrarian idea which gained acceptance originally with the help of the political and cultural conditions in hard-hit South Africa. South African AIDS treatment has turned around thanks to grassroots activism to overturn the nonsense ideas about the causes of AIDS and anti-retroviral drugs. But there is still a ways to go.