Why Get Angry About AIDS Questions?

Dear Christine,

I believe that HIV does not cause the 30 or so diseases in the AIDS category, but when I approach the topic, people get very angry. Why are people totally willing to believe the current AIDS beliefs? Why do they believe that AIDS can't and shouldn't be questioned?

There is a lawyer here in my town that is representing someone charged with a crime based on their HIV status. Why doesn't the lawyer want to know that the test for HIV is not a test that actually finds the virus? He knows that there is another side to AIDS because offered him your book.

Am I causing more harm than good by passing out your books? Why won't the big newspapers print articles stating your views? Do the drug companies that make the AIDS drugs control the media?

Sincerely,

Mary

Hi Mary,

I'm sorry you're having a tough time trying to introduce people to new perspectives on HIV and AIDS. In the many (too many!) years that I've been working on this issue, I've encountered similar resistance. I've tried to learn from these experiences and develop new and better ways to communicate and share ideas. I find that I am much more able to establish a dialogue now than I was even a year ago, and that identifying and empathizing with the concerns of others and speaking calmly and politely to resistance is key.

While this strategy may work better than others, it's not a magic formula. I've found that some people want to hold on to their beliefs about AIDS no matter what. As one man recently told me, "I don't care about the facts, all I know is that my friends died."

For some people, the idea that there may be another side to what they've been told about AIDS may cause them to wonder about the veracity of other news. These thoughts can inspire disconcerting and uncomfortable questions: "If a lot of what I've been told about AIDS is incorrect, what other important issues may have been incorrectly reported by the media?" or "If I can't trust government and medical authorities for correct information, who can I trust?" The prospect of having to think critically about other issues can be daunting, and the anger directed at you over your views about AIDS may actually be the anger caused by a betrayal of trust.

I think it's also important to recognize that AIDS rethinking is not for everyone. Some people feel comfortable sticking with popular opinion, and the suggestion that popular opinion may be mistaken-however diplomatically or compassionately worded- is simply unwelcome. Many people prefer to go with the flow rather than take a step in a new direction.

People who have lost friends and loved ones to AIDS can find it especially difficult-even painful-to take another look at AIDS. Information that brings into question the tests and the treatments cause many to question if their loved ones might still be alive if they had known of alternative views and all their options.

Those involved in AIDS charities have invested their emotions in the HIV paradigm and devoted their careers to popular ideas about AIDS. While some may be willing to consider new views, I find that most have little incentive to question their efforts. Doctors may also be heavily invested in AIDS, both emotionally and financially. Many work eight-hour plus days and may feel they don't have time to look into the issues. They also risk discovering that the practices and treatments they've encouraged may have caused needless suffering and death. Trying to see the AIDS situation from the viewpoint of others can help us understand their resistance to new ideas and may help us identify a common ground that can serve as a basis for eventual dialogue.

I would advise against using absolute or judgmental words in describing alternative AIDS information. To give you an example of what I mean, someone with a great passion for AIDS rethinking once asked me to accompany her to a group where she had been trying to share her views without success. She told me that her friends and colleagues wouldn't listen to her, and after seeing her in action, I understood why. She presented her views as "the truth" implying that everyone else was lying, and called the current AIDS situation "a scam" instead of using a more compassionate phrase such as "tragic medical mistake." This experience taught me that how we present information is as vital as the information itself.

Like you, I have found that lawyers handling well-publicized AIDS cases aren't usually interested in facts that challenge conventional wisdom. I'm not sure why.

I appreciate that you are sharing my book-or at least trying to share it! Hang in there; you're not alone.

Take care,
Christine

 

References

 

to Rethinking AIDS FAQ's: What About Kimberly Bergalis?
to A Closer Look & HIV