Fake AIDS Cures: Apparently Still a Thing

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Egyptian military is the latest government that's in hot water over making ridiculous claims of "miracle cures" for HIV/AIDS - among them, that electromagnetism can detect the virus and that they had a "complete cure device" (whatever that means). The saddest part, however, was that they received 70,000 inquiries about it.

Outlandish claims of cures for HIV/AIDS, while tragic and destructive, are by no means new. This article from NPR outlines the history that we apparently still fail to learn from:
The bogus theories of Peter Duesberg, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, were responsible for a global setback to HIV treatment. Duesberg argued that combinations of drug use and promiscuous behavior caused the virus, and passed his advice on to South African health officials in 2000.

"The biggest disaster imposed on us was Duesberg with his statements that HIV did not cause AIDS," says Max Essex, chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative. Essex has been conducting research on AIDS since 1983, including field research in Botswana and Southern Africa.

Between 2000 and 2005, as neighboring African countries were ramping up HIV prevention programs, South Africa stubbornly stuck to the notion that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. "I think Duesberg played the biggest role in giving [former South African President Thabo Mbeki] a convenient excuse to avoid supplying drugs," says Essex.

Researchers including Essex examined the human toll of those lost years of treatment. Their results, published in 2008 in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, estimated that 330,000 South African adults died because of lack of treatment, and 35,000 infants were born with HIV.

If that was the biggest disaster, no doubt the cruelest of the AIDS false cure claims was the virgin cleansing myth that took hold in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of India and Thailand. Some men believed they could be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin. That reportedly led to the rape of younger and younger girls — even babies, by some accounts.

Other unproven AIDS "cures" have kept people from seeking life-saving treatments: herbal remedies, potions to rub into the skin, chemicals like Virodene (derived from an industrial solvent), oxygen therapy and electronic zappers.

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