The AIDS Conspiracy

Science Fights Back

Nicoli Nattrass

Columbia University Press

The AIDS Conspiracy

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Pub Date: November 2013

ISBN: 9780231149136

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: March 2012

ISBN: 9780231149129

240 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $85.00£71.00

Pub Date: March 2012

ISBN: 9780231520256

240 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

The AIDS Conspiracy

Science Fights Back

Nicoli Nattrass

Columbia University Press

Since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, many bizarre and dangerous hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins of the disease. In this compelling book, Nicoli Nattrass explores the social and political factors prolonging the erroneous belief that the American government manufactured the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to be used as a biological weapon, as well as the myth's consequences for behavior, especially within African American and black South African communities.

Contemporary AIDS denialism, the belief that HIV is harmless and that antiretroviral drugs are the true cause of AIDS, is a more insidious AIDS conspiracy theory. Advocates of this position make a "conspiratorial move" against HIV science by implying its methods cannot be trusted and that untested, alternative therapies are safer than antiretrovirals. These claims are genuinely life-threatening, as tragically demonstrated in South Africa when the delay of antiretroviral treatment resulted in nearly 333,000 AIDS deaths and 180,000 HIV infections—a tragedy of stunning proportions.

Nattrass identifies four symbolically powerful figures ensuring the lifespan of AIDS denialism: the hero scientist (dissident scientists who lend credibility to the movement); the cultropreneur (alternative therapists who exploit the conspiratorial move as a marketing mechanism); the living icon (individuals who claim to be living proof of AIDS denialism's legitimacy); and the praise-singer (journalists who broadcast movement messages to the public). Nattrass also describes how pro-science activists have fought back by deploying empirical evidence and political credibility to resist AIDS conspiracy theories, which is part of the crucial project to defend evidence-based medicine.

Nicoli Nattrass does a wonderful job uncovering the dangerous consequences of following fringe ideas in health and medicine. Her new book puts medical myths and misinformation square in front of us, and she tells the story with such passion, we dare not look away.

Seth C. Kalichman, Ph.D., University of Connecticut, author of Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy

Nicoli Nattrass's book is long overdue. She provides a comprehensive, definitive rebuttal to the genocide that AIDS denialism continues to propagate around the world. Nattrass succeeds in educating the public and arming them with truth based on proven science—not pseudoscience. Nattrass should be widely commended for her work.

Robert C. Gallo, M.D., director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

A rigorous and illuminating investigation into the anatomy of AIDS conspiracies, this book ought to be read by anybody interested in the relationship between science and ordinary people.

Jonny Steinberg, Ph.D., Oxford University, author of Sizwe's Test: A Young Man's Journey Through Africa's AIDS Epidemic

A must read for anyone interested in confronting the anti-science backlash causing so many unnecessary deaths across the globe.

Paul A. Offit, M.D., F.A.A.P., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and author of Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a C

In this important book, Nattrass...deftly examines widespread misconceptions about the origin, transmission, and health effects of AIDS.

Publishers Weekly

A remarkably well argued case against unscientific approaches to AIDS and a brilliant defense of evidence-based medicine.

Library Journal (starred review)

The AIDS Conspiracy is essential reading for anyone who is curious about why some people will not accept scientific facts about the nature, origin and lethality of HIV.

Robin A. Weiss, Nature

a highly accessible, impeccably referenced, scholarly work, which should be essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the role of conspiracy theories in the social and political history of the AIDS epidemic.

Neil Bennet, Lancet

Nattrass lucidly examines the social and scientific stresses that confound the public when confronted with pseudoscientifc propaganda in life-threatening scenarios. Highly recommended.

1. The Conspiratorial Move Against HIV Science and Its Consequences
2. AIDS Origin Conspiracy Theories in the United States and South Africa
3. Who Believes AIDS Conspiracy Theories and Why Leadership Matters
4. Science
5. Science
6. Hero Scientists
7. Defending the Imprimatur of Science: Duesberg and the Medical Hypotheses Saga
8. The Conspiratorial Move and the Struggle for Evidence-based Medicine
Web Features:

About the Author

Nicoli Nattrass is director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and visiting professor at Yale University. She has a doctorate in economics from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She is a recognized expert on the political economy of antiretroviral treatment. Her research helped change South African AIDS policy, and her current work on AIDS denialism and conspiracy theories—both of which undermine scientific approaches to HIV prevention and treatment—have informed the work of AIDS scientists and activists across the globe.