Popehat Signal: Vengeful AIDS Denialist Sues Critic In Texas

It's time for the Popehat Signal.

New Popehat Signal courtesy of Nigel Lew.  Thanks, Nigel!

New Popehat Signal courtesy of Nigel Lew. Thanks, Nigel!

Today I light the signal to ask for help for a blogger who is being sued in federal court in Fort Worth for writing about and criticizing a thoroughly creepy AIDS denialist. By AIDS denialist, I mean someone who promotes the belief that HIV does not cause or lead to AIDS. The lawsuit is contemptible. The defendant needs help. Can you step up?

The abuse of the legal system to attack critics of junk science is not new. In fact, I submit that litigating to suppress criticism is a hallmark of the junk science community. AIDS denialist Celia Farber sued a critic and lost. The British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh and lost. Andrew Wakefield — whose fraudulent Lancet article led to an era of anti-vaccine nonsense — sued critics in Texas and lost. I helped a blogger in Maine threatened with a libel suit for calling a naturopath a quack. And then, of course, there were the legal threats of Marc Stephens, who was upset about criticism of the Burzynski Clinic; though that exchange did not lead to litigation, it did at least evoke my meager contribution to American letters.

In this case, the target of the abuse is a man named J. Todd Deshong, a blogger and HIV-positive AIDS activist. He's a vocal critic of AIDS denialism. The online back-and-forth between denialists and their critics is often — as you would expect — characterized by harsh rhetoric. DeShong himself is often the target of rough language, but hasn't sued anyone over it.

But Clark Baker has. Baker — represented by Mark Weitz of Weitz Morgan PLLC in Austin, Texas — has filed a federal lawsuit against Deshong. I've uploaded it here for your inspection. In it, Baker and his business — the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice, Inc. — sue Deshong for trademark infringement, defamation, "business disparagement," and for injunctive relief.

Who is Clark Barker?

Well, he used to be a police officer. He was convicted of battery on the allegation he assaulted a jaywalker; that conviction was overturned based on misconduct by the prosecutor, who gratuitously and unethically invoked the Rodney King incident. Now he's a private investigator and runs the "Office of Medical and Scientific Justice," which provides, among other things, help to people accused of endangering sexual partners by failing to disclose HIV or AIDS status:

OMSJ’s HIV Innocence Group provides leading-edge medical, scientific, legal and investigative expertise to attorneys who represent defendants accused of HIV/HEP-related cases. Since 2009, OMSJ has successfully defended dozens of criminal and military defendants who were wrongly accused of exposing others to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Clark Baker is also an active blogger, forcefully stating his views about politics and science. He has blogged specifically and vigorously about Mr. Deshong, criticizing and insulting him and complaining about his rhetoric.1 Mr. Baker's approach is to describe criticism and controversy as "intimidation" and abuse, and characterize critics as "goons":

But when investigators and their witnesses discuss these issues online, Fauci's goons dispatch people like Jeffrey to disrupt, embarrass, and intimidate those witnesses. And because of their psychological disposition, crazies are assumed not to possess the mental capacity to commit crimes – which makes it difficult to hold them accountable in criminal or civil courts.

As a 45-year-old single man who has no meaningful or spiritual life, assets, profession, or prospects, Jeffrey lives alone with his mother in her small Texas rental. Like the unloved target of a child molester, Jeffrey was easily seduced and exploited by Moore and other goons who reward Jeffrey with the love and respect he cannot find in normal healthy relationships. In return, Jeffrey attacks and disrupts forums and participants – poisoning the well and making those who argue with him look silly.

You would think someone willing to throw elbows like that would not mewl when struck back. But the lawsuit shows that Mr. Baker is the most despised inhabitant of the internet playground: the bully who can dish it out, but can't take it.

Mr. Baker is also very upset when people like Mr. Deshong criticize homophobic elements of AIDS denialism. He uses the opportunity to paint a picture of gays in conspiracy with Big Pharma:

Gay activism has been tied to HIV from the beginning. When the AIDS hysteria of 1983 fizzled to mortality levels of .0076% in 1986, CDC officials began to worry that taxpayers wouldn’t fund treatment for a small number of sick men. Drug makers needed activists to push drugs while the CDC needed sick men. To make that happen, drug companies sponsored dance parties where thousands of men were recruited in baptisms of depravity

. . . and so on, like that.

Mr. Baker's conduct is not limited to his critics themselves. I interviews Mr. Deshong's mother, a sweet lady with a spine of Texas steel. She told me about how Mr. Baker called her out of the blue and ranted at her. Mr. Baker angrily denounced her son, and told her that, as a police officer, he knew about dangerous people, and that Ms. DeShong should fear that her son would kill her in her sleep. He also threatened that he was arranging for doctors Mr. DeShong had criticized to sue him for defamation. Ms. Deshong pointed out that such a suit would bring no joy; Todd Deshong is not a rich man. "But you have money, right? You have a house, right?" responded Mr. Baker, implying that he might put her assets at risk. "He thought he could intimidate me. He didn't know who he was dealing with," said Ms. Deshong, who sounds like a good person to have at your back.

Through this course of conduct, Clark Baker has made himself a controversial public figure amongst people interested in HIV and AIDS.

So how can he be suing someone for defamation over criticism?

Because, in our legal system, anyone can sue anyone for anything, in an effort to suppress and retaliate against speech, and there are seldom consequences — unless people like you, gentle readers, step up to help call out their bad behavior (and the bad behavior of their lawyers) and help ease the cost of their defense against malicious claims.

Baker's suit is highly defensible, and likely sanctionable.

The trademark claim is based on Deshong's use of "HIV Innocence Group" to criticize Clark Baker's activities. Baker lost that argument conclusively before a Uniform Domain Name Resolution panel:

The Panel finds Complainant has engaged in reverse domain name hijacking because it was clear Respondent was legitimately using Complainant’s mark to make a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue. Complainant clearly knew this before it began this proceeding. Complainant did not disclose this obvious fact in its Complaint.

Mr. Baker is bitter at that result:

Unfortunately, the arbitration body had no expertise in trademark or trade name infringement and allowed Deshong’s unsupported assertions of good faith usage to stand.

Mr. Baker's defamation and "business disparagement" claims are premised on a combination of vague characterizations of Mr. Deshong's speech or explicit references to statements of opinion and advocacy. For instance:

Deshong’s stated purpose is not informational or in any way fair use. He admits in writing on-line that his purpose it to “deconstruct” the HIV INNOCENCE GROUP. He states that his goal is the economic destruction of Clark Baker and OMSJ. In his own words he states, “It is therefore the sole purpose of this site to provide the general public, and attorneys seeking Baker’s help, and any interested parties, the proof that Clark Baker’s Innocence project, now called the Innocence Group is a useless tool of AIDS denialist propaganda.” This stated purpose undermines any notion that the confusion Deshong causes and the infringement of OMSJ’s trade name is for any fair use or enjoys any protection thereunder. The admitted purpose is to economically destroy Baker and OMSJ.

Some are suspiciously vague. Remember what we say here: vagueness in defamation claims is the hallmark of meritless thuggery:

November 2, 2011: In an effort to discredit Baker and OMSJ Deshong attempts to undermine a legal victory in a case in Florida when again he has no factual or legal basis to do so.

Sometimes Mr. Baker suggests that Mr. Deshong should be liable because his science is wrong, or because he is part of a Big Pharma conspiracy:

December 13, 2011: In an effort to disparage OMSJ, Deshong attacks both Bakerand OMSJ in what he calls “Debunking Clark Baker’s Analysis of Flow Cytometry: PartI.” The post is revealing for two reasons. First, it lacks any objective support for theallegations made therein. Second, it demonstrates that Deshong is working forpharmaceutical companies and/or physicians who need to attack OMSJ’s position at ascientific and academic level that is beyond Deshong’s expertise.

Mr. Baker is furious that Mr. Deshong tries to get others involved:

March 5, 2012: In an effort to have someone else do some research as to the defamatory and unsubstantiated claims made in his web-site, Deshong offers a $1,000 reward for information to support seven statements made by OMSJ. What Deshong is trying to do is use the fact that he has no objective evidence to support the defamatory statements made against Baker and OMSJ to his advantage by making it appear that he has made a prima facie case that Baker and OMSJ are not telling the truth and then offering money he does not have as a reward to anyone that can substantiate Baker and OMSJ’s claims.

Finally, Mr. Baker reveals the core of his: he thinks Mr. Deshong should not be allowed to say that AIDS denialism is a hoax:

They allege that Plaintiff Baker is incompetent, that he knowingly makes false and misleading representations to the public, that his legal and scientific theories with regard to HIV are a hoax, that Baker’s reputation as a former LAPD police officer is misleading, and other personally disparaging remarks.

To which I reply: AIDS denialism is a junk-science hoax with tragic results to its victims. Come get me, you censorious thug. Jenny McCarthy, you want a piece? Get in line.

Texas has an an excellent anti-SLAPP statute; it appears that its application in federal court has not yet been resolved. Someone helping Mr. Deshong should take a shot. It may also be worthwhile to attack federal jurisdiction over the state claims, an approach that is sometimes successful, especially where the issues involved in the state claims (like adjudicating AIDS denialism!) are likely to overcome the purported federal issues. It may also be worth attacking the damages allegations for purposes of diversity jurisdiction; though Baker claims his entity has suffered, its tax records show donations increasing.

Todd Deshong needs help. He's being sued for attacking junk science; he's being sued by the sort of loathsome nutter who threatens the mothers of critics. Your freedom to speak without fear of censorious and frivolous litigation chilling you depends on the willingness of people to step up in situations like this. If nobody helps Todd Deshong, then anybody can be driven to penury by a flawed legal system that serves as a vehicle for despicable and un-American censorship by lunatics of every stripe. If you're a Texas lawyer, please consider helping. If you know Texas lawyers, please bring this to their attention. If you have an online presence, please tell this story — and research Clark Baker's behavior yourself. Clark Baker and his lawyer should experience the social consequences of their actions — help be a part of those social consequences. Step up for free speech.

Update: Strong offers from lawyers already. But please keep them coming — a team would be great.

Postscript: Dear Mr. Baker: it occurs to me that I have not provided information necessary for your favored mode of rebuttal. Alas, God rest her, my mother has passed. However, you may threaten her grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, which is convenient to the Glendale and Golden State freeways.

  1. I printed those pages just in case the posts mysteriously disappear.  

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Kilroy says

    Suits like that are an embarrassment to the legal profession. At least when its pro se, you can laugh it off, but when an actual attorney files something like that, just have to shake your head at the profession. Shame on Mark Weitz and attorney's that fail to follow the basic ethical requirements of not filing frivolous claims.

  2. Cloudscout says

    I have proof that vaccines are evil. I went in for booster shots today and my arm is now a little sore. Surely this is far worse than any imaginary diseases like Typhoid or Diphtheria.

  3. Richard says

    I can prove that vaccines cause autism. My proof: I'm not autistic, and I don't remember getting vaccinated at six months (even though my parents say that I was).

    Therefore, the reason that I'm not autistic must be that I wasn't really vaccinated. QED

  4. Ancel De Lambert says

    A Prosecutor taking a dive to protect a police officer? NEVER. Can not be!

  5. Chris says

    ~14th paragraph, " Mr. Baker's conduct is not limited to his critics themselves. I interviews Mr. Deshong's mother," should that be interviewed?

  6. Matthew Cline says

    Unfortunately, the arbitration body had no expertise in trademark or trade name infringement

    Hasn't it been pretty thoroughly established that its not trademark infringement when the trademarked term is used to refer to the trademarked thing in a critical manner?

  7. Trevor says

    Hasn't it been pretty thoroughly established that its not trademark infringement when the trademarked term is used to refer to the trademarked thing in a critical manner?

    Well, I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're getting at, but the FTC has historically and publicly supported comparative advertising where trademarks of competing products are used, for example here:

    That would certainly be a case where companies are mentioning their competition's trademarks to compare them unfavorably with their own.


  8. says

    On-topic: stuff like this makes me wish I was an actual lawyer. I'm glad to see people stepping up, because that kind of behavior needs to be slapped back hard.

    Slightly off-topic: best pub trivia team name of last week was "Sorry, Jenny, there's no vaccine for stupid whore". (vaccine reference)

  9. says

    BoingBoing has picked this up.

    Any Redditors out there? If someone would post this there in appropriate forum(s), that would be appreciated. Ditto Fark. Trying to get as much support for Mr. Deshong as possible.

  10. Fasolt says

    "Unfortunately, the arbitration body had no expertise in trademark or trade name infringement and allowed Deshong’s unsupported assertions of good faith usage to stand."

    Ah, the old they just don't understand gambit to try and save face.

    And speaking of the Westboro "Baptist Church". Why the hell does everyone keep calling them that? They don't seem very Baptist or to be me much of a church to me. Losers. Sorry to go on about that. Every time I hear about their latest round of asshattery or the dumb statements they make, the veins in my forehead start standing out and my face turns red.

  11. says

    Ken, send me an email at my email address. I could help in the background (not admitted to federal court, but I could do research and briefing).

  12. says

    TBH, I sympathize with the "AIDS denialists." Let's just say I've read much about the controversy and am not convinced that the virus hypothesis is as cut and dry and many like to portray. However, silly suits need to be discouraged, and I am willing to help. So there. . . say what you want about lawyers, you now have a live example of what lawyers do best. . . defend people even if they disagree with them.

  13. says

    That particular photo would not work well in a t-shirt. But a more general popehat signal t-shirt? Sign me up. How about the more general and simple one that appears here but using the higher-res multi-color one that appears in the upper left corner of the blog?

  14. jb says

    Could you link to some cogent rebuttals to the viral hypothesis? I'm curious what that side of the controversy is, and as is the case with any unpopular view it is mostly held by cranks given to conspiracy-theory rantings. As a person who knows how to express himself, you undoubtedly can point to the (viral skeptics? anti-virals?) worth reading.

  15. says

    @jb–Thanks for taking it seriously. You have caught me on a late night , but I will try to respond as best I can. I have read parts of Duesenberg's book (I think it was Inventing the AIDS Virus) and there are many cogent arguments there from a recognized virologist. Just a few are: 1. Classic virology states that to prove causation the virus has to appear in every single instance of the disease and HIV does not meet that criteria; 2. The definition of "AIDS" from CDC assumes the result (pneumonia plus low T-cell count is "AIDS" but pneumonia without low T-cell count is simply "pneumonia"); that does not prove causation; 3. Gallo's, shall we say, problem with the French regarding isolation of the virus itself. etc.; and 4. the fact that the "solution" to the problem (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS) was released immediately by a governmental agency and not by any scientific body. One website to start at is http://www.rethinkingaids.com. It is an interesting website to me because I am a lawyer dealing with burdens of proof. So, if someone says "the human immunodefienciency virus causes AIDS", my general reaction is "Prove it." The website I cite raises questions as to whether HIV is a causative agent of AIDS and whether that proposition has been "proven" or not. I don't read any of the supposed "denialist" literature to deny that HIV causes AIDS, just that the scientists who claim HIV causes AIDS have not met their burden of proof according to the accepted scientific method.

    He is also joined in his skepticism by Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winning biochemist.

  16. says

    @jb–Also, your comment that I need to link to "cogent rebuttals" to the viral hypothesis assumes that the viral hypothesis is true and has been proven via the scientific method. I would assert that this assumption is not true, and therefore it is actually up to you to prove the viral hypothesis, rather than up to me to disprove something that has not been proven according to the scientific method.

  17. barry says


    ..just that the scientists who claim HIV causes AIDS have not met their burden of proof according to the accepted scientific method.

    I think this is misunderstanding the scientific method. ie. "here is the best hypothesis that fits all the evidence so far. Disprove it !"

  18. says

    @barry–You misunderstand Duesenberg's argument then. There is an established body of literature explaining how we come to prove a virus "causes" a certain disease. The proponents of the "HIV causes AIDS disease" have not met those criteria. Why should we give them a pass? That is the essence of the argument.

  19. En Passant says

    Quoted by Ken, from the HIV denialist's webpage:

    But when investigators and their witnesses discuss these issues online, Fauci's goons dispatch people like Jeffrey to disrupt, embarrass, and intimidate those witnesses.

    I didn't know the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) had a goon squad. But this makes NIAID look like it's behind the times or seriously underfunded.

    Why should NIAID have to rely one guy who "lives alone with his mother in her small Texas rental" for its goon squad?

    Can't NIAID afford a real SWAT team, with automatic weapons and APCs and stuff?

    I blame Obama.

  20. bst says

    @Darryl, I'm not so sure that citing Kary Mullis as an argument-by-authority is such a great choice. While it is true that he won a Nobel Prize for his work in biochemistry inventing the PCR technique that is so essential to work with DNA, biochemistry is not the same as expertise in virology and medicine. Here's a quote from his bio in Wikipedia. I'm selecting this bit because it is based on his own words, making it difficult to say that it is just the result of some current edit of a biased wiki-editor:

    "Mullis's 1998 autobiography Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, gives his account of the commercial development of PCR, as well as providing insights into his opinions and experiences. In the book, Mullis chronicles his romantic relationships, use of LSD, synthesis and self-testing of novel psychoactive substances, belief in astrology and an encounter with an extraterrestrial in the form of a fluorescent raccoon."

  21. Rob says

    I did not know that AIDS denialism was a thing. Blaming it on the CIA, sure. But not denying it outright.

    And then someone shows up in the comments section to show it's even actually fairly widespread. Today was not a good day for my faith in humanity.

  22. says

    I want to say a big, fat Texas THANK YOU to Ken White for writing about my case. Mr. White did all this in less than 48 hours. I wrote Mr. White a short but succinct email (along with the suit) about the injustice being SLAPP'd on me. He got on this immediately and after verifying my accusations he wrote this amazing post. Ken White is a God send! He gets it. Being validated by a third party with no horse in this race is extremely gratifying and I can not thank him enough. I hope an attorney in Texas will see the opportunity here.

    Anti-SLAPP in Texas Federal Court has not been challenged yet and I truly believe that this case could be the case to set a precedent in Texas and in the process make a name for the attorney brave enough to take on this case.

    Thank you, Ken. You have validated that I am not crazy and that the last five years of harassment via these AIDS Denialists has not been for naught.

    J. Todd DeShong.

  23. ChrisTS says

    @Rob: Well, you do not want to visit the VC threads about neo-Confederatism. I suspect you would be horrified.

  24. says

    @bst–perhaps you were unaware that Kary Mullis wons the Nobel Prize in 1993 for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is the basis for the test for HIV.

  25. Matthew Cline says


    There is an established body of literature explaining how we come to prove a virus "causes" a certain disease.

    Koch's postulates aren't the end-all and be-all of determining if something is an infectious agent.

    and you have the establishment going after them.

    How do you tell the difference between "the vast majority of scientists and doctors simply disagree with your side" and "the establishment going after them"?

  26. Matthew Cline says


    There is an established body of literature explaining how we come to prove a virus "causes" a certain disease.

    Does the use of scare quotes mean you have a problem with the germ theory of disease in general, and not just with the "HIV causes AIDS" theory in particular?

  27. macomeau says


    Do you mean Duesberg? It's Wikipedia, so follow the citations (like the four for microbe-virus connection, two freely available), but he seems to be… wrong.

    Besides that, "It doesn't satisfy the criteria" may just as well mean that the criteria are flawed (not necessarily wrong, but perhaps incomplete less than 100% predictive). In fact, Koch, upon whose postulates Duesberg relies, acknowledged that they didn't work for all the known virus-diseases of his own era.

  28. says

    @Matthew Cline. Not at all. But your theory ("HIV causes AIDS") needs to meet the criteria previously set out in the scientific method. The argument from the supposed "denialists" is that it simply does not. If there is actual evidence that is does, I am sure the "denialists" would be willing to hear and consider it. The problem is that it ("HIV causes AIDS") has never really been proven. The question is really is it up to those who propose the hypothesis to prove it or is it up to those who deny the hypothesis to disprove it?

  29. granny weatherwax says

    Darryl – the scientific method never ever proves a theory to be true.

    If a prediction of a hypothesis does not agree with experimental data then that hypothesis can be disproved, however if the predictions of a hypothesis do agree with experiment then the best you can say is that the hypothesis has not been disproved.

    Once a hypothesis has been around a while and has withstood a lot of attempts to disprove it to a fairly arbitrary but reasonably high level of statistical significance, then it can be tentatively raised to the status of theory.

    A scientific law, on the other hand is some maths that can be used to make useful predictions (newton's law of gravity for instance is not the theory, but the maths) and can continue to be a law even if any theories associated with it have been disproved.

    Taking the hypothesis that the collection of symptoms that together are called AIDS (a syndrome being a collection of symptoms, by definition) are primarily or entirely caused by HIV, the very first thing you would do as a researcher is to start with the null hypothesis, which in this case would be that there is no causal connection between AIDS and the presence of HIV.

    Now because HIV has been isolated and the RNA transcribed, which means that we can do very accurate PCR tests for its presence in a sample, we have a very powerful tool for investigating the probability of a causal connection between the presence of HIV and the development of AIDS.

    So the question is not whether science has proved that HIV causes AIDS, but to what level of probability has HIV been shown to have a causal connection to the onset of AIDS and secondly (and less importantly) whether there is a known mechanism that would explain any connection. The mechanism is less important as it is not required to know how a mechanism works to have evidence that shows a high probability of a causal link.

    If Duesenberg's argument really is that 'There is an established body of literature explaining how we come to prove a virus "causes" a certain disease. The proponents of the "HIV causes AIDS disease" have not met those criteria.' then I would say that it comes across as badly phrased at best and a complete misrepresentation of science at worst.

    For me, one of the main smoking guns that makes it seem overwhelmingly likely that HIV causes AIDS is from healthy lab workers who have been working with cloned HIV in the lab, who have then had needle-stick accidents and then developed AIDS and had blood tests that show that the HIV in their blood is genetically descended from the cloned samples and that the progression of their illness correlates with the levels of HIV detected in those tests.

    Of course it might be something else entirely, but if it is, then I personally haven't heard of any likely contenders, so until someone finds some good evidence disproving the HIV hypothesis or comes up with an alternative hypothesis that fits the evidence better, I will continue to view the HIV hypothesis as true for all practical purposes, which is not the same thing as proven true, as that is not in the remit of science as a discipline.

  30. granny weatherwax says

    "If there is actual evidence that is does, I am sure the "denialists" would be willing to hear and consider it."

    Some of them might. But some of them are making too much damn money selling massively overpriced vitamin pills to the desperate and the dying to even consider such an option and are willing to use the courts wherever possible to try and protect their business model.


    oh, and ARVs work.

  31. says

    @granny–my understanding is that most of the "needle stick" victims actually have not developed any symptoms of AIDS. I might be wrong, but I believe that to be the case in most needle stick incidents. In any event, does that prove (to whatever level of satisfaction you desire) that HIV causes AIDS? Of course not, and even you admit as such. You simply want to shift the burden of proof. Why is that legitimate? Have the "HIV causes AIDS" proponents provided actual, scientifically valid evidence for their position? If so, what is it and has it been subjected to rigorous examination? The answer, I believe, is "No."

    How do you explain that "AIDS" in developing countries in Africa is defined as being "with HIV"? That assumes the hypothesis,which is the basic objection of many of the so-called "denialists." As I have said before, I am not a scientist and I don't really feel like arguing all of the arguments in a comment on a blog post. But my point is that you should question things and search them out for yourself. Merely equating Nobel Prize winners' arguments to those of Jenny McCarthy does not advance the ball.

  32. barry says


    @barry–You misunderstand Duesenberg's argument then. There is an established body of literature explaining how we come to prove a virus "causes" a certain disease

    I would not expect a contraian like Dusenberg to be using the 'established body of literature' argument.

    I was just pointing out that you had used the term 'scientific method' several times in a rather odd way that seemed to imply a lack of proof was evidence for an alternate theory.

    @jb…it is actually up to you to prove the viral hypothesis, rather than up to me to disprove something that has not been proven according to the scientific method.

    'fraid not.. the 'scientific method' is about disproving things that haven't been proven. If Duesenberg wants to disprove the virus theory, he needs more than "it hasn't been proven".

  33. granny weatherwax says

    "You simply want to shift the burden of proof. Why is that legitimate?"

    The burden of proof in science is what I have stated.

    If you wish to use a burden of proof that requires that hypothesis are proved rather than disproved, then go right ahead, but then you should throw out all of science, not just that surrounding HIV, as no science has ever proven anything in the way you are requiring.

    Also, I could care less if someone is a nobel prize winner. Personally I share Feynman's views on such things.

  34. Anony Mouse says

    Merely equating Nobel Prize winners' arguments to those of Jenny McCarthy does not advance the ball.

    Yeah. Jenny McCarthy doesn't claim to have been visited by an alien disguised as a glowing raccoon.

  35. eigenperson says

    Koch's postulates are generally considered to be sufficient evidence that a disease is caused by a particular organism, but it is not necessary that all the postulates be satisfied in order to establish causation.

    And that's really the end of the story.

  36. AlphaCentauri says

    "Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome" is just that — a "syndrome." A syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms that define an illness. That definition is established when the ultimate cause and pathogenesis of the illness has not been fully discovered.

    Many illnesses, like diabetes, are actually syndromes — we define them by their signs and symptoms (fasting blood sugar over x, hemoglobin A1c more than y, etc.). A "disease" is a process with a defined cause and pathogenesis. Over time, we may find that a syndrome encompasses multiple disease processes, and we gradually tease it out into separate diseases as it is possible and/or useful. So we now understand that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are very different and can be treated with entirely different medications, even though both meet the definition of the diagnosis of "diabetes." And we're drilling down further to the ultimate causes, such as the precise beta cell antibodies that cause type 1 diabetes, and we've learned to identify another type, Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults. That doesn't mean we've discovered the cause of the beta cell antibodies, but it may be enough to mean we can develop a vaccine against them. The research has a long way to go. Not every diabetic is deficient in insulin. But no one would seriously argue that someone who lacks insulin would not be diabetic.

    Similarly, AIDS was defined in order to begin treatment and research. The definition did not include the HIV virus at first, because it hadn't been discovered. It was based on having one of a number of illnesses that should never occur in someone with a normal immune system, and it was based on there being no other explanation for that lack of immunity.

    Now that we have defined HTLV-III, and decided that it was different enough from HTLV-I and HTLV-II to merit its own category, HIV-1, and now that we have discovered HIV-2, we have discovered the causes of almost everyone who meets the definition of AIDS. Could you find someone who meets the definition of AIDS who doesn't have HIV? Of course, I know such a person myself. Can you find people who have had HIV virus for years who haven't developed AIDS? Yes — in fact the reason that employers have to keep needlestick incident records on their employees for 30 years is that that was the projected time it would require before every untreated infected person would take to develop AIDS, so for 29 of those years, someone is going to be infected with HIV and not have AIDS.

    More and more, doctors treat "HIV disease" rather than "AIDS." "AIDS" is usually a failure of the public health system, where someone has not been diagnosed or not entered treatment in time to avoid their immune system becoming so ravaged that they develop diseases that should not occur in someone with a healthy immune system. We expect that in another 100 years, AIDS will be as rare as tertiary syphilis, regardless of how prevalent HIV infection still is.

    To say that HIV is not a cause of AIDS, or that HIV isn't the cause of the vast majority of cases, is worse than idiotic. It's so reckless, it's evil. People will die because of that kind of propaganda. People will be denied medication based on that kind of propaganda. Partners will be infected because of someone was too selfish to use a condom and used that propaganda to excuse their negligence. Newborn children will be infected because their parents are too frightened of the risk of the drugs to understand that the risk of a child developing AIDS is reduced so dramatically by treating pregnant women that it dwarfs the medication risks to the fetus. People will rape little girls because they've been told to disbelieve doctors that tell them they can't get rid of AIDS by "giving it" to someone else. It's happening now in various parts of the world.

    It's like telling people that it's okay to give children matches to play with, because lots of house fires start without any children playing with matches.

  37. granny weatherwax says

    "Jenny McCarthy doesn't claim to have been visited by an alien disguised as a glowing raccoon."

    She did at one point claim that she was a part alien indigo mother and that her kid was a part alien crystal child, until she found out that he was autistic instead of from another world and started blaming it on vaccines, so they do share some similar ground. I can't remember if there were any raccoons involved however.

  38. Swimmy says

    For those who don't have the google-fu to combat Darryl's patent nonsense, here is a link describing the absolutely overwhelming evidence that HIV causes AIDS. If you find yourself confused by the fact that a miniscule fraction of AIDS patients have been found not to have HIV, mind that tests for HIV, like the tests for any disease, are not perfect; it is far, far more likely that the tests were simply wrong in those cases (especially since many of them were retested and found to have HIV) than that all the other massive amounts of evidence are just coincidences.

  39. bst says

    @Darryl, I'm not sure how to take your reply to me ("perhaps you were unaware") when the second sentence in my comment was about Kary Mullis winning the Nobel Prize for his invention of the PCR technique that is used to study DNA.

    However, what he did was come up with a brilliant idea for a tool that makes it possible to analyze samples of DNA that are in much tinier quantities than could be analyzed before his invention. That invention speaks to his knowledge of biochemistry, to his knowledge of the mathematics of biochemistry and to his creativity. It does not say anything about his expertise when he states his ideas about AIDS not being caused by the HIV retrovirus, or about denial of global warming, or about astrology, or about visitations from extraterrestrials.

    Regarding AIDS, the fact that he invented the tool that makes it possible to detect HIV directly in human blood when there are no detectable quantities of antibodies does not grant him any particular expertise in the interpretation of the results of using that tool. A person who invents a better hammer or nail or even a better way of fastening boards together does not therefore gain credibility as an architect or as a structural engineer. Even though that person could deserve great credit and appreciation for that invention.

    I followed the link you posted and did some more googling around to find what he had to say on the subjects of AIDS. If he had turned out to be correct 20 years ago saying that AIDS was likely to be caused by some yet-to-be-determined factor in the lifestyle of promiscuous gay men and not the result of HIV infection, then he should be lauded for his insight. But AIDS has spread following a pattern of a sexual-borne and blood-borne disease, not one of a disease specific to the lifestyle of the population where it happened to first come to notice. There are places in the world where the primary vector for transmission is heterosexual unprotected sex. Also, with 67% of those found to be infected with HIV-1 not developing AIDS within 5 years and without treatment over 99% developing it within 20 years, there is much more data now to consider than there was 20 years ago.

    And I really do need to take a long hard look before accepting any argument from someone, even one who got a Nobel prize for a brilliant invention, who talks about his beliefs that AIDS is not caused by HIV, that the evidence is against "global warming", that astrology is true, and that the glowing fluorescent green raccoon who talked to him in the woods was of extraterrestrial origin.

  40. says

    The "[n]ew Popehat Signal courtesy of Nigel Lew" is clever and interesting. When I see stuff like that, it makes me wish I was an artist.

    Suggestion: brighten the area of the Popehat on the clouds. Rationale: the signal *is* a light over a grim legalscape, it would be a 2nd eye to that moon, might print better on a tee shirt, and we have the candlepower nowadays — e.g. beam on smoke (assuming that photobucket image doesn't disappear).

    I am not an artist so consider that fact with the above suggestion.

  41. NS says

    Long time lurker here, but this story moves me…

    IANAL, and I am a Canuck, so there is little I can do to help, but I would be overjoyed to contribute some money to Mr. Deshong's defense. Thuggery is bad, pedaling bad science is worse, but picking on some innocent old lady, because you disagree with her son? That will not stand!

  42. jb says

    You have provided numerous examples of people with HIV who did not get AIDS, but that does not prove that HIV does not cause AIDS, since there are many times that number of people with HIV who did get AIDS. Can you point to examples of people with AIDS who did not previously have HIV?

    You partially addressed this with the comment that the CDC's definition of AIDS is inconsistent–however, the HIV causes AIDS theory runs "HIV–>Low T-Cells–>disease that is not necessarily usually fatal–>Death" so the presence of low T-cells would seem to me to be in fact the key factor.

    Has anyone been found in the past 30 years with abnormally low T-cells and no traces of HIV?

  43. granny weatherwax says

    "Has anyone been found in the past 30 years with abnormally low T-cells and no traces of HIV?"

    There is the genetic disorder Alymphocytosis, AKA "bubble-boy syndrome".

  44. AlphaCentauri says

    The person I spoke of had low CD4 (T-helper) cells but was HIV-negative. She had an unusual eating disorder with very low body weight, and she had had neck radiation as a child (at one time, doctors would radiate the thymus in the belief the large thymus gland in infants caused SIDS; they also radiated enlarged tonsils but likely weren't too fussy about how tightly the beam was focused), so those might explain or contribute to her problem. But I doubt there are enough people with that combination to study to see if we can safely rule out any other unknown cause. We don't routinely test CD-4 cells in people who don't have bizarre rare illnesses. I don't assume there won't be an HIV-3 virus discovered in the future. But that has nothing to do with the millions of people whose immune deficiency is well-explained by HIV-1 or HIV-2.

  45. Mark C. says

    From Mr Mullis's wikipedia entry:

    In his 1998 autobiography, Mullis expressed disagreement with the scientific evidence supporting climate change and ozone depletion, the evidence that HIV causes AIDS, and asserted his belief in astrology.

    He may have received the Nobel prize, but he's a cuckoo.

    I love this, further down in the page:

    A New York Times article listed Mullis as one of several scientists who, after success in their area of research, go on to make unfounded, sometimes bizarre statements in other areas.[6] An article in the Skeptical Inquirer described Mullis as an "…AIDS denialist with scientific credentials [who] has never done any scientific research on HIV or AIDS".

  46. TexasAndroid says

  47. Votre says

    If Mrs. Deshong's account of her phone conversation was accurate, isn't it also illegal for someone to identify themselves as a police officer when they no longer are? That's an unfortunate practice I've seen more than one defrocked former cop along with a few sleazy private investigators try to pull.

  48. barry says

    The lawyer bothers me more than Clark Baker himself. There will always be weirdos with weird ideas trying to sell them to the world, and it's easy to convince yourself they actually believe them, so however dangerous they might be (and this one is very dangerous; people die), at least there could be a kind of sincerity there which somehow makes it not quite as bad. But when they have a lawyer supporting their weirdo deluded dangerous idea and it turns from ignorance to malice, you have to wonder if the lawyer believes it too, or the more disgusting possibility that they are 'just doing a job' for the money.

    I get that in criminal cases there has to be a lawyer on both sides because there was a crime. But in civil cases like this it's a choice, and a lot more blame and disgust has to go to the lawyer who brings them. One hope is that the self-inflicted loss of reputation to the lawyer will eventually either drive them out of the market, or at least outweigh the monetary gain enough to make them stop doing it.

  49. SharonA says

    The new Popehat signal rocks!

    (I do second the suggestion for a bit more contrast between the signal and its surrounding clouds to make it visible)

    *Big round of applause and thank-yous for the attorneys answering the signal* (and also for Ken handling this)

  50. says

    Gallo, the man who claimed to have isolated the virus, may not be the most credible person. Just check out the US-France dispute over the isolation of the virus.

  51. Steve says

    In addition to other issues of character well covered by @Ken, Mr. Baker is a bad dog owner. He proudly displays on his website a video of his dog being run over by a car, the dog having been left to wander unattended. I can forgive a lot of things, perhaps even censorious thuggery, but this is beyond the pale.

  52. says

    @Fasolt–your comment is gratuitously snarky. Do you actually believe Dr. Gallo is credible, given all of the evidence to the contrary?

  53. Ahkbar says

    Gallo, the man who claimed to have isolated the virus, may not be the most credible person. Just check out the US-France dispute over the isolation of the virus.

    I may be mistaken, but my understanding of that situation is on which group (France vs US) actually isolated the virus first, not on the validity of the existence of the virus itself or the amount of data that has been gathered to support the assertion that HIV leads to AIDS.

    What is the evidence that you have referenced to be contrary?

  54. Jesse from Tulsa says

    Dear Aids Deniers:

    You have critics with HIV. Needles are very easy to come by. I propose an experiment to end the debate within your lifetime:

    1) One of your critics with a high level of HIV, no other blood borne pathogens, and the same blood type "donates" a pint of blood.

    2) You voluntarily administer this pint of blood to yourself (as you are aware, there are laws against knowingly infecting someone with HIV).

    3) Three months later you are tested for HIV, if negative, we repeat steps 1 + 2. This cycle shall be repeated thrice if necessary.

    4) Result!

    a) If you test negative after three trials, you submit to study so doctors can prove the hoax and show how your body overcame the junk science. You triumphantly post it on your blog.

    b) If you are diagnosed with HIV you decline all treatment and triumphantly continue your blog about how it is a joke. This blog shall contain general health statistics (weight, white blood cell count, etc.) on a periodic basis – which shall be recorded by a doctor of your choosing who can administer any treatment you desire; but-for HIV/AIDS specific treatments (AZT, blood transfusions, newer specific drug cocktails).

    Please be advised that modern medicine will tell you this is a suicide pact and utterly stupid, but its your body… do what you want!



    /but really, if you do this it ends badly for you. You shouldn't do it.

  55. says

    @Ahkbar–There is simply a ton of information on the dispute on the internet and elsewhere. You can find it in newspaper articles of the time (such as the Chicago Tribune). Gallo evidently claimed to have isolated the virus when the evidence suggests he did not. The point is, why are we trusting him?

  56. Trent says

    It's atrocious what damage certain anti-evolution groups have done to science education in this country. Intelligent design and the "teach the controversy" campaigns have worked by enhancing peoples already vague understanding of science to completely alter the precepts of the scientific method. Darryl's assertion that theory's must be proved is a prime example of that misunderstanding of the scientific method.

    And there would be a way to conclusively prove a link between HIV and AIDS with very high confidence. It would involve the deliberate infection of upwards of a thousand people with HIV and the corresponding number that left untreated eventually developed AIDS. Needless to say such an experiment would be unethical in the extreme, and you would end up in the history books as a footnote just like Nazi Dr. Mengele and likely executed for mass murder.

    Fraudsters and quacks that claim the science is wrong often rely on deliberate misstatements on the scientific method, the common definition of theory (instead of the scientific one) and small controversies in the science along with edge cases where the theory is not as well defined. The best part is they are usually deliberately deceiving people for economic benefit to themselves.

  57. Fasolt says

    @Darryl-Let's see:

    1. Given or granted without return or recompense; unearned.
    2. Given or received without cost or obligation; free.
    3. Unnecessary or unwarranted; unjustified: gratuitous criticism.

    I assume your comment refers to definition number 3.

    adj. snark·i·er, snark·i·est Slang
    1. Rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.
    2. Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.

    I don't believe my comment was either unnecessary, unwarranted, or unjustified. Nor was it rude, snide, or disrespectful. It was certainly sarcastic, I'll give you that.

    I do believe your point of view is just as valid as the views espoused by The Flat Earth Society.

  58. sorrykb says

    Trust Gallo, or don't trust Gallo. It's irrelevant. We have now — aside from Gallo's work — a wealth of peer-reviewed research and mountains of evidence evidence from a large and diverse group of professionals with expertise in this area. That's one of the advantages of having actual science — rather than conjecture and conspiracy– to work with.

  59. wumpus says

    Quick question: it seems that everyone is questioning if Texas's anti-SLAPP laws work in Federal Court. Does this mean they function in Texas? I understand that it isn't a clear-cut issue and that other Texan ideals (including a distrust of unnecessary lawyering) might override the pro-industry deregulation Texas is famous for.

    So does it work in state courts and that is why it is a federal suit?

  60. says

    @Fasolt–I haven't really said anything about what my "point of view" is; I merely pointed out some issues others have with the science. And no, I am not a "teach the controversy" person.

  61. says

    @sorrykb–Thanks. TBH, I don't really keep up with any of this on regular basis (I have a life), so it would interesting to read what has come after Duesberg's book to see if it addressed any of the criticisms.

  62. says

    @wumpus–I think the issue is whether the defendant can use the state anti-SLAPP statute (by "use" I mean "assert claims for relief under") in federal court. I think the issue would be whether the anti-SLAPP statute should be considered procedural (not able to be used in federal court) or substantive (able to be used in federal court).

  63. z! says

    You do not win a prize for the most comments; consider going for quality discourse over quantity. Or possibly just sit back and let other people have their say.

  64. Ahkbar says


    @Ahkbar–There is simply a ton of information on the dispute on the internet and elsewhere. You can find it in newspaper articles of the time (such as the Chicago Tribune). Gallo evidently claimed to have isolated the virus when the evidence suggests he did not. The point is, why are we trusting him?

    From what I am reading and understanding the dispute is not on whether HIV has been isolated, but on who isolated it first.

    So what about the French group that claimed to have isolated HIV over a year earlier? Is there evidence that suggests that they did not either? Is there some reason to not trust them as well?

  65. says

    Officer Z, you do realize there are nearly 90 comments on this thread, right? "just sit back and let other people have their say"?? 1. You DO realize this is Popehat, right? Not really a bunch of shrinking violets around here. People have their say here. 2. I am not preventing anyone from having their say. If you look to the comments, I have been pretty soundly (but fairly) beaten up over this.

    (Does this comment count against my quota?)

  66. En Passant says

    Ken White wrote Jul 24, 2013 @10:43 am:

    Yeah! We're going to run out of ones and zeroes!

    If it will help, I can write a check for lots of zeroes. But I don't have any ones to donate, or any of the other numbers either.

    That aside, the most broadly loathsome aspect of HIV/AIDS denialists is the medical quackery they encourage. The more personally loathsome aspect is their willingness to tell even the most innocent AIDS patients that their disease is their own damned fault.

    Over several years in the 1980s-1990s, a friend of mine slowly died of AIDS. She contracted the disease from a forcible rape perpetrated by a complete stranger. Her responses to Duesberg and other denialists would be felony violations of 18 USC § 1464 if broadcast.

  67. Davey says

    Dear Ken,
    Please lock this thread. It's signal-to-noise ratio has peaked and left only noise where the discussion of your post should be.

  68. says

    18 USC § 1464 – Broadcasting obscene language

    Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.


    I don't understand how that relates to rape, HIV, AIDS and AIDS denialists.

  69. Ryan says

    @Darryl – Beaten up probably isn't the best term for what you've experienced.

    Here's the thing – my original degree is with a major in Molecular Genetics, and I studied virology and immunology pretty thoroughly too. You appear to be betraying a problem common to AIDS-deniers – you're confusing the issue.

    The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (and it's variant subtypes) is a miserably elegant little bastard that mutates faster than most other parasitic viruses – that is, viruses that infect but do not kill their host. There is a boatload of evidence – PubMed is a great place to start for actual research papers if you've never tripped across it before – that HIV binds to a couple very specific receptors on the surface of T-cells, which is uses to replicate, destroying those cells in the process. Because HIV mutates so rapidly and it has a lipid coat that makes it very difficult for the antibody-mediated immune response to track it, it will eventually overwhelm T-cell production. That is not to say people with prolonged and untreated HIV infection have no T-cells; it means that the virus destroys them almost as rapidly as they are made. It's also interesting to note that the immune system does clear HIV infection – just not fast enough. I read a paper during my studies that found over 22 HIV variants in one infected patient.

    AIDS, on the other hand, is a term coined to reflect a collection of symptoms. It was coined before HIV was thoroughly identified and examined. The primary symptom of AIDS is a lowered T-cell count where the body can no longer mount an effective antibody-mediated immune response. That's it. Now, there are a number of things that can cause symptoms like this, but they are all quite rare compared with the number of cases that correlate with HIV infection.

    "AIDS" isn't a proper medical diagnosis. It's a shorthand that connotates the symptoms of HIV infection. Does HIV "cause" AIDS? Well, yes – it has been conclusively demonstrated that severe, prolonged, and untreated HIV infection produces the symptoms that are associated with the term AIDS. Not all HIV cases lead to AIDS symptoms, and not all AIDS symptoms are always the result of HIV infection, but the two terms are so strongly correlated that its a convenient shorthand.

    In general, people who get worked up over the causation effect between HIV and AIDS don't have a very good understanding of molecular biology. And yes, I am aware there are some very respected biologists that are not onboard with the statement "HIV causes AIDS," but a good look at their work typically shows a nuanced scientific approach to the subject (e.g. they are interested in synergistic and alternative pathways to AIDS) rather than outright AIDS denialism, which is the very definition of junk science.

  70. Ryan says

    @Darryl – the lack of edit feature on these comments drives me nuts. I am not calling you an AIDS denier, just to clarify, just that you are displaying the same problematic thought process that leads to their denial.

  71. z! says

    Oh, c'mon Ken. Suggesting that someone improve their discourse isn't exactly "policing my site". Many comments by the same user, each replying to an individual message, is often the mode of a troll or a shill. It also seems otherwise uncommon here. That, of course, is just my opinion.

    Darryl- Yes, I realize it's popehat. Been reading it for a while.

    I can send some over extra ones and zeros if needed, got a whole pile of them here.

  72. ggarcia says

    Darryl, you claim to be a non-scientist, but appear to already have a set opinion. As a scientist working in the HIV field, allow me to weigh in and point out to you that HIV has long been shown to be the definitive cause of AIDS. The Koch's postulate has been met, and among other bodies of evidence, documented cases of AIDS patients snatched from the brink of death by antiretrovirals have been compelling. In the past 30 years that we've wrestled with this pandemic, a mountain of scientific research have supported the fact that HIV causes AIDS, and Swimmy earlier has provided a link which I will also repeat here:
    If you're actually open to both sides, I suggest you sit down and read all the contents (with supporting references) of that link. It will be a good start.

    A lot of non-scientists like you are swayed by the nebulous logic of AIDS denialists, most of whom are also non-scientists. Are you aware that there are hundreds of brilliant scientists all over the world who are working on this field, most of whom would "kill" to have the honor of discovering the "real" cause of AIDS? Yes, I know a lot of them, and I can assure you a lot of these people have an intelligence you and I can only hope to have. But you know what, not one of them, by using the scientific method, has been able to show any other agent other than HIV to cause AIDS. The scientific community has long accepted this to be a fact.

    You may think you're being "open-minded" about this, but don't be fooled into thinking you're the only with this ability. Science, by it's very nature, is open-minded and ruthlessly objective. There's always a market for ideas, and the best one supported by scientific research and evidence rise to the top. Unlike religion, it doesn't put infallible gods on an altar (and it doesn't matter whether you've won a Nobel prize or any award, your next hypothesis will still be assessed by your peers with the same objective yardstick). Duesberg and Mullis may be prominent scientists, but they do not work in the HIV field, have not done any scientific research on HIV, and have only their unfounded "opinions" to offer on the subject. In the world of science, unless your hypotheses and experimental findings on a subject are replicated and verified by other scientists, your opinion on that specific subject has zero credibility.

    I don't understand AIDS denialism, and I'm inclined to think that they appeal to people who romanticize individualism or conspiracies. But make no mistake – it has caused thousands of deaths in South Africa and the early deaths of some of its supporters here in the US. It's irrational and ultimately, evil. Personally, I think people who peddle such nonsense should be held criminally liable for the human damage they cause.

  73. says

    What the fuck is up with people telling me and other comments what to do in threads today?

    It's a state of grace thing.

    Nevermind the noise. Any help for Mr. Deshong?

    There's a thing called "Update" and another called "Postscript" which were added to the article long ago. I think I spied the name DeShong attached to a comment 'way up above, too.

    Re: noise — Don't know about anyone else, but I've learned a lot from these comments today. I didn't even know there was such a thing as an AIDS Denialist until this article was published. Somebody should subpoena the NSA and uncover this gay-pharmoco-CDC-Texas-mama conspiracy.

  74. Mark C. says

    So the guy spends (waste) the time of everybody arguing this AIDS denialism bullshit only to be silenced (thinking about) by a comment that basically stated what everybody knew since mid-80's? Bravo, Mr Troll.

  75. says

    Mark, stop hyperventilating. No one's a troll here. Some of us don't have scientific backgrounds, and the information provided by those who do really is "something to think about." It's as if you were asking about a legal issue, I explained it to you, and you said, "OK, thanks for the information." That doesn't make one a troll.

  76. Joe Pullen says

    Dear Mr. Baker: it occurs to me that I have not provided information necessary for your favored mode of rebuttal. Alas, God rest her, my mother has passed.

    @Ken, I take it you have received correspondence from Mr. Baker.

  77. john smith says

    Actually HIV has never been proven to be the cause of AIDS. HIV *MIGHT* synergize with another passenger virus to cause AIDS but HIV alone has never been proven to cause AIDS. Leading pathogen virus scientists have stated over and over that HIV is a harmless passenger virus that has been around for literally thousands of years. If hiv alone was the cause of AIDS, then the demographics of people who contract AIDS would be the same everywhere in the world, which it is not. Do some independent research. AIDS is a money machine just like cancer.

  78. Ahkbar says

    To re-purpose a quote from Ken:

    Vague assertions, references to faceless voices of authority, and flawed logical trains of thought are the hallmark of meritless trollery.

  79. barry says

    @john smith

    Do some independent research.

    Yep, if there's one thing that will convince you of something you really want to believe, it's 'independent research'. You can ignore the conclusion of thousands of researchers with real labs who signed the Durban Declaration if you can find a few contrary articles or blogs by a few people with qualifications who you can believe are the real experts in the field.

    An added advantage is that you can get indignant that your experts are not being listened to, It's just outrageous that 'big science' is allowed to conspire to silence these messengers of the truth, especially when they are only trying to tell the world what you always knew to be true (it can't be just a coincidence).

  80. silverpie says


    "Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

    "I don't understand how that relates to rape, HIV, AIDS and AIDS denialists."

    The rape victim would, in addressing the HIV denialists, use language violating that provision.

  81. AlphaCentauri says

    I have a friend who is absolutely convinced that HIV jumped species due to research on the oral polio vaccine in west Africa.

    The fact that people were doing smallpox vaccine campaigns at the same time, that they were known to be growing the vaccinia virus in any mammal available when cows weren't handy, and that they were probably fairly careless about sanitizing the devices used to scratch the skin during inoculation — making it a far more likely vector of cross-species diseases than oral polio vaccine — doesn't even make him doubt his beliefs for a minute. And he is a scientist. But he's a human, and humans can have bizarre biases. You have to evaluate any information as to whether it is reliable or not, and if you start out with a bias, anything that challenges it automatically is considered unreliable data.

    (Until HIV, medical people tended to be fairly cavalier about blood exposure. Most surgeons were positive for hepatitis B exposure, because despite knowing about hepatitis and syphilis, they tended to view blood as "clean." The use of bone drills in the OR, which sprayed blood into the air, guaranteed that everyone's eyes would be exposed. They would never have been so casual when handling feces, however.)

  82. AlphaCentauri says

    @john smith, you hypothesize that there is another virus coinfection that causes the sequelae we call AIDS. And all reasonable hypotheses should be entertained and investigated. In fact, there is strong evidence that there is a second virus that spreads among men who have sex with men which leads to Kaposi Sarcoma. It was unknown until its genome was found in the sarcoma cells, and that evidence was used to track down the virus itself. So if there is another virus that is part of the pathogenesis of the manifestations of advanced HIV, yes, there are probably scientists looking for it, and yes, if they can produce evidence to support it — rather than speculation based on the fact that there are still things we don't know about AIDS despite 30 whole years of study — it's likely to come out.

    But since there's no epidemic of people who are getting AIDS without HIV virus infection, it would be criminally negligent to tell people that it is safe to have unprotected sex with HIV infected partners of either gender.

  83. says


    "But since there's no epidemic of people who are getting AIDS without HIV virus infection,. . ."

    I thought there were numerous examples in the literature of individuals with these sequelae that do not have the virus. I could be wrong.

  84. says

    "Through this course of conduct, Clark Baker has made himself a controversial public figure amongst people interested in HIV and AIDS."

    Baker is not "controversial" unless you're willing to "go there" with aids denialism. I'm sure a lot of antivax nutters will do exactly that. The rest of us have infinitely more sense than that.

    Amongst anyone with any sense, baker is just a seriously nasty individual, who is completely wrong in every way, and has not a jot of evidence to base any of his senseless denialism claims on. However, at the same time, the sensible notice that he's unwilling to accept any criticism by anyone of anything he says,, and also isn't willing to put up a coherent defense for his arguments. This is not controversial. This is just being a jerk.

    There's no controversy over whether HIV causes AIDS, it does. If you think there's a "controversy," the way baker and antivaxxers do, then you have crossed over to the world of aids denialism, and are thereby freely categorized by myself in the same category as clark baker: Equal parts quack, jerk, promoter or pseudoscientific horse-crap, and narcissistic psychopath.

    Go ahead and quote me on that, and sue me if you want. BTW, I have no money, and I'm not even a blogger about medical related stuff. Maybe you can try to censor my beer blog. I'm sure the scumbag lawyers you've hired will be more than happy to try anything, as long as you're paying.

    BTW, I would really like to see the anti-slapp laws put a slapping on mr. baker. That would be cause for celebration! I'd have to brew a beer called "quack slapp-er IPA." In fact, I will do exactly that as soon as this latest frivolous lawsuit is settled. Perhaps I can arrange for a bottle to be sent to Mr. Deshong, on me.

  85. Basil Forthrightly says


    "But since there's no epidemic of people who are getting AIDS without HIV virus infection,. . ."

    The key word is "epidemic". Yes, there are "plenty" of cases of people who have compromised immune systems for one reason or another and who sometimes get the various opportunistic infections that are the hallmark of AIDS.

    The largest group of these has "Idiopathic CD4+ lymphocytopenia", which is a fancy way of saying they have low CD4 counts and we don't know why. If we counted these cases as AIDS (which we don't, usually) they would make up around 1% of all US AIDS cases in the post anti-retroviral drug era, far less before such drugs. There is nothing "epidemic" about this group; no evidence of transmissibility and the minuscule number of cases is also stable over time. For most of these cases, the CD4 counts are low enough that they get more opportunistic infections than "normal" people, but not so many as true AIDS. They don't respond to anti-retroviral drugs.

  86. says

    Basil, I thought the argument was that classic virology requires that the virus be present in each expression of the disease, or else it logically cannot be argued that the virus "causes" the disease because the disease can actually exist without any virus present in the body. Maybe I'm misremembering the argument.

  87. bst says

    @Darryl, Wikipedia may not be the best source for arguments to prove things, but it often does provide a very accessible start to understand a topic and to find references you can follow. In this case there is a pretty good section in the article on Koch's postulates that talks about how it applies given knowledge of biology and medicine that has been acquired since Koch's time, and lists a more modern version of the postulates: Koch’s postulates for the 21st century

  88. RJ says

    Darryl, you've mixed up your logic. Lets try it this way:

    “If A then B”, states that A causes B. however, that is not equal to “If B Then A”. Therefore, finding cases in which B is true and A is false is irrelevant to proving or disproving the first proposition (A—>B). To disprove A—>B you must disprove evidence showing that (and why and how) A leads to B.

    So to look for a causal link, look at what happens when you have A. Do you get B? The evidence amply supports that HIV infection leads to the AIDS syndrome. Finding people with B that do not have A is irrelevant to that conclusion (unless we see that predominantly, in which case we need to further investigate our evidence of a causal link).

    In short, finding people with AIDS (or something like it) without evidence of HIV infection is completely irrelevant to disproving the causal link.

    And people get really worked up about AIDS denialists and anti-vaccination crazies because 1) they are KILLING PEOPLE, and 2) they don't seem to understand how science works (and I think schools are to blame for that).

    To see more information about logic, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_table#Logical_implication

  89. granny weatherwax says

    "classic virology requires that the virus be present in each expression of the disease"

    AIDS isn't a disease, it is a syndrome, hence the name. A syndrome can have several causes as it is just a collection of symptoms.

  90. FrankF says

    @granny, AIDS most certainly is the name of a disease. A disease is an abnormal bodily state or process that results in distress and/or dysfunction.

    AIDS a disease (abnormal bodily state or process) of the immune system. It is characterized by progressive depletion of cellular immune function and which ultimately leads to opportunistic infections and tumors. More specifically, the term AIDS refers to the advanced stages of the immune system disease called HIV/AIDS.

    A syndrome is a group of phenomena that tend to occur together. In medicine the group of symptoms, signs and other features of a given disease are termed the syndrome of that disease. Although the term "syndrome" can sometimes be used to refer to a group of symptoms and signs that may have multiple different etiologies, more commonly the use of the term implies a single underlying cause.

    @ Darryl, all cases of AIDS have HIV as their underlying cause. If HIV is not present, then what you have is not AIDS – it's something else.

    There are numerous different immune system diseases. Some of them are primary (you are born with it) and some are acquired (it develops some time during your lifetime). AIDS is one of those diseases, but it is not all them.

  91. Dave Crisp says

    Regarding Kaposi's Sarcoma, three points:

    1. There is a link between KS and a compromised immune system, but the link is not to AIDS specifically. HIV should be the first thing that's ruled out if it crops up in someone who is otherwise seemingly healthy, but it also occurs (for instance) as a side-effect of the immunosupressant drugs given to transplant patients.

    2. KSHV is found in the lesions of all KS sufferers, even those who are HIV-negative.

    3. Most people infected with KSHV will not develop KS unless their immune system is already compromised for some other reason.

    The belief amongst everyone who is not an HIV denialist is that KSHV triggers the growth of the KS tumours (in the same way that HPV can trigger cervical cancer) but that most people without damaged immune systems can fight it off before it gets to that stage.

  92. FrankF says

    I have a question I hope some of the legal minds here can answer.

    According to the SLAPP statute that may or may not apply to this case, " If the court orders dismissal of a legal action under this chapter, the court shall award to the moving party […] sanctions against the party who brought the legal action as the court determines sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions described in this chapter."

    How is a court to determine what level of sanctions are "sufficient to deter" such a party?

    Obviously sanctions of say $10,000 would be reasonable to deter a potential litigant who is relying on, say, a police retirement pension to fund his legal adventures. But this would be mere pin-money if the litigation were funded by – let's say for the sake of argument – a multimillionaire venture capitalist.

    Does that mean that the legal representatives of such a moving party would be remiss if they did not establish through vigorous discovery the sources of funding for this and any potential future actions by the party who brought the original complaint?

  93. AlphaCentauri says

    @FrankF — We're referring to different points in time. The HIV denialist are assuming a pre-HIV-discovery era to make their arguments. No one would currently report a case as "AIDS" unless the client had HIV. But before the discovery of the virus, all anyone had to go on was the occurrence of diseases that are generally never expected in people who have no identified cause of immune deficiency.

    So yes, AIDS is now a "disease" for practical purposes. But once you claim HIV is not the cause of AIDS, by definition it no longer could be called a "disease." So when HIV denialists say "disease," they are showing they don't understand the difference between "syndrome" and "disease."

  94. FrankF says

    @Alpha: "But before the discovery of the virus, all anyone had to go on was the occurrence of diseases that are generally never expected in people who have no identified cause of immune deficiency."

    Not quite. Doctors in the 1980s were well aware of a new immune system disease among their patients, whether they had developed AIDS-defining opportunistic infections or not. It went by various names – "pre AIDS" or "AIDS-related complex" or "at-risk-of-AIDS".

    In 2013 this disease is called HIV/AIDS. We know a lot more about it now, but doctors in the early 1980s could often recognise it with reasonable accuracy.

    The features of this disease included progressive depletion of cell-mediated immune function, lymph node pathology, immune dysregulation, susceptibility to repeated infections usually related to immune problems and ultimately to the otherwise extremely rare opportunistic infections that qualify you for an AIDS diagnosis. If patients survived their first opportunistic infection, their immune status didn't improve – it got worse and then they developed another opportunistic infection. And then another, and another, until they died.

    The key features of this immune system disease were firstly that it was progressive over time, secondly it didn't fit any known causes, and thirdly that it seemed to only occur in people who had blood or sexual contacts with other people who were at high risk of this disease.

    It was definitely a new disease.

    Before HIV was discovered, the cause was unclear, but many features of its epidemiology pointed to an infectious cause. Some bright sparks thought that a previously unknown retrovirus might be the cause, especially given that the cells hardest hit by this disease were already known to be targeted by retroviruses, and the epidemiology was consistent with what was known about retrovirus transmission.

    In addition, we now know of similar immune diseases of cats, goats, sheep and horses which are caused by retroviruses. As it turns out, the causative agents of these diseases are all more-or-less related lentiviruses – a genus of retroviruses.

    Point being, the previously unknown immune system disease recognised by clinicians in the early 1980s did not consist merely of the occurrence of AIDS-defining opportunistic infections – these were just its late-stage manifestations that were sufficiently distinctive to be used as epidemiological surveillance case definition criteria.

    The disease itself was well-recognised before the discovery of HIV. Once the virus was found it was quickly discovered that virtually everyone who had the virus had the disease (at various stages), and that almost everyone thought to have the disease had the virus.

  95. AlphaCentauri says

    @FrankF — my point was that you know that, and I know that, but the denialists are pointing to various inconsistencies in the early hypotheses as evidence that the virus isn't sufficient explanation. For instance, at first, while hemophiliacs who had received blood products pooled from thousands of donors were getting AIDS/ARC, people who had received single units of packed cells from the same donors weren't. And while massively promiscuous sex workers were getting AIDS/ARC, most of their less promiscuous partners weren't. If the virus had a typical incubation period, you would expect the number of people with hepatitis B but not symptomatic AIDS would be low. So people were wondering if it was actually an immune disorder caused by exposure to massive quantities of foreign antigens. Even during the period 1981-1985, doctors were still pretty casual about blood exposure. I've had to chew out nurses who insisted on doing decubitus ulcer wound dressings without gloves because they were taught that proper care required them to "feel" the tissue, and I heard complaints from staff on the surgical units at a hospital where I used to work because they had to throw out boxes of candy at the nursing station if a certain surgeon took a piece, because they knew he did his post op wound exams without gloves. There were special stickers in the nursing station to label the blood if a patient was known to have AIDS, hepatitis, C-J disease, etc., and if they weren't known to have anything, no special precautions were observed. And that was all after 1981.

  96. AlphaCentauri says

    @Merissa, I keep wondering if he has HIV himself and doesn't want to believe it requires him to alter his behavior in any way. Like he's passing from "denial" to "anger," and that's why the lawsuit.

  97. urbantravels says

    In re Nobel Prize winners: a phenomenon has been observed, commonly called "Nobel disease," in which a fair number of Nobel prize winners go on to embrace wacky fringe beliefs later in their lives. Linus Pauling and his obsession with Vitamin C is perhaps the most famous of these. On this particular list, Kary Mullis is given special attention for the looniness and range of his "barking mad" beliefs.