Monday, 5 January 2009

Christine Maggiore Is Finally Dead

As (medical) Doctor Ben Goldacre less gleefully reports, the most famous AIDs denier of them all has finally succumbed to HIV. The author of the disgracefully titled, "What if everything you thought you knew about Aids was wrong?" has been nailed by the virus that fucked up her immune system until there was nothing left to fight an infection which finally killed her.

She was 52.

The US media loved her because she promoted an idea that went against science, medicine and common sense and, for a while, appeared to survive despite refusing anti-retrovirals which could have prolonged her life.

Worse though, when pregnant she refused the ARVs despite the evidence that the reduce the risk of maternal transmission of HIV to the foetus and breast fed her children, refusing them HIV tests.

Her daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, died three years ago from a similar pnuemonia to that which killed Maggiore.

As Dr. Goldacre writes:
"She set up successful campaigning organisations and counselled HIV-positive pregnant women on how to avoid pressure from medics to use azidothymidine (AZT) during pregnancy to prevent maternal transmission of the virus. She appeared on the cover of Mothering magazine, with a “No AZT” sign painted on her pregnant tummy."

Most embarrassing of all, her fellow denier Prof. Peter Duesberg (University of California), managed to take in Neville Hodgkinson of the Sunday Times - an otherwise respectable paper. Nature described the Times' coverage as “seriously mistaken” and “probably disastrous”.

Fuck you Duesberg and fuck you Maggiore. I have family and friends lost to this virus.

Bad science kills people - the blood of millions is on your hands.

UPDATE: 7 Jan 2009

Seth C. Kalichman, Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Connecticut has written a book (also mentioned in his comment below) which I am happy to link to here: and priced at £13.99 it's due out in March this year.

Unlike psuedo-scientists, Seth is donating his royalties from sales to buy AIDS medications in Africa. Why Africa? Because America can afford to pay its own way and Africa can't - and it's worse because the bloody Catholic church is still teaching people there that it's "God's will" for them to have sex without condoms; compounding the problem, African men are just as bloody minded and won't wear them either.

Where I will disagree with Seth is (although this might not be entirely disagreeing) is in Maggiore's choice to refuse ARVs while pregnant and her decision to breast feed despite medical advice and all the evidence that her child would suffer harm.

While Maggiore was entirely within her rights to refuse treatment for herself, Eliza Jane had no choice in the matter and had a terribly short life as as result.

The pro-Maggiore brigade are out in force, too. I found this piece of "news" rather interesting:
"Pneumonia doesn't appear to harm HIV-positive patients any more than those without HIV, according to a new international study conducted in part by the University of Alberta. There was also negligible difference in the mortality rate; total deaths among the HIV patients was 3.5 per cent (two of 58 patients), and 4.8 per cent (seven of 174) among the HIV-negative patients."
So from these results, it seems that you're more likely to die from Pneumonia if you're HIV positive. Smelling the sweet scent of denier-bullshit, I did some digging (OK, googling) and discovered that it's the pneumocystic form of pneumonia - not the bacterial form - that occurs most frequently in AIDs patients (indeed, occurrence is often an early indicator of HIV infection!)

The research cited in that article was interesting, but essentially meaningless to the case in point. Bacterial pneumonia is entirely different from the fungal pneumocystic variety - which is so common it's estimated that 75% of children are exposed to (and immune to it) by the age of four.

It killed Maggiore's daughter before her fourth birthday.

Like Autism denier, Jenny McCarthy, Christine Maggiore was both ill-informed, attractive and charismatic. It's a dangerous combination but combined with an apathetic, story-oriented and hungry media is lethal.


  1. The death of Christine Maggiore is tragic just as her life was tragic.
    She was mislead by Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick and other AIDS Denialists. Ultimately she promoted their pseudoscience at her own peril. Many others were harmed by her relentless promoting of false information that confused people about HIV testing and treatment.
    We should respect the decision of an informed person to refuse treatment for any serious medical condition. But the problem with AIDS denialism is that people are making testing and treatment decisions based on misinformation and disinformation spread by AIDS pseudoscientists and conspiracy theorists.
    The sad story of AIDS denialism that enmeshed Christine Maggiore is told in a new book Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy (all Royalties donated to buy HIV medications in Africa) for more information visit
    Seth Kalichman

  2. I agree that Maggiore did harm to her baby, no one can dispute that EJ may have lived if not for denialism. So no disagreement there.
    And as you point out, there are connections between AIDS denialism and what is happening with the book Denying AIDS I make a destinction between denialism and medical hysteria. But these are really two sides to the same coin.

  3. I just read your nasty piece gloating about the death of Christine Maggliore. Twenty-six years ago my wife had an ELISA done as a result of a job related needle stick. I had three little girls at the time including twins that my wife was breastfeeding. The results of her test came by way of phone ( warm and personal) late one evening. Her ELISA was weakly positive, the western blot was indeterminate, and the fluorescent antibody was negative. What the hell did that mean? In 1988 nobody including the CDC could give me any information. I had my entire family tested at another lab. We were all negative, including my wife. The ELISA continued to be positive at one lab and negative at another. To this day, all of us are healthy. After this experience I became obsessed with HIV. I have read extensively over the years and continue to be current on HIV science and AIDS. While I do not reject the AIDS hypothesis, I do have many questions and suspect there is more to the story. I believe, given my level of knowledge and experience, skepticism is a reasonable position until my many unanswered questions are openly discussed, debated, and answered with science not dogma and politics. I do not endorse the the so-called denialist groups, nor do I embrace the AIDS orthodoxy until my questions have been satisfactorily resolved. If you do not have questions about Gallo's methods, not to mention his dubious past then you really should not be blogging on this topic. Ms. Maggliore's death troubles me for a variety of reasons including the sadness and guilt she lived with for so long. Anyone who can triumphantly cheer that outcome should transcend their self-righteous egotism and examine their own humanity.