“Because reason says I should’ve died three years ago”- RENT

RENT, a wildly popular Broadway musical, follows the lives of a group of bohemian New Yorkers, some of who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The musical distinguishes some characters as HIV positive and others as infected with AIDS, after having been tested positive for HIV.

A popular conspiracy meme believes that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) does not cause AIDS. This meme doesn’t deny the existence of HIV or AIDS; it just calls into question the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS. This “fear of science and belief in conspiracies has lead…the South African health department to reject retroviral treatment for AIDS” (Goertzel 6). When HIV and AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, doctors were struggling to provide an explanation for the origin of this sudden outbreak. According to Blackmore, “memetics does help when it comes to explaining the spread of untrue, bizarre, and even harmful ideas” (176). This denial of AIDS was another way for people to try to explain the epidemic.

Within this meme, there are several explanations for the existence of AIDS as an unrelated disease to HIV. On Jesus-is-savior.com, an article  claims that the AIDS virus is a man-made weapon for biological warfare and population control. The unknown author tries to establish credibility by citing the first African American woman to win the Noble Peace Prize, Wangari Maatha. I noticed the author uses the terms HIV and AIDS interchangeably, which implies that the author acknowledges that there is some sort of correlation between the two. There is no one person or organization that is given credit for this website, which casts the credibility of its AIDS argument into pretty dim light. Under the “About Jesus-is-Savior” page, the author claims that he wants to give the TRUTH (all capitalized too, mind you). He states that he is neither Republican nor Democrat, but just a patriotic American that wants to expose corruption. The home page of his site is filled with ramblings about other common conspiracy theories, hell and sinning, corruption in the United States, preachings on salvation, etc.

Another explanation, detailed in AIDS: The Great Medical Conspiracy on the website bibliotecapleyades.net, is that HIV is a “passenger virus,” too weak to dismantle the immune system. HIV tests only are positive for the antibodies, not the virus, and the drug prescribed to fight AIDS, AZT, destroys the immune system; therefore, it’s not HIV that causes AIDS, but AZT that causes the acquired immune deficiency. David Icke, former professional soccer player, journalist, and BBC anchorman, wrote this passage. Icke is infamous for being the most controversial speaker in the world and a very influential one as well. He has more credibility as an author than the unknown “Jesus-is-Savior” author because of his background in media and journalism.

Aliveandwell.org doesn’t provide an alternative explanation for the relationship between HIV and AIDS; by discrediting the original founder of AIDS, Robert Gallo, this website calls into question the validity of Gallo’s hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS. According to this group, HIV is a retrovirus and few retroviruses have actually been shown to carry disease. They claim that Gallo rushed into creating an unconfirmed hypothesis and that there is no solid evidence that there is a causal relationship between HIV and AIDS. Alive and Well is a nonprofit support group founded by HIV positive people that helps others to make informed decisions regarding AIDS. I would say that this group is the most convincing because of their personal experience with HIV and AIDS. The fact that the people of this group are alive, well and asymptomatic of AIDS testifies to their belief that HIV does not cause AIDS.

Works Cited

Susan Blackmore (1999). The Meme Machine. London: Oxford University Press.

Ted Goertzel (2011) “The conspiracy meme,” Skeptical Inquirer, 35(1).

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