ニセ科学「AIDS再評価運動」について専門家向けに語るDr. Tara C Smith (3)


Smith TC, Novella SP (2007) HIV Denial in the Internet Era. PLoS Med 4(8): e256 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040256 [Link] (2007/08/21)



Because these denialist assertions are made in books and on the Internet rather than in the scientific literature, many scientists are either unaware of the existence of organized denial groups, or believe they can safely ignore them as the discredited fringe. And indeed, most of the HIV deniers' arguments were answered long ago by scientists. However, many members of the general public do not have the scientific background to critique the assertions put forth by these groups, and not only accept them but continue to propagate them. A recent editorial in Nature Medicine [32] stresses the need to counteract AIDS misinformation spread by the deniers.

これらのHIV否定論者の主張は、科学論文ではなく、本やインターネットで行われる。従って、多くの科学者たちは、そのような組織されたHIV否定論グループの存在を知らなかったり、知っていても、そのようなグループは信用できない狂信者として無視できると考えている。実際、HIV否定論者の論の大半は、はるか昔に科学者たちが回答したものだ。しかし、多くの普通の人々は、このようなグループが提示する主張を批判する科学的素養を持っていない。"Nature Medicine"誌の最近の社説は、HIV否定論者が広めているAIDSについての誤報を打ち消すことが必要だと強調している[32]。

While the descriptions of HIV denialism above refer to relatively organized campaigns, there are other less orchestrated examples of such denialism. A recent study, for example, showed that a large percentage of African Americans are suspicious of mainstream AIDS theories due to a general distrust of government authorities [33]. Arguments by denial groups may have played a role in the formation of their opinion. Indeed, the effect of denial groups on public perception of HIV infection is an area ripe for careful research, as this denial can have lethal consequences. In the recent study, stronger conspiracy beliefs were significantly associated with more negative attitudes towards using condoms and with inconsistent condom use, independent of selected sociodemographic characteristics, partner variables, sexually transmitted disease history, perceived risk, and psychosocial factors [33].


How much of this lingering denial is the fault of scientists and the media for originally proclaiming AIDS a universal “death sentence”? Even though this idea may no longer appear in the scientific literature, it remains a public perception of the disease. It is difficult to strike the correct balance between providing information conveying on one hand the severity of the disease, and on the other optimism about treatment and advances in understanding HIV pathogenesis (including research about individuals who may indeed be somewhat resistant to the virus). Oversimplifying AIDS science to the public lends itself to exploitation by AIDS deniers who remain “alive and well” years after diagnosis with HIV. Yet these concerns must be balanced with the desire to convey the proper gravity of the situation and motivate those who are known to be HIV positive to seek treatment: a difficult line to walk.


This balancing act, in fact, deserves increasing attention from medical scientists in the age of the Internet and a broadening gap between the practice of science and public understanding of science. Successful public health education requires the presentation of a clear and simple message supported by a solid consensus of the medical community. Yet the reality behind the scenes is often quite different. Every medical field has its legitimate controversies and complexities, and the process of science is often messy. Denial groups exploit the gap between public education and scientific reality.


Further, countering the misinformation of HIV deniers needs to be conducted in the broader societal context of countering anti-science and pseudoscience. The strategies of HIV deniers, like many other denialist movements, seek to undermine the very philosophy of science itself, to distort public understanding of the scientific process, and to sow distrust of scientific institutions. Unscientific alternative medical modalities have made significant inroads into the institutions of health care through political means, despite a continued lack of scientific legitimacy: vaccines are characterized as dangerous instead of life-saving; psychiatry is mocked by celebrities and others in the public eye. Meanwhile, many leaders in science and business are concerned that the United States is losing its edge as a scientific powerhouse.


There remains a deep problem of overall scientific illiteracy in this country and others, creating fertile soil for those who wish to spread scientific misinformation [34]. The scientific community must collectively defend and promote the role of science in society, and combat the growing problem of scientific illiteracy. We must all strive to do our part to make science accessible to the general public, and to explain the process by which scientific evidence is gathered, analyzed, and eventually accepted, and academic institutions should provide greater incentive for their researchers to expend the time and effort to do so. A solid understanding of the scientific method may not eliminate science denial, but it may act as a buffer against the further spread of such denialist beliefs.


[32] [No authors listed] (2006) Denying science. Nat Med 12: 369. Find this article online [copy]
[33] Bogart L, Thorburn S (2005) Are HIV/AIDS conspiracy beliefs a barrier to HIV prevention among African Americans? J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 38: 213?218. Find this article online [PubMed]
[34] National Science Board (2004) Science and technology: Public attitudes and understanding. Available: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind04/c7/c7s2.htm. Accessed 17 July 2007.



そのひとつのありかたは、SEED MaganizeがホストするScienceBlogsに個人として集う、理系ブロガーたちになるのかも。あるいは、大学として行っていると思われるEvolution 101とか。

タグ:HIV denialism
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