Which brings us back to politics? 25 July 2003
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Brian T Foley,
HIV Researcher
Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos NM 87545 USA

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Re: Which brings us back to politics?

Chris Noble and many other readers of the British Medical Journal have access to medical libraries, so they can easily read the papers that are cited in this discussion and determine whether or not the papers actually support the claims that are made. In many fields of human activities, such as science, law, and business there are laws and rules designed to regulate people from unethical behavior such as lying and stealing. In courts of law in the USA for example, witnesses are required to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" and there are penalties for being caught breaking that requirement. In science, the peer review process is aimed at ensuring that authors do not misinterpret data or make misleading claims about previously published work. In politics, it is not always clear what the rules are, nor what the penalties are for breaking the rules. In this Rapid Responses forum, there are no rules other than a vague plea not to slander or libel anyone.

The writing that started off this long-winded "debate" about HIV and AIDS was about the politics of AIDS in South Africa. There are of course many fine scientists in South Africa who are very well trained in genetics, virology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, human sexuality, and other fields relevant to the study of the AIDS epidemic. There are also many fine scientists trained in fields such as nutrition, environmental toxicology and public health statistics who would be able to present scientific evidence that AIDS is actually caused by some factor(s) other than HIV infections. However, the only arguments we have seen against the "HIV hypothesis" is rhetorical, with no data to back it up. In fact, most of the denialist arguments are based on directly misleading statements such as those noted by Chris Noble.

Competing interests:   None declared