Infectious Disease Postdoc/Clinician
Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Syracuse NY
Send response to journal:
Further to Dr Flegg's more in-depth clarification of the Viard paper, I was saddened to discover this morning that my concerns that the misinterpreted conclusions would find their way into the wider media were well founded .
The person responsible has a track record for misrepresenting the literature with a goal to reducing the access of HIV/AIDS suffers to sensible advice and support: he claims to have assisted in shutting down well over a hundred HIV support forums on the internet .
This is the real issue at stake here: not whether or not Montangier used Actinomycin D, or whether Anion Exchange is a sensible approach to purifying virus, but the fact that there are people actively seeking to cause those with HIV to shun medical care and advice and engage in unsafe sex, by spreading the dissident information. This is why I became involved in education through the internet several years ago. I have no qualms about patients refusing treatment, or engaging in unprotected sex, SO LONG as all involved are well aware of the real risks and likely effects - from both sides.
I should note that I cannot blame Mr Bartlett for asking a reasonable question, even if his statements were those quoted. Clearly it is the larger picture: that this issue has been given far too much air-time than it deserves, such that there are people actively seeking any item that apparently supports their view.
It alarms me that the BMJ rapid responses are being used in this way: and this is not the first time that they have been abused, as at least one proponent of the dissident line claims to have "published" by getting a Rapid Response , lending weight to otherwise insubstantial arguments. I am unsure as to the solution, since as an active internet participant I instinctively abhor censorship, but at the same time I believe that as a medical publication carrying significant influence, allowing the spread of potentially dangerous health misinformation is contrary to the BMJ's philosophy.
There are considerable resources elsewhere for the debate to continue, as it did long before spilling over into the BMJ RR's, and I suggest that the discussion be closed forthwith. Such actions have a precedent  based on an inability to accept proven science. I find it worthy of note that the Perth Group have never engaged in public discussion of their views prior to the current BMJ contributions, which implies that they too sought a measure of respectibility. I, and several others, would be all too happy to continue the discussion at misc.health.aids , which was specifically set up to debate the dissident AIDS issues.
I add that this kind of drastic action should be seen as an exception, not the rule. I firmly believe that the Rapid responses have on the whole been positive, but this particular 20 month old discussion has outlived its usefullness.
Nick Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org
1. http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&c2coff=1&selm =256a3a36e70224b91825ed5cbc8dd94f%40 localhost.talkabouthealthnetwork.com
2. http://groups.msn.com/Dissident- Action/general.msnw?Action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message= 1597&LastModified=4675491446927316186
4. Maddox J. Nature. 1993 May 13;363(6425):109. "Has Duesberg a right of reply?"
Competing interests: None declared