The anti-gay American Family Association’s talking head Bryan Fischer has made his share of offensive comments, but recently he has repeatedly engaged in what may be his most deadly lie: that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. In January, Fischer featured AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg on his show and endorsed his bogus ideas that recreational drug use among gay men is what causes AIDS, not the HIV virus. A few weeks later, Fischer claimed that God would cure AIDS if gay men simply stopped using drugs and “poppers” (recreational stimulant inhalants) and stopped having sex. Fischer then clarified that he believes that it is poppers that break down the immune system; HIV is merely a scheme for scientists to get research funding.
Today, Fischer again spread his harmful lies about HIV and AIDS. Responding to the FDA approval of Truvada, a pill that helps reduce the risk of HIV infection, he tweeted, “New pill stops HIV virus. But won’t stop AIDS since caused by extensive inhalant drug use, not HIV.”
Rowena Johnston, Vice President of Research for amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, responded to ThinkProgress that denialism like Fischer’s contributes to the lost lives of hundreds of thousands of people with HIV:
JOHNSTON: The fact that HIV causes AIDS is about as controversial as saying the Earth orbits the sun. To say otherwise makes a person look ill-advised at best. The scientific research that supports HIV as the cause of AIDS has debunked every argument made by AIDS denialists. With extremely rare exceptions, the virus and/or antibodies can be found in every person with AIDS. Untreated HIV infection does consistently lead to the symptoms of AIDS. Being HIV positive does increase the chance of dying earlier than otherwise expected. Scientists can explain in detail how infection occurs and how it causes AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy – which can only exert an effect if HIV is present – does delay the onset of AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy does prolong the lives of those with HIV.
We’d all be happy to dismiss unfounded statements made by non-experts if it were not for the fact that AIDS denialism has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with HIV. The South African government for years subscribed to the dangerous fiction that HIV does not cause AIDS and that it could be treated by vegetables – their intransigence resulted in at least 170,000 HIV infections and 340,000 deaths in that country alone. We have enough work ahead of us to fight HIV. We shouldn’t let AIDS denialists distract us from the important work of bringing about an AIDS-free generation.
Johnston encourages readers to visit AIDSTruth.org for further understanding “why the things AIDS denialists say are flat-out wrong.”
Fischer generally represents the fringe extreme of religious conservatives, but his impact cannot be underestimated. His voice was prominent enough to bring a swift end to Richard Grenell’s appointment as Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesperson merely because Grenell is gay. Given the extreme harm inherent in the mythology Fischer promotes, public figures of all political stripes should be quick to distance themselves from him.