Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#115: Peter Duesberg

Peter Duesberg is a prominent U.C. Berkeley retrovirologist and the most prominent and influential of all HIV deniers (here, and here). His personal influence and his scientific acumen in non-HIV-related work surely helped spread the word, and he must be considered the grandfather of all HIV-denialism (they all seem to trace back to him). He has contended at least since 1987 that illicit drugs, AZT (an anti-HIV drug) and other factors are the real cause of AIDS. His ideas have evolved little from his publications of 20 years ago – it’s still “Chemical AIDS” and “HIV is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause AIDS”; he has also pointed out the “gay lifestyle” (oblivious to the fact that the problems in the developing world is not a “gay problem”, although he has claimed that AIDS in Africa is largely misdiagnosed, usually accumulated effects of malnutrition and disease). His criticisms have been thoroughly refuted in a long number of publications, which hasn’t affected his arguments.

Through persistence he has attracted a many supporters, especially among HIV positives, who are not only given false hopes, but may also be encouraged to avoid effective treatment. In 1999, HIV denialism got its most important advocate: Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa. Mbeki, influenced by denialist literature, decided that the consensus on Aids was too Western. In 2000 he set up a panel of advisers, including several Aids denialists, Duesberg among them. Mbeki’s HIV politics are estimated to have cost at least 300,000 people their lives, and he is without doubt guilty of crimes against humanity. Duesberg is an accomplice.

Duesberg is also associated with the fringe organization “Doctors for Disaster Preparedness”.

Some helpful criticisms are found here, and here.

These posts are, I think, very helpful when dealing with this kind of person: here, and here.

Diagnosis: A serious threat to humanity – seriously. Once a respected scientist, Duesberg has fallen deeply into denialism and must be considered at least partially responsible for the death and suffering of many real humans. Undoubtedly one of the most dangerous and influential loons in the whole Encyclopedia, and cannot be underestimated.


  1. Great site. Had no idea that half these people existed and posed such threats to science — or in this guy's case, the world.

    What would be really cool if all these "loons" were classified according to their specific brand of lunacy: an ark for creationists, a crossed-out 'V' for anti-vaccers, and so on. Just an idea.

  2. What motivates someone like this? Does he really believe his own bullshit?

  3. Duesberg was a productive researcher back in the 1960s and was reputed to be a Nobel Prize candidate at that time for his work on ERVs. Some of his early criticisms of the HIV/AIDS theory right after it was proposed were not off the wall and might well be considered well taken at the time, given that not much was known. Unfortunately, while the evidence has piled up since that time, Duesberg has ventured into whackjob territory. He was once challenged to have blood from an HIV+ patient injected into his bloodstream if he really believed that HIV was not the cause of AIDS (he has off and on again denied the existence of an ERV identified as HIV) and has given multiple excuses for not rising to the challenge. As they say, money talks and BS walks.