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HIV-Dissident: A Dangerous Denial


“There is no HIV. You are not HIV positive, nor is your partner, nor is anyone worldwide. Give up your HIV status-identity and get a life.” -Alex Russel, assistant editor of the dissident journal Continuum.

Try to imagine a world with no HIV:

A world where HIV does not exist. Imagine there was no AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles in the 1980s. No AHF or government-funded biomedical research for HIV antivirals or needle-exchange programs. No movie where Matt Bomer dies due to no existing cure or effective medication.

What a world that would be. Of course other sexually-transmitted diseases would be of concern, and it is likely that free health and testing clinics and condoms would still be of use. However, it is difficult to imagine lifting the stigma of an HIV-positive diagnosis that has, in many ways, divided our community.

Now, try to imagine this:

Our world and community as it is now. Gilead sciences in full swing with the production of Truvada, a history of death and despair in the community brought on by the AIDs epidemic, and an awareness of the implications of a positive diagnosis and how to stay healthy while protecting others. The only difference: a subset of individuals with medically-positive diagnoses that denies the identity of being HIV-positive.

Believe it or not, this is a current reality in our community.

Enter: HIV Dissidents

An HIV dissident is a an individual who has been medically diagnosed with HIV, but does not take on the identity of this diagnosis. In other words, this individual refuses to take action in treating his own diagnosis, and may even hold the idea that HIV/AIDS is “…caused by noninfectious, “lifestyle” factors such as recreational drugs and anti-HIV meds…”(poz.com).

This small subset of the HIV-positive population altogether denies the scientific existence of the virus, and claims that these symptoms people experience are instead a result of conventional medicine, stress, malnutrition, or even the belief that one has the virus. According to thebody.com, denialists hold an “us-versus-them” mentality in believing that AIDS activist foundations, the UN, governments, and other formidable institutions are united in a global plot to persecute these individuals, or at least make money through pharmaceutical sales.

Why is this dangerous?

To disclose our status to our sexual and intimate partners is an action expected of each consenting adult, and it helps protect our community and promote good health. Regardless of how we protect ourselves, whether we use condoms, PrEP, treatment as prevention, or a combination of methods, it is crucial that we keep our test results up-to-date and inform our partners.

HIV dissidents may not disclose their positive status.

It is parallel to this mindset of denial that someone who identifies as HIV-dissident would not feel it necessary (or even accurate) to disclose their status because they themselves do not believe HIV exists, or they hold the belief that it is harmless. Perhaps they do disclose to their partners that they are HIV-dissident, but what if their partners do not know what this means?

HEAL (Health Education Aids Liaison) – if it couldn’t get any crazier

This organization has impressively defied mainstream science and decades of AIDs research by spreading the idea that AIDS does not exist and is caused by lifestyle choices. Framed as a spiritual force to help HIV-positive individuals lead productive lives, this organization denies the existence of HIV-AIDS, and promotes the idea that people show physical clinical symptoms associated with the virus due to what they call modern “plagues” like pollution and malnutrition