Meeting the Men and Women Who Refuse to Believe That HIV Causes AIDS

An article featuring my story on written by Mark Wilding.

On the maternity ward of California’s Kaiser Permanente hospital, John and Jessica Strangis found themselves facing a terrible decision. It was the 1st of June, 2014, and the couple were expecting their first child. Jessica had begun feeling contractions at around 4AM that morning, so John called an ambulance, waiting for it to arrive before getting in his car to make the 20-minute drive from their home to the hospital.

Jessica had gone into labour five weeks early, but there was another complication: John and Jessica were both HIV positive. They knew the doctors would want to give her drugs to prevent the virus being transmitted to their child, but this presented a problem, because both John and Jessica believed those drugs would kill her.

John and Jessica Strangis were HIV denialists, part of a small community that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, questions the link between HIV and AIDS. The theories espoused by denialists vary, but typically come down to a few key beliefs: that HIV does not exist or is benign, and that AIDS is directly caused by recreational drug use or lifestyle choices and is not sexually transmitted. As for the vast numbers of people who have died as a result of the disease? It’s the HIV treatment that has killed them.

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