Charlie Sheen is HIV positive. As was revealed on the Dr. Oz show, when diagnosed his viral load was 4.4 million. After six months of the a standard anti-HIV cocktail his viral loads were undetectable.
This does not mean he is HIV negative or free of this virus. As part of the viral life-cycle it goes into hiding inside of cells. It is undetectable while hiding, and also cannot be eradicated by medications. This is a major challenge to curing HIV, or even pushing the efficacy of our current treatments further. Researchers are looking into ways to force the virus out of hiding so that anti-retroviral medications can go to work.
With current anti-HIV treatment someone who is HIV positive can expect to live an almost normal life expectancy free of any major complications of the disease and will not go on to develop AIDS from the virus. The big challenge now is to get this modern medicine to those who are HIV positive in the third world, or to those who cannot afford it.
Interestingly, Charlie Sheen, who has all of the advantages of wealth in a Western industrialized country, opted for third-world treatment of his HIV. He recently went off of his anti-HIV medications and instead decided to rely on the ministrations of an unknown doctor in Mexico making bold claims.
This prompted an on-air intervention by Dr. Oz and Sheen’s own doctor (which was ethically dubious but good television, I guess), after which Sheen reported he would go back on his medications.
Of course, most HIV patients who are lured to Mexico with the promise of a miracle cure will not benefit from a personal intervention by Dr. Oz. Hopefully they will benefit from watching that episode, but if history is any guide (unfortunately) the exposure is likely to lead more people to the Mexico charlatan than warn them away.
Why People Seek Charlatans
The Sheen episode raises a fascinating and important question – what is the allure of the lone maverick making bold claims? Often the answer provided is desperation, but what makes the Sheen example so interesting is that desperation was not a factor. He was effectively in remission from his HIV with undetectable loads. He still has to take medications for the rest of his life, but that seems a small price to pay for taking a horrible deadly disease and transforming it into a benign chronic condition with a normal life-expectancy and quality of life. The situation did not call for desperation.
When Jerry Sargeant woke to a loud crash and flying glass in the passenger seat of a taxi cab in Romania, on his way to the airport, he had no idea it would be the birthing process that led him to discover an amazing healing ability.‘My families safety were all I was thinking about. The taxi was swaying backwards and forwards all over the road. It was crazy. It turned out we had hit two ladies crossing the road and the first lady came through the windscreen, hit me in the head as I was asleep, got sucked back out of the car and landed in the road. I don’t know whether it was the bang in the head or me seeing her soul hovering over her body once I got out of the car that kick started these abilities – maybe it was both’.
I intensely dislike all forms of medical quackery. Of course, my passionate, full-throated, defense of the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is fairly obvious. There are literally mountains of evidence that support my skepticism of the antivaccine beliefs.
But there’s more junk medicine out there than the pseudoscience pushers running around the vaccine world. One of my favorite ones is homeopathy. It is a scam that tries to convince people that a vial of nothing more than water (and sometimes ethanol) has some magical medical properties. And it’s expensive water, much more expensive than some bottled water that claims it’s bottled at the source of some glacier in the Alps.
What is homeopathy?
But let’s back up a bit, and explain the “science” of homeopathy, because a lot of people, mostly Americans, conflate homeopathy with natural medicine, like herbal medicine. It isn’t. Basically, homeopathy, known as the “law of similars”, relies on belief that “let like be cured by like”, and is a term coined by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was appalled by the state of medicine at the time, the late 1700’s. And frankly, the state of medicine at that time was pretty bad, so any new idea might have been worthy of trying. However, when Hanneman was alive, basic scientific knowledge was missing. Cell theory and germ theory were a few decades from even a basic understanding.
Homeopathic potions are prepared by serially diluting the original substance (could be anything from diseased tissue to arsenic to snake venom plus mercury) with shaking and forceful striking on an elastic body, which they term succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process potentization. So far, it’s just merely diluting and shaking, so nothing much there. But the level of dilution is such that there is only a tiny possibility of any molecule of the original substance showing up in solution.
The dilution is precisely described by Hahnemann. The first dilution is one part to 99 parts water. Then, one part of that first dilution is then diluted in another 99 parts water. Each of these dilutions is called 1C, so two dilutions would be called 2C, with one part of the original similar diluted in approximately 10,000 parts water.
But it doesn’t stop there. Homeopathy uses >30C dilutions, which means that the final dilution is simply water with an almost 0% probability of including even 1 molecule of the original similar.
I just love when this kind of woo quackery gets totally exposed as a fraud. In this case it’s a bogus product called Sosatec Wellbalancer. This video features Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics.
Sosatec Bionics Ltd sell pendants and products (“Wellbalancers”) to protect against what they claim is harmful radiation emitted by mobile phones and WiFi – claims which are highly questionable. The scaremongering around mobile phone radiation provokes unfounded health fears in the general public. We witnessed David Bendall (CEO and founder of Sosatec) supposedly demonstrating the effects of his product, using physical demonstrations which we felt were, at best, misleading.
We have reported Sosatec’s claims to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Read Sosatec’s full response and find out more at http://goodthinkingsociety.org/good-t…
Yesterday I saw something on Facebook that really p*ssed me off!
Granted I see lots of things on Facebook that p*ss me off (sometimes on an hourly bases) but the things that usually get my teeth grinding are just rude, or offensive, or ignorant, or all of the above. What I saw wasn’t neither rude nor offensive, but it sure was ignorant, and it was definitely dangerous.
What ticked me off was an infograph posted on Green Med Info’s Facebook page concerning a “study” about “GMO” insulin (which all insulin is) that claimed that certain people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes from injecting insulin. (Link to original post here)
While people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes over time there are usually several factors that can cause this, such as a person’s diet, or whether they exercise, or if they take the medication that has been prescribed to them, or genetics. Insulin is not one of the causes. Infact it could prevent a person with type 2 diabetes from developing type 1 diabetes.
What gets me so angry about that post isn’t just the sheer ignorance of it, or how outright dangerous it is for the people at Green Med Info to promote something like this (because despite the fact that it promotes quackery and fraud medicine, better known as alternative medicine, people do listen to and take “advice” from that page) this type of “info” could kill a person with type 2 diabetes if they take it to seriously and decide to stop taking insulin. Either that or result in a person developing type 1 diabetes, or slipping into a diabetic coma, or losing a body part. The very worst thing that could happen is that the parent of a child with type 2 diabetes reads that and decides not to give their child insulin and what I listed above happens to that child, and there is little they can do about because they are at the mercy of their parent (unless they tell a teacher or family member about what their parent is doing and that person gets the authorities involved).
Now, back to the original reason why I’m writing this.
I, along with many other people reported this post to Facebook hoping that the social media website would take down the post due to the fact that it could cause some people to do something that was dangerous and hazardous to their health, and warn Green Med Info not to post something like that again.
Facebook has done nothing.
Autism cure promoters are people who claim they “cure” people with autism.
The claims made by these people are very conversational, both in their claims about autism and it’s causes, and what they say can cure autism.
Now there are a lot of different things I have noticed about autism cure promoters, but I’ve narrowed it down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about autism cure promoters:
5. They’re closely aligned with the anti-vaccination movement.
Autism cure promoters and the anti-vaccination movement are pretty much like peas in a pod. Anti-vaccers often promote these so called “therapies” that the autism cure promoters claim can cure a person with autism, and autism cure promoters also tend to publish on their websites anti-vaccination movement propaganda, mainly in the form of claims that certain chemicals in vaccines can cause autism.
Some of these promoters also like to use certain words that the anti-vaccination movement also uses inorder to sell their therapies to people with autism or have autistic children, such as “vaccine damage”, “vaccine injury”, or “autism epidemic”.
They also ignore the fact that such words are not only incorrect and misleadinf, but very insulting to people with autism. Ofcourse they’re not actually promoting their therapies towards people with autism, they’re really promoting them towards parents of children who have autism and just want their kids to be normal.
4. They exploit the fears and desires of parents with autistic children.
For some parents when a child is diagnosed with autism it can be devastating to them, and the fact that there is no way to cure autism can make that devastation to them even worse. Then comes along someone who claims they can do things that the medical industry cannot do and can “cure” their child of autism, and if they don’t know any better they may take that person up on their offer.
A person who is misinformed about what autism is and what causes autism, mixed with both the fear of what will happen to their child and how their life will turn out due to their autism, combined with their desire to have a “normal” child, would be very temped by someone whom claims they can cure their child of autism and give them a chance at a normal life and be willing to pay whatever price they can inorder to do so.
The people who are promoting these so called autism cures know this and know that they can exploit these fears and desires to sell people products and services that scientific research has concluded are useless at curing autism.
3. They’re trying to give a simple solution to a complex issue.
Autism is a neurological disorder, and like all neurological disorders it’s complex without any simple solutions.
Autism cure promoters try to make it look like autism is caused by toxins in the body, and that by removing these toxins a person whom has autism one can be cured of autism.
While some toxins can cause neurological disorders, all legitimate scientific research has shown that autism isn’t one them.
While the actually cause of autism is still technically unknown, most scientists who study autism agree that it’s . . .
AIDS Denialism and the Anti-vaccination movement. Two groups that promote what many scientists and and doctors and skeptics alike consider to be the two most dangerous and deadly types of pseudoscience there is. In fact many skeptics have debated which one is more deadly!
Regardless of which one is more deadly, both of groups have an awful lot in common, and I’ve come up with about ten different things that both groups have in common:
They become very upset when someone questions their claims.
Anti-vaxxers and (as I have learned in the past few weeks) AIDS denialists really do not like it when someone questions what they are claiming. It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, or how many facts you present to them, if you question their claims they will become very anger and start throwing around accusations and insults and start spamming people with a bunch of propaganda. This is of course annoying at best, and usually just something that gets them blocked on an internet site, but sometimes they take it to the next level and start doing the next thing on this list…
They use intimidation tactics.
AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers just seem to love to use intimidation tactics. Many times these intimidation tactics can be a benign type, like fear mongering and emotional appeal, which is used to sway people who might be on the edge of whether to believe them or not over to their side, or it can be an aggressive type, like death threats, or threats of lawsuits, or harassment, which is used in an attempt to frighten people away from questioning their claims, or to stop skeptics from debunking them.
They claim to do research.
Both AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers will often say that they have done their own research into the claims that they are making, and then through this so called research they will claim that they have come to a conclusion, and then proclaim that their conclusion is correct and that all others are incorrect. This is of course if they’re not simply claiming that the contradictory information isn’t apart of some “big pharma” disinformation propaganda campaign to “slander” Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists. And that’s another thing…
They think there is some kind of big pharma conspiracy.
Many Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists sincerely believe that not only what they believe is true, but they also believe that pharmaceutical companies also know “the truth” and that they’re keeping this so called truth hidden from the public so that people will keep buying their products, products that Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists believe that no one actually needs and sincerely believes is dangerous.
The reasons why these two groups claim that the pharmaceutical companies are keeping this so called “information” hidden is because if people knew “the truth” (i.e. their truth) that they would no longer buy anything from these pharmaceutical companies and they would go out of business. That, or according to some Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists, vaccines and HIV medication is part some kind of NWO/Illuminati plot.
They have no problem censoring people.
Ever make a comment on an Anti-vaccer’s or AIDS Denialist’s page or comment section for a Youtube video, and said comment either criticizes what they are saying, or debunks what they’re saying? Well then you probably know that not many people are going to see it because most administrators of such sites will usually remove such comments pretty quickly… and probably ban you. While this type of censorship is bad they do have every right to do it because they have every right to control the content that is on their webpages.
Some of these people will take the censorship of people who disagree with them to the next level and actually try to get entire webpages and videos from various social media websites removed, either by flagging a webpage or a group or a video as inappropriate or harassing, or even by sending out bogus DMCA takedown notices (which is illegal).
Homeopathic medicine is probably one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine there is. Infact it was invented in the late 1700’s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, and has been with ever since.
Now there are lots of claims about homeopathy and what it does, and after looking into them I’ve noticed several different things about homeopathic medicine.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about homeopathic medicine:
5. You can make it at home.
Homeopathic medicine is very easy to make. You don’t even need a complex chemistry lab inorder to make it. You can make it right in your kitchen!
Got a headache and you want to make some homeopathic aspirin inorder to get rid of it? Well here’s what you do:
Step 3: Shake up bottle.
Step 4: Take one drop from said bottle and put it into the next bottle.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done doing so with all bottles.
Now if you do all of this you will have homeopathic aspirin and your headache should go away in a few hours… same as any other normal headache would if you were to take nothing at all.
Actually this might not work, and this is because…
4. You’re suppose to use something that can cause the problems that you currently have inorder to cure them.
Inorder for homeopathic medicine to actually work (atleast according to people who make and deal with homeopathic medicine) you don’t use heavily diluted medicine that would cure whatever it is that you have. What you actually are suppose to use is something that could cause the symptoms that you’re having rather than actually cure them. Think of it as a kind of like a vaccine, minus any backing from the scientific and medical communities.
So if you want to cure that headache of yours using heavily diluted aspirin isn’t going to work. What you actually want to use is something that can cause a headache if you take it in it’s pure form, like beer, only it has to be heavily diluted.
So using homeopathy logic the best thing to take when you have a headache is a ball park beer, because those things are watered down all to hell.
Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?
Have you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.
Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.
Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.
The second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.
Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.
This morning while I was going through my Facebook page and looking around at some of the skeptics groups that I belong to I came across this anti-vaccination photo. It was posted to mock and criticize the anti-vaccination movement for their blatant hypocrisy:
Now of course anyone who is either a skeptic or a medical professional can clearly see why this picture is being mocked and criticized, but for those who don’t I’ll explain why:
It’s mocked because of the irony that people in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that getting “information” off of a website that promotes pseudoscience and alternative medicine rather than a legitimate science and/or medical website or journal apparently makes you well educated, and that those who are in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that they are well educated about vaccines.
Also, it’s criticized because it gives the impression that people who advise against vaccination are themselves well educated, which is often not the truth and that in reality they are actually to dumb to realize that they don’t know anything about vaccines other than what they’ve been told (or scared into) by the anti-vaccination movement. Even those that really are well educated have either just been fooled by the claims of the anti-vaccination movement into believing that vaccines are dangerous, or are just lying about their beliefs for reasons that are their own (usually because they don’t want to admit that they are wrong).
If pictures like this were truly honest they would . . .
. . . MORE . . .
- Vaccines and their effect on public health (slideshare.net)
- Taking the sting out of vaccines (sophiaakl.wordpress.com)
- Katie Couric’s irresponsibly misleading “Conversation” (violentmetaphors.com)
- Why is Couric promoting vaccine skeptics? (politico.com)
- Why Did Katie Couric Invite Vaccine Deniers On Her Talk Show? (thinkprogress.org)
- Anti-Immunization Rhetoric Is Simple Simon Paradigm (peoplesadvocacycouncil.wordpress.com)