Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

HIV exists

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Knowledge Base: HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is one of the most well-studied relationships between any pathogen and its disease. HIV is a real virus that causes AIDS. It can be spread via sex (vaginal, anal and oral). Condoms protect against spreading HIV. HIV tests are highly accurate. Medication against HIV/AIDS are highly effective. HIV/AIDS denialism spreads dangerous misinformation that kills people.

Fact: HIV exists


We know that HIV exists because it has been isolated, sequenced and studied with high-tech imaging techniques.


HIV has been detected and isolated from body fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal secretions with a wide range of methods. There are almost 700 000 HIV nucleotide sequences in public databases. The HIV virus has been extensively studied using medical imaging techniques such as scanning electron microscopy and cryoelectron tomography. HIV exists.

HIV has been isolated from people who are infected using a wide range of different viriologic assays that have been standardized across different laboratories across the world (CDC, 1987; Hammer et al., 1993; Jackson et al. 1990; Nattrass, 2006). The National Institutes of Health (AIDSinfo, 2016) has more details on some of these methods.

There are scientific databases where billions and billions of genome sequences have been deposited as research has progressed. Searching for Human immunodeficiency virus 1 in the nucleotide database on NCBI currently returns 691 940 hits for that taxon (NCBI Nucleotide Database, 2017). These data have been used to understand issues ranging from the evolutionary history of the virus to the development of resistance to some treatments (Understanding Evolution, 2009).

HIV has been observed using high-tech medical imaging techniques such as scanning electron microscopy and cryoelectron tomography (Lui et al., 2010, Public Health Image Library, 2017; Richard et al. 2010). We have detailed knowledge of the structure of the HIV virus particle.

However, some HIV/AIDS denialists wrongly claim that HIV does not exist because it has never been isolated apart from alleged contamination from cellular proteins. This fails to understand the basic biology of viruses, because they hijack the cell and force it to produce new copies of the virus using the material that is already there. Because HIV has been isolated and sequenced and even observed with high-tech imaging techniques literally many hundreds of thousands of times all together, we know HIV exists and that HIV/AIDS denialists are wrong.

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– AIDSinfo. (2016). Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection
. National Institutes of Health. Accessed: 2017-03-12.
– CDC. (1987). CDC Recommendations for prevention of HIV transmission in Healthcare settings. MMWR. 36(SU02);001.
– Hammer S, Crumpacker C, D’Aquila R, et al. (1993). Use of virologic assays for detection of human immunodeficiency virus in clinical trials: recommendations of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group Virology Committee. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 31(10). 2557-2564.
– Jackson, J. B., Kwok, S. Y., Sninsky, J. J., Hopsicker, J. S., Sannerud, K. J., Rhame, F. S., … Balfour, H. H. (1990). Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 detected in all seropositive symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 28(1), 16–19.
– Liu, J., Wright, E. R., & Winkler, H. (2010). 3D Visualization of HIV Virions by Cryoelectron Tomography. Methods in Enzymology, 483, 267–290.
– Nattrass, N. (2006). AIDS Denialism vs. Science. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Skeptical Inquirer Volume 31.5.
– NCBI Nucleotide Database. (2017). “Human immunodeficiency virus 1″[porgn:__txid11676]”. Accessed: 2017-03-12.
Public Health Image Library (2017). A scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image of HIV-1 virions budding from a cultured lymphocyte.. Accessed: 2017-03-12.
– Richard L. Felts, Kedar Narayan, Jacob D. Estes, Dan Shi, Charles M. Trubey, Jing Fu, Lisa M. Hartnell, … , and Sriram Subramaniam. (2010). 3D visualization of HIV transfer at the virological synapse between dendritic cells and T cells. PNAS. 107(30). 13336-13341.
– Understanding Evolution. (2009). HIV: the ultimate evolver. University of California Museum of Paleontology. Accessed: 2017-03-12.
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