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Lecture - AIDS denialism

Room C2-28. - Nicoli Nattrass will talk about the key themes in her new book 'The AIDS conspiracy: Science Fights back'. This will include why we need to worry about AIDS conspiracy beliefs (because they are linked in South Africa and the US to the rejection of evidence-based medicine and unsafe sexual behaviour), and the importance of understanding the social and historical basis of these beliefs especially with regard to the role of racial repression and medical abuse. This background is fairly well known, so her talk will concentrate on where she breaks new ground in understanding the role of individual agents in promoting AIDS conspiracy beliefs -- and how this has enabled pro-science activists to counter these ideas. Her talk will also explore the world of AIDS denialism, which like AIDS conspiracy beliefs, makes a 'conspiratorial move' against HIV science by arguing that the science has been corrupted and cannot be trusted. She will argue that AIDS denialism also gains social traction through organization around four symbolically important roles: hero scientists, living icons (HIV positive people refusing antiretrovirals), cultropreneurs (offering alternative unproven remedies), and praise singers (sympathetic journalists and filmmakers). Her talk will conclude by showing that these roles have also provided targets for the pro-science community to fight back.

Nicoli Nattrass is the director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and a regular visiting Professor at Yale where she teaches courses on development and the AIDS epidemic. She has published widely on inequality, AIDS, and the struggle for antiretroviral treatment. Her work on the economics of preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child was used in the successful court case launched by the South Africa Treatment Action Campaign against the then AIDS denialist government of Thabo Mbeki. In her subsequent research on the role of ideas in shaping South Africa's response to AIDS, she focused on the AIDS denialism and AIDS conspiracy beliefs. Her recent book, 'The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back' discusses the social roots of such beliefs in the US and South Africa whilst pointing also to the importance of powerful individuals in promoting and shaping these ideas. Information on her recent publications is available at and

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  • eric k.

    our speaker is coming from New England - she has been fighting both the disease and ignorance about it

    May 16, 2013

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