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  • Denying the Goat Milk Man  

    February 3rd, 2016

    by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

    goat-sgartonI was chatting with Donna, our Executive Director the other day, and she asked if I’d read this article about the latest HIV explosion regarding Charlie Sheen. Sheen, who publicly disclosed his HIV positive status in November, has spoken about his HIV treatment choices, and the one causing a storm was his decision to follow a goat milk alternative therapy that he revealed on Dr. Oz. Yes, goat’s milk.

    What happened next is that Bill Maher hosted the man behind the milk, giving him air time on how he can cure AIDS and cancer through his own special treatment. This kind of claim will sound familiar (and possibly spark anxiety) to those who lived through the days before HIV drugs were available. Pre 1996 this kind of claim was common and everyone was desperate for a cure.

    But this is 2016, and science and success know better. Millions of people are living well with HIV and not progressing to AIDS. It is research and refining treatments that has brought us here, not miracle cure claims.

    Treatment decisions are up to individuals- they’re the one who has to take the meds for life.  Ordinarily, this decision is personal and private, but because Charlie Sheen has chosen to disclose these decisions and is guaranteed media coverage, I would hope that balanced health education should be made available. Thanks to Bill Maher and his producer’s choices, it certainly wasn’t.

    This kind of “reporting” makes me mad. It is Bill Maher using his platform to spread dangerous information. Apparently Dr. Oz questioned whether Sheen’s “doctor” made scientifically valid decisions. The fact that Dr. Oz questions Bill Maher’s guest is significant, because Dr. Oz himself is challenged by doctors for the crud HE claims.

    This issue is way bigger than Charlie Sheen. I see it as a dip into the AIDS denialism pool, which is dangerous and deadly. AIDS denialism may have faded as prominent deniers like Christine Maggiore died of AIDS related causes, but it is still around. Sheen has gone back on conventional HIV treatment. I hope for his sake his counts are good and his overall health sound.

    I found out today that American activist Maria Mejia has started a petition demanding that Bill Maher host an HIV medical expert who can respond to the milk man’s claims. She writes that the misinformation presented so far hits “Vulnerable people dealing with HIV, people who trust Bill Maher because he has made a career out of calling out science denialists. But this time, he has enabled one and it could cost people their money, health, and lives.”

    She’s right- in the case of HIV, denialism is a deadly thing.



    Image: Sgarton, MorgueFile

    Patent pushers, Big Pharma, and a life-saving dream

    January 29th, 2016

    By Erin Seatter  |  @erinlynds

    The Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, has documented a chapter of HIV activism that says a lot about what is possible. The 5,500-word essay about Jamie Love, an expert in patent law and advocate for affordable medicines, also reveals how much more fight is needed.jamie_love

    Branded as “Big pharma’s worst nightmare” for his fierceness in challenging powerful pharmaceutical corporations, Love was instrumental in making HIV drugs available to sub-Saharan Africa. He was part of a small group working with Yusuf Hamied, the head of Indian drug manufacturing company Cipla, to produce a generic HIV drug cocktail that would be sold for an incomparably low price. Love arranged to have Cipla sell the medication to Médecins Sans Frontières for use in Africa at about $1 per day per patient. The same medication in the United States sold for more than $10,000 per year.

    The victory was immense, as was the struggle. Along the way, Love upset a plethora of players: politicians, civil servants, intellectual property fanatics, corporate bigwigs, their high-powered attorneys, and Microsoft-honcho-turned-philanthrocapitalist Bill Gates, who loves drug patents (“I’ve got this deep, bad relationship with Bill Gates,” said Love).

    But the more things change, the more they regress:

    Fifteen years on, it is no longer just the poor who cannot afford the drugs they need. New medicines for lethal diseases such as hepatitis C and cancer have been launched on the global market at such high prices that the richest countries in the world are having to find ways to ration them. And Jamie Love is back in the fray.

    So-called free trade agreements further threaten accessibility to vital medicines, with the impending Trans-Pacific Partnership sure to aggravate an already stark problem, leading to more useless and preventable deaths.

    It’s beyond time to listen to the innovative ideas of thinkers such as Love—and his partner Manon Ress, with whom he now works—who can point the way out of the deadly mess embraced by patent pushers and Big Pharma.