The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

AFA’s Bryan Fischer: HIV Doesn’t Cause AIDS

By Leah Nelson on January 6, 2012 - 2:10 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

It’s tempting to describe American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer as a close-minded, reactionary bigot. But when it comes to embracing fresh ideas that support his beliefs – heck, he pretty much outdoes us all.

Remember when he said that gays were responsible for the Holocaust? Or the time he claimed that states can require public officials to pass religious tests, directly contradicting both a 50-year-old Supreme Court decision and the express wishes of the Founding Fathers themselves? These are not exactly mainstream theories, but, ever open-minded, Fischer adopted them anyway.

And just when you think he’s reached the outermost limits of revisionism, Fischer one-ups himself by promoting a theory so breathtakingly outrageous that it makes his previous claims seem tame.

Well, he’s done it again, declaring during an anti-gay tirade on his radio show Tuesday that there is no connection between the HIV virus and AIDS.

He even had someone to back him up: Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley whose hypothesis about AIDS has made him a pariah among his peers.

Once revered as a genius for his pioneering cancer research, Duesberg since 1987 has been a leading proponent of the so-called “denialist” hypothesis that HIV does not cause AIDS. He offers a range of possible alternative causes, claiming at different times that AIDS is a “fabricated epidemic,” that it is triggered by the use of recreational drugs, and that it is caused by the antiretroviral drugs that have improved and prolonged the lives of countless HIV-infected persons.

That’s not what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that HIV is the cause of AIDS,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told Hatewatch via E-mail. “Infection with HIV has been the sole common factor shared by people with AIDS throughout the world. In addition, antiretroviral medicines developed specifically against HIV have been associated with dramatic reductions in the incidence of AIDS and mortality. Statements that AIDS is not caused by HIV are misleading and potentially dangerous.”

That seems an understatement. In 2000, Duesberg served on a commission charged by then-South African President Thabo Mbeki with determining whether HIV caused AIDS. Already inclined to disbelieve the connection, Mbeki accepted the conclusion that the two were not linked, leading to a disastrous public policy that caused an estimated 330,000 South Africans to die from AIDS, according to a 2010 report in AIDS and Behavior, a public health journal.

On Fischer’s show, Duesberg said that intravenous drugs are responsible for 50% of all cases of AIDS in America. “Most of the rest of the other half is male homosexuals – but not your all-American male homosexual from next door,” he said. “It’s the ones who have what they call ‘cruising,’ that have hundreds of – thousands of – sexual contacts in a short time. They can only accomplish that like our Olympians break records now, by taking lots of drugs.”

Fischer interviewed Duesberg in the context of discussing a proposed Los Angeles ordinance that would require performers in pornographic films to use condoms on the set.

Duesberg’s statistics – which suggest that half of AIDS patients are IV drug users and half are promiscuous gay men who use drugs to enhance their libido – do not quite square with reality. The CDC’s most recent statistics (here and here) do show that gay and bisexual men account for the majority of new HIV infections – 61% in 2009 – and that overall, 49% of Americans living with AIDS are gay or bisexual men. Neither numbers nor science say that all these men were drug-addicted sex fiends – and more to the point, 27% of those infected in 2009 were heterosexuals. Only 9% were IV drug users.

Asked to respond to the CDC’s statement about his hypothesis, Duesberg challenged the authority of the CDC, demanding evidence to back up this reporter’s characterization of the organization as an internationally recognized authority on epidemiology.

He also acknowledged that he had not heard of Bryan Fischer prior to speaking on his show. In response, Hatewatch provided him with several examples of Fischer’s most offensive and inaccurate anti-gay comments, reading verbatim his 2010 declaration that “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”

Duesberg – who, according to a lengthy 2008 profile in Discover magazine, was born in Münster, Germany, in 1936 and grew up to the tune of air raid sirens, and whose father volunteered to serve in the German army – said he had never heard that theory before, and said he would need to see the context of Fischer’s comment before passing judgment. When Hatewatch forwarded him a link to Fischer’s original blog post, he responded via E-mail, “I am not ready to comment on Bryan Fischer at this time, beyond our radio discussion of AIDS until I had a chance to talk to him directly. I have seen too many examples, including my own, where a scientifically correct point of view is twisted into a politically incorrect one, to diminish an opponents [sic] character.”

He also wrote, “I do not ‘marginalize’ male or female homosexuals. On the contrary, I have sacrifized [sic] status and career investments to find a scientific answer to AIDS, which is primarily a gay syndrome in the US.”

Duesberg may not seek to marginalize LGBT people (though, according to the Discover article, he repeatedly referred to them as “homos”) – but Bryan Fischer certainly does. Summing up his takeaway from Duesberg in a blog post yesterday, he wrote, “Bottom line? HIV does not cause AIDS. So let’s immediately stop spending billions of dollars trying to kill a harmless microbe. And secondly, let’s tell homosexuals to stop sleeping with other men, stop using poppers, and stop shooting up. If they listen to that message, public health will improve, everybody will live longer, and taxpayers will be able to keep more of their money. What’s not to like?”

“That,” responded Brian Chase of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is pushing the condom ordinance, “might be one of the dumbest things Bryan Fischer’s ever said – and that is saying quite a bit.”

  • Elon

    Wilde died of a bacterial infection. That was relatively common in 1900. It is still relatively common now. I don’t think that every person who died young, died of HIV. Pneumocystis on the other hand…

  • Aron


    You bring up a very valid point. But I had always thought that Wilde’s ‘pneumonia’ was simply a euphemism for syphilis.

    Though I get the feeling not many people would seek to protect the reputation of a convicted buggerer. (Mind you, I’m referring to his peers. Not my own opinions.)

  • Sam Molloy

    Reynardine, there is some evidence that it was around before “Patient Zero”, the male airline steward. A rather promiscuous transgendered friend of Andy Warhol named Candy Darling died at age 29 in 1973 or so. I’d wager that research would turn up other similar stories, among people unusually well travelled or living in port of call type cities. I always wondered about Oscar Wilde, who died of “pneumonia” at age 49.

  • Jack Knight

    Fischer and Duesberg are both hateful bigots, plain and simple. Duesberg is the bigger problem regarding the science of HIV as the cause of AIDS, which is clear cut and unambiguous, to quote part of the Durban Declaration.

    However, because Duesberg was at one time considered to be a credible scientist, there are those who are willing to plunge down the rabbit hole with him based on his reputation from four decades ago. Those who do are mostly simple minded people who are too afraid to face a positive diagnosis and deal with it like a mature adult. The mature adult will live a long, healthy life. The denialist will not.

  • Garrick Stephens

    This man should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity and facilitating genocide at the Hauige…

  • Clay Williams

    I wonder which is more important to this quack Fischer: killing the “queers” by lying about the treatments for AIDS? Or saving money spent for treatment so that he, and those of his ilk, can get their greedy, fat, short fingers on it?

  • lgold

    My comment has nothing to do with racism. I encourage all to look at the research Peter Deusberg offers because medically it makes more sense than anything else I’ve been hearing about for over a decade. Yes there are illnesses, but I am still not convinced that the ‘official’ story is the truth.

  • Linnea

    Birds of a feather… Are we really surprised that these two idiots have joined forces?

  • dave

    I am a nurse, and donate some of my time to a local charity that helps HIV/AIDS patients keep track of the viral loads and T Cell counts ( we help those who can not otherwise afford these vital tests)

    I hereby officially invite Mr. Fisher to prove his hypothesis, by allowing me to inject him with the plasma samples we use for viral load tests, after all, if the “microbe” isn’t responsible, he should be perfectly fine…right?

  • Erika

    Wait a second, isn’t the American Family Association the same group formerly headed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon who used to send out hilarious letters stating that television programs like Friends were pornographic?

  • Ian

    What mainly cofuses me about this interview is not the lack of intelligence or decency – this is Bryan Fischer, after all – but how it totally contractics his previous statements.

    Fischer said that men having sex with men is “domestic terrorism” because [i]If one of them is HIV positive, then it’s just like injecting his partner with a needle with HIV.”

    Ignore the fact that very few instances of male/male sex are between mixed-status couples or the fact that literally any other phrase in the English language is a better description of sex between men than “domestic terrorism”. What confuses me is how transmition of a supposedly “harmless microbe” is such a concern.

  • Reynardine

    Erika, he has to conjure sin so he can smite it, of course (though I am unclear about the antecedent of “it”)

  • Erika

    I think that people are ignoring the most important issue here:

    why would a self proclaimed “Christian” on his Christian “American Family Association” be discussing pornography on his radio show which could be potentially heard by children?

  • Reynardine

    Yeah, and the rabies virus is not the cause of rabies. It is constantly indulging one’s meaner whims, like Brian Fischer.

    That said, there are certain factors that should be looked at.

    1. Could the virus have been around in a subclinical form before undergoing a virulent mutation? Victorian literature contains reference to “decline”, where the sufferer becomes weaker and catches more and more diseases.

    2. The virus is notably short-lived when not sheltering in a cell. Could it sometimes be vectored by a spirochaete? Uncircumcised men are notoriously more subject to heterosexual transmission than the circumcised, and such men often harbor a non-pathogenic spirochaete under the foreskin. Where infection patterns have sometimes suggested arthropod transmission, those areas have coincided with arbo spirochaetal diseases (e.g., yaws).

    This virus can certainly be transmitted without a vector, but the patterns I found out about when I was handling an HIV caseload (admittedly long ago) led me to suspect that a spirochaetal vector boosts its contagiousness. I wonder if anyone has looked into this.

  • Melvin leon Moody jr

    well this guy is so out of it, he says that HIV is not the cause of aids, well I beg to differ and I think that those of us who have HIV will differ as well. but I expect bryan fischer to continue to say these outragous thing both now and in the future. but I hope that god will transform him into an ally soon.

  • The Prisoner

    The level of ignorance in this country is appalling. For an industrial first world nation, we should be ashamed of ourselves. And its only going to get worse as we cut taxes to make way for bigger and better to big too fail banks and corporations.

  • CIA Jon

    John Birch Society member Edward Griffin also believes something similair

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Leah Nelson,

    Looks like Bryan Fischer is quick to believe anything that justifies his worldview. Unfortunately his audience is likely to believe it as well.

  • Aron

    Avoiding the obvious — nothing need be said regarding Duesberg’s and Fischer’s stance on a ‘harmless’ microbe (I feel like I need a shower after having written that…) — there is a serious flaw in Fishhead’s conclusion. Poppers (alkyl-nitrate ampoules used, among other purposes, to loosen the anal sphincter and ease the penetration of said region*) are NOT, I repeat NOT and CANNOT be a primary vector for HIV/AIDS. They are inhalents. And if IV drug use is the primary cause of said disease, Fischer simply contradicted himself.

    But when has that ever stopped this American Embarrassment from ever opening his mouth before?

    *Please forgive the explicit language used in the comment. I felt euphemism and allusion were inappropriate in this case.

    PS I think Fischer needs to lay off the poppers himself. I can think of no other way any person can shove their head so far up their rectum on so many occasions.