Thursday, February 7, 2013
Trial By Ordeal: The Life and Death of Christine Maggiore
by Charles Rich
NOTE: The following is a chapter from my book, "The Living Proof: Confessions of an AIDS survivor".
“The world is like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to go on the ride, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly colored and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey! don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride.' And we ... kill those people. Ha ha, 'Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.' It's just a ride – but we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? ...And let the demons run amok? Jesus murdered; Martin Luther King murdered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan ... wounded. But it doesn't matter because it's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.” – Bill Hicks, Revelations
In the previous chapter (How I “got” HIV), I intended the word “got” in the title to have a double meaning. On the one hand, I wanted to explain my theory on why I began to test false positive in 1998 (which I did,) but I also wanted to explain how I “got” (i.e. “comprehended”) what it really means to be “HIV-positive”. Once the chapter was written, however, I realized that I'd forgotten to include the latter subject, and I was unable to find a way to include it without the addition feeling tacked-on.
I suppose it's just as well, because I now have the opportunity to at least include the important points, because of the recent tragic death of someone who was a personal friend and hero to me.
To someone who has read my account, it may seem easy to assume that when I first stumbled across dissident information, that I eagerly jumped on the bandwagon. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my first instinct was to dismiss the dissidents' arguments, believing that I already knew enough from my research and personal experience to prove that they were wrong.
However, I've always been an argumentative bastard – when I was young, adults used to tell me that I had a bright future ahead of me as a trial lawyer (however, they were wrong, since a lawyer's ability to stay out of court is far more important than his skills at arguing his case in court.) Because of my argumentative nature, I set out to prove the dissidents wrong, researching their arguments carefully, along with the mainstream medical literature on HIV and AIDS, looking for any weakness in their arguments.
To my surprise, I found very few, and none were fatal.
After nearly a year of trying to debunk the dissident arguments and failing miserably, I began to realize that I needed to be equally skeptical of the mainstream views on AIDS as well, or my skepticism meant nothing. When I began to critically examine the mainstream hypothesis on HIV and AIDS, the whole edifice crumbled like a house of cards.
At this point, I began looking deeper into the claims made by dissidents, and found that many of the “proofs” from my own experiences and research (which I'd thought proved the dissidents to be wrong) were actually better explained by dissident arguments than by the mainstream hypotheses.
I began purchasing books written by dissidents, in order to better familiarize myself with this new information, and one of these books was a pamphlet written by Christine Maggiore, entitled,What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? (Indeed, it was the very first such book that I purchased, since its title echoed my recent experience of finding out that as knowledgeable as I considered myself to be, I was rapidly learning that everything I thought I knew was, in fact, wrong.) In it, she presents ten true-or-false questions about HIV and AIDS, and then goes on to provide evidence that the surprising correct answer for each of these questions is “false”.
Over the next few years, I enjoyed a growing friendship with Christine over the internet, and I learned much about her.
Christine Maggiore was born on July 25, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois, and she grew up in Southern California. After graduating with honors from Reseda High School, she worked in advertising and marketing in Los Angeles until 1984, when she left LA to travel through Europe and North Africa before settling in Florence, Italy, where she lived from 1985 until 1987. In 1986, she started what would later become a multi-million dollar clothing import/export company, Alessi International, based in Tuscany. While living in Italy, she had a long-term relationship with a young Italian man whom she would later identify only as “Marco”.
Circa 1990, Christine ended her relationship with Marco and returned to the Los Angeles area, where she was diagnosed HIV-positive two years later during a routine medical exam.
Putting aside her initial shock and shame, Christine immediately sought the advice of an AIDS specialist, who reviewed her HIV test and told her that it was positive, but only barely so, and he advised her to re-test. The re-test, according to the specialist, was “indisputably positive”, however, he offered her some good news: Her CD4 count was over 1700, and that and the fact that she'd gone from a weak positive to a strong positive on the HIV test meant that she had only recently been infected – only within the past year or so – and she could expect at least a few years of relatively good health before progressing to “full-blown AIDS” and dying. The “good news” according to her doctor, was that she could expect to live a full 5 to 7 years (that being the conventional prognosis for a newly-infected HIV-positive patient in 1992.)
He told her that medicines were available to treat her HIV infection, but warned that she should wait to get sick before using them, since the side effects were quite debilitating and could include diarrhea, fatigue, muscle wasting, cancer, paralysis, and loss of T-cells.
In desperation, Christine asked her doctor if there were anything she could do in the meantime, other than wait to get sick and then take medicines that sounded like they would make her even sicker. The doctor shook his head no, and sternly cautioned her not to waste her time and money on vitamins, alternative therapies, or any other foolish attempts to prolong her life.
Upon leaving his office, Christine immediately defied her doctor's advice, proceeding immediately to a health-food store, where she bought an encyclopedia of vitamins, herbs and minerals, and stayed up all night reading it. The next morning, when the health-food store opened, Christine was waiting at the door, ready to purchase the ingredients of her self-prescribed regimen. Her next step was to begin looking for another AIDS specialist the following day.
Meanwhile, life as Christine had known it ended abruptly. All of her prior hopes, dreams, and aspirations died, to be replaced by fear, anger, uncertainty, and despair. She gave up all future hope for love, children, family, career, or anything resembling a normal life. She found it impossible to continue running the clothing business she'd started, and stopped going to the office. She gave up her goal of finishing her advanced degree and dropped out of business school. She'd been doing volunteer work in the mentoring program of Big Sisters of America, but when she disclosed her new HIV status to the organization, they immediately dropped her from the program. In her own words, “I felt like an utter loser and wished I'd been diagnosed with something dignified like cancer.”
Fearing further rejection, she decided to remain celibate and keep her HIV status a secret and stopped spending time with her family and all but a few close friends. She took to wearing a wedding ring in order to head off potential suitors. Soon, her previous social circle was replaced with participation in a support group for HIV-positive women.
She called all of her old boyfriends to warn them that she was HIV-positive and that they should get tested. By this time, Marco had married and had two children but they had remained friends and spoke regularly. When she disclosed her HIV status to him, his first reaction was pity, followed by fear, and he made immediate plans to get tested for HIV himself.
Marco's test came back positive, and in his case the news was not so good. His CD4 count was slightly over 500 (and in those days anything below 500 was considered to be “AIDS”.) There was also some rather curious news: His wife, his children, and all of his former girlfriends were tested, and all of them were HIV-negative. It turned out that Christine had not known about all of Marco's sex partners; he later admitted having sired a child during his relationship with Christine (with a wife she did not know he had during the course of their relationship), and had apparently had one or more sexual escapades in Thailand. However, Marco maintained that he'd contacted all of his previous sex partners and they'd all tested negative, and he continued to believe that Christine was the source of his infection.
Having been unceremoniously ejected from the Big Sisters of America organization, Christine soon found another volunteer effort to throw her energies into, which she felt gave meaning to the tragedy of her own life. She began working as a spokesperson and organizer for several AIDS organizations in the LA area, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, LA Shanti, and the newly-formed Women At Risk. Apparently, there was a shortage of white, female, heterosexual HIV-positive businesswomen who'd never used IV drugs, and these organizations invited her to do speaking engagements at high schools, colleges, fairs, festivals, and business meetings, spreading the gospel that “everyone is at risk for AIDS – if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
Meanwhile, her search for a new AIDS specialist continued with little success, until about a year or so after her diagnosis, when she met an AIDS specialist who was philosophically opposed to automatically filling her patients with toxic drugs and lethal predictions. This new doctor, (in contrast to the first specialist,) encouraged her to maintain hope, and to continue to adopt healthy habits, including regular exercise, consumption of healthy foods, vitamins, and herbs, and to eliminate toxic chemicals from her home and her personal care products.
This new doctor didn't seem to think that Christine fit the profile of an AIDS patient, and wanted to re-test her. Afraid to get her hopes up, Christine at first refused to consider getting re-tested, but reconsidered her refusal at the urging of a new love interest, a handsome young man named Garrett with a wonderful sense of humor, who convinced her to re-test with promises of a possible future together, and a nice lunch together after the blood draw.
The test came back indeterminate. Subsequent re-tests ranged from negative to indeterminate to positive, until Christine had been tested for a total of more than a dozen times, and to her frustration she still had no idea what her true HIV status might be.
Confused, she turned for guidance to the AIDS organizations with whom she'd been working, only to be met with illogical and nonsensical theories, and no real answers. The one thing they seemed able to tell her for sure was that they were 100% certain that she actually had HIV (in my opinion this was likely because by this time Christine had become their poster child for the heterosexual AIDS epidemic, and there being no such epidemic, they would be hard pressed to find a replacement for her should she prove to be HIV-negative.) When she persisted in asking questions, they kicked her out of their organizations.
Over the subsequent months and years, Christine began to research the published works of people like Dr. Peter Duesberg, Dr. Kary Mullis, Dr. Valendar Turner, Dr. Rodney Richards, and others who questioned the validity of HIV tests, the supposed causal role of HIV in AIDS, and in some cases, the very existence of HIV itself. This line of inquiry led her down a rabbit hole of discovery that forced her to question everything she'd ever been taught about HIV and AIDS.
This led to her creation of a monthly public discussion forum in which discussion of unorthodox ideas and the discussion of unanswered questions about HIV and AIDS were welcomed. Eventually, this forum would grow into Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives (www.aliveandwell.org), a non-profit peer support group and education network whose mission is to inspire much-needed dialogue on AIDS and empower HIV and AIDS patients to make truly informed choices concerning their health care.
In 1996, she began writing a pamphlet to summarize ten key questions about HIV and AIDS, which eventually metamorphosed into a book, entitled What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was WRONG? The same year, she fell in love with a filmmaker named Robin Scovill, and at the age of 40, she became pregnant for the very first time with their son, whom they named Charlie.
In defiance of conventional wisdom, Christine declined to take AIDS cocktail drugs, delivered her son naturally and vaginally at home, and breastfed him. (Conventional wisdom dictates that all HIV-positive mothers should take ARVs, be delivered by Caesarean, and under no circumstances should they breastfeed – in fact, HIV-positive mothers who choose to breastfeed their children risk being charged with criminal endangerment and having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care.) Seven years later, Christine similarly delivered a second child, a daughter, whom she and Robin named Eliza Jane. Because of her controversial choices, she was featured on the September/October 2001 cover of Mothering Magazine, proudly displaying her huge belly, boldly painted with a logo which read, “NO AZT”.
In 2004 her husband, Robin Scovill, released a film entitled The Other Side of AIDS, which went on to win a special jury prize at the 2004 AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival.
Needless to say, her brazen defiance of conventional wisdom earned her many enemies among the AIDS activist community. The enduring good health of Christine's husband and children did nothing to mollify her critics, and her own enduring good health only served to enrage them. They phoned in anonymous tips to the LA County Department of Children and Family Services with allegations that Charlie was being endangered because he hadn't been tested for HIV, and his mother had breast fed him. These allegations resulted in an investigation by the county, but the investigation was subsequently dropped, partly on the weight of assurances by the family's pediatrician, Dr. Paul Fleiss (father of Heidi Fleiss, the famous Hollywood Madam.) They launched smear campaigns against her specifically, openly called for her to be arrested and incarcerated for her beliefs, and publicly expressed their collective wishes for her death, as well as the deaths of her husband and children.
Little could they have known just how quickly some of their worst wishes would be granted.
In late April of 2005, after nearly 3 1/2 years of excellent health, little Eliza Jane developed a common cold. On April 28, Christine and Robin took her to see Dr. Fleiss, who documented a normal physical exam, noting that she had clear lungs, no fever, and adequate oxygen levels; however, she did appear to have fluid in her inner ear. Five days later, E.J. was seen by a second pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, who also found E.J. to be healthy and ruled out pneumonia specifically (at the time, there were epidemics of pertussis and pneumonia making the rounds of the LA area schools), but noted his suspicion that she had a mild ear infection (a common complication of colds in children), yet he felt that the infection would clear up without antibiotics. A few days later, Christine asked a friend, Denver physician Dr. Philip Incao, to examine E.J. He found fluid behind her right eardrum, but prescribed no medication. On May 14, Incao examined her again and prescribed amoxicillin.
Shortly after taking the first dose, E.J. vomited several times and became pale and her extremities felt cold to the touch. While Robin was on the phone with Dr. Incao, E.J. crumpled like a paper doll and stopped breathing. Alerted by Christine's scream, Robin immediately terminated the call to the doctor and dialed 911. When the paramedics arrived, they found E.J. to be in a state of cardiac arrest. E.J. was rushed to a Van Nuys hospital, where more antibiotics were administered. After a series of tests which included two chest X-rays, a CAT scan, a spinal tap, and blood analysis, the ER doctors were mystified. Upon arriving at the hospital, Christine was told that her daughter was dying and no one knew why.
The head doctor in the ER asked Christine whether E.J. was vaccinated. When Christine answered that neither of her children were vaccinated (a matter of informed family choice, in her opinion,) he folded his arms and informed her in a huffy, patronizing tone of voice that given the fact that E.J. wasn't vaccinated, she was probably dying from some sort of flu.
On the morning of May 16, less than 48 hours after taking her very first dose of amoxicillin, Eliza Jane Scovill died at the age of 3 years and five months.
Unable to ascertain an exact cause of death beyond the tentative initial diagnosis of sepsis, the hospital referred the case to the LA County Coroner's Office for autopsy. The coroner initially assigned to the case was unable to ascertain the cause of death, so another coroner, Dr. James K. Ribe, was called in for assistance.
Ribe himself seemed unable to come up with a diagnosis for weeks, until he received information from an unknown source that E.J.'s mother was a prominent AIDS “denialist” who was HIV-positive. This resulted in a call by the Coroner's Office to Dr. Fleiss, demanding to know whether E.J. had been tested for HIV, and whether the doctor were aware of the mother's HIV status, her book, or Robin's film.
On September 15, almost exactly 4 months after E.J. died, the LA County Coroner's office ruled that she'd died of AIDS-related pneumonia. The coroner's office did not notify the family, but instead went straight to the media, and as a result Christine had the unfortunate experience of learning the news from an LA Times reporter who called her for her comment.
Matters would only continue to get worse. Over the following year, the newly-bereaved family were subjected to a year-long criminal investigation, in which the LA County Sheriff's Department and county officials interviewed Christine, Robin, Charlie, their family members, their neighbors, the children's teachers, doctors, and the family's friends and associates.
Christine and Robin voluntarily had Charlie tested with three different doctors. For each test that his son took, Robin submitted to a test as well, in order to keep Charlie from feeling singled out. All six tests came back negative; nonetheless the Social Services investigators demanded that Charlie be brought in for a fourth test, which was also negative.
During that year, Christine confided in her emails to me that she lived in a constant state of terror. She couldn't eat or sleep, and jumped in fear every time there was a knock on her door, terrified that it was the police, there to lead her and her husband away in handcuffs.
After a year, LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced that the investigation would be dropped and that the DA's office was declining to file charges, the investigation having failed to turn up any evidence of criminal neglect or wrongdoing on the parents' part.
In the meantime, Christine and Robin retained the services of toxicologist and pathologist Mohammed Al-Bayati, to do a differential diagnosis based on the evidence presented by the coroner's office. Al-Bayati opined that E.J. had died from a textbook adverse reaction to amoxicillin, and found no evidence of pneumonia of any sort, AIDS-related or otherwise – in fact, E.J.'s lung slides were later published in the journal Medical Veritas, and were submitted as evidence in no fewer than three criminal court cases in which they were used as examples of normal, healthy lung tissue, for comparison to the slides of children who actually died of pneumonia, but whose parents were prosecuted for physical abuse.
In one of these cases, the parents of a toddler named Destiny Jacobo were unjustly sentenced to life in prison, on the basis of the testimony of a certain Dr. James K. “Shake and Bake a Shaken Baby” Ribe, who alleged that little Destiny had died of trauma resulting from Shaken Baby Syndrome and the forced anal insertion of a foreign object. In 2001, Destiny's father was exonerated and released after serving 5 years of his life sentence, but her mother remained in prison.
This was far from the only case in which Dr. Ribe's credibility has been called into question, due to his testimony having repeatedly conflicted with evidence and even with his own prior testimony. Indeed, the LA County DA's office has been required by the courts to maintain a “Ribe box” of documentation of his past perjuries, and to surrender the contents of that box to the defense in any case which involves Dr. Ribe's testimony, and failure to do so can result in a mistrial.
In the murder trial of Charles Rathbun, Ribe was unable to explain the cause of Linda Sobek's death four months after he'd performed her autopsy. Mid-trial, he suddenly decided that her asphyxiation was not accidental, and under cross-examination he revealed that he'd based that opinion not on the autopsy, but upon the testimony of another witness at the trial (a BIG no-no). Ribe's testimony also mysteriously flip-flopped in the prosecution of Robert Cauchi for the alleged torture and murder of his 4-year-old stepdaughter. In the 1995 prosecution of Eve Wingfield for the alleged murder of 2-year-old Lance Helms, Ribe initially testified that the boy had died thirty to sixty minutes after being beaten, while Ms. Wingfield was with the child. As a result of Ribe's testimony, Ms. Wingfield, though innocent, accepted a plea bargain under duress, accepting a 10-year sentence. When Ribe was interviewed years later by two LAPD detectives who believed that the father, David Helms, was the true murderer, he insisted that Lance had died instantaneously, while under the control of David Helms, and dismissed his own earlier testimony against Wingfield as “just ridiculous”. Subsequently, Wingfield was exonerated and released from prison, and David Helms was convicted of murder in his son's death.
In another case, Ribe altered the autopsy reports of several murdered prostitutes, to match the confession of a mentally-handicapped suspect. The suspect was convicted on the basis of his signed confession and Dr. Ribe's documentation and testimony. After his conviction, he was exonerated by DNA evidence. As to the confession, it proved to be a fabrication by police.
As to the evidence that E.J. was infected with HIV, there simply wasn't any. This was acknowledged in March 2009, when the LA County Coroner settled out of court in the suit brought against them by Christine Maggiore and Robin Scovill. It has been reported in the coroner's report that E.J. was tested for HIV and that the test had been submitted to Quest Diagnostics, but if any such test ever existed, the coroner's office has conveniently “lost” it. The official story, as of the date of the settlement, was that E.J. was never tested for HIV. The only “evidence” ever submitted by Ribe for his assertion that E.J. was infected with HIV was the finding of P24 protein in her brain tissues. Since it is widely recognized that P24 can be found in the healthy tissues of people who have neither HIV nor AIDS, this “evidence” is no evidence at all.
Given the lack of evidence that E.J. was actually infected with HIV, the lung slide evidence which showed incontrovertibly that E.J. did not have pneumonia, the DA's failure to find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and the notoriety of the coroner, you might think that Christine's tormentors would have simply allowed the incident to fade, lest they be accused of dancing on an innocent child's grave and slandering an innocent bereaved mother. You might think that, but you'd be wrong.
Far from being allowed to grieve as any bereaved parents ought to have a right to do, Christine and Robin's tribulations were only just beginning. They were viciously attacked by AIDS activists in the media, in public, and in private. Christine was accused of being a murderer, a “denialist” who'd sacrificed her own daughter on the altar of her beliefs, and worse. They were the target of constant death threats, insults, rumors, and unfounded accusations.
Fearing for the family's safety, Marco (who in the interim had become a national cycling champion in his native Italy,) invited Christine, Robin, and Charlie to come stay with him and his family in Italy, but Christine and Robin chose instead to stay and fight.
The newly-bereaved parents contacted the LA County Coroner's Office to request copies of documents relevant to the Coroner's finding, including the results of the HIV test which, according to the Coroner's report, had been sent to Quest Diagnostics, but whose results were not mentioned in the report. They were passed from one desk to another, until they were put in touch with the LACCO's legal department, who told Christine that if she wanted any documentation other than what had already been made public, she'd have to get a court order. This resulted in Christine and Robin filing a suit against the LA County Coroner's Office for fraud and for violation of their daughter's civil rights, a suit which, as I've mentioned, was later settled out of court for $15,000 and an acknowledgement that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that E.J. was infected with HIV.
According to Wikipedia [accessed 2-19-10], Christine and Robin sued the county “for allegedly violating their daughter's civil rights and privacy by releasing her autopsy report,” and Wikipedia pretty much leaves it at that, and we are expected to infer from this that the suit was frivolous – that Christine wasn't suing the county for lying about her daughter, but for disclosing the truth about her daughter. In her emails to me, Christine told me otherwise, saying that her primary reason for suing was to secure a copy of her daughter's HIV test result, and that the county's legal department had told her that a lawsuit was the only way she'd get it.
After Christine died, I became curious about whether Christine had accurately represented the nature of the suit to me, so I downloaded a copy of Scovill v County of Los Angeles from LA County in PDF format. The document lists a total of seven causes of action and sixteen factual allegations, one of which is that “the office of the Coroner withheld information on this diagnostic and laboratory tests [sic] from plaintiffs, rendering them unable to object to its release to the public...”
Apparently, according to the official court documents, Christine wasn't lying to me, which means that the Wikipedia entry is inaccurate. But just try to correct any of the “information” on Wikipedia about Christine Maggiore. Then go back the next day and see just how long your correction stayed up. My personal record is a little more than three hours.
Over the next few years, I watched as Christine aged rapidly. Shortly after E.J.'s death, the LA Times described Christine as “a slight woman who looks years younger than her age”. This was an apt description – at the age of 49, she could easily have passed for a woman in her early 30s – She actually looked younger than Robin, who was 13 years her junior. However, in the last 3 years of her life, I saw her age 20 years.
This was due in no small part to the slings and arrows from her critics and detractors, and as the evidence of her innocence in her daughter's death piled up, they actually became more cruel and more ghoulish in their behavior. I know that it's common for people who have made asses of themselves and been categorically proven wrong to take refuge in vicious attacks, but I have literally never seen anything to compare with this. Their utter refusal to let a bereaved mother grieve was beyond inhumane, and their unseemly compulsion to dance on an innocent child's grave was worse than inhuman. If there is a such thing as Karma, then it is my sincere hope that in their next lives they will somehow manage to be reincarnated as higher life forms – like maybe dung beetles.
In the 3 1/2 years following E.J.'s death Christine was the subject of episodes of no fewer than three different fictional TV shows, all of which depicted her as a foolish denialist woman whose husband and at least one child had already died of AIDS, and who maintained her denialist belief nearly until the end of the episode, when she would make a dramatic deathbed confession that she'd been wrong about AIDS, followed by an equally dramatic death.
The last of these was an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims' Unit entitled Retro, which aired on October 28, 2008. In this episode, Christine's character, “Susan Ross”, was portrayed by blonde actress Paula Malcomson in an apparent (and transparent) attempt to portray the character as a feckless, naïve, and easily-manipulated blonde who is taken in by the charms of her wicked denialist doctor (played by Martin Mull,) who, instead of prescribing effective medications for her and her children's illness, convinces her that AIDS doesn't exist and prescribes vitamins for her and her children's opportunistic infections. According to the plot, this standard of care has already led to the death of Ross' infant daughter, and it later turns out that her son is infected as well. Our heroes waste no time in bringing the evil Dr. Gideon Hutton up on charges, and while testifying at his trial, Ross collapses into convulsions on the witness stand and is rushed to the hospital where she subsequently dies of toxoplasmosis, (though of course, not before making the obligatory deathbed confession that Jesus is Lord and HIV is the Virus that Causes AIDS.)
When Christine saw this episode, she immediately developed a rash from stress. Sixty days later, Christine Maggiore was dead (ironically, two days before she was scheduled to appear in court to testify in the family's suit against the county) from what the coroner ruled to be AIDS, without doing an autopsy. The ghouls at AIDSTruth.org wasted no time adding her name to their list of “dead denialists”.
There was just one problem: Christine Maggiore didn't have HIV to begin with.
Neither Robin nor either of Christine's children ever tested positive for HIV. Of all her sex partners, only one (Marco) ever tested positive, and given the high rate of false-positives on HIV tests in the early 1990s, the possibility is strongly suggested that neither of them actually had HIV.
Prior to the coroner's ruling that E.J.'s death was AIDS-related, Christine's own critics steadfastly maintained that Christine was HIV-negative. Indeed, at the time of E.J.'s death, there appeared to be an orchestrated campaign to portray Christine as an HIV-negative who knew she didn't have HIV, but pretended that she did in order to keep herself in the spotlight, all the while irresponsibly leading gullible HIV-positives like myself to our deaths.
On July 15, 2005 (one month after E.J.'s death and 3 months prior to the coroner's ruling of AIDS,) Martha Howard M.D. posted the following review of Christine's book at Amazon.com:
“Christine Maggiore is HIV-NEGATIVE
“I can't believe I am the first to point this out. Hasn't anyone wondered why Christine Maggiore refuses to submit to the National Institutes of Health or the Center for Disease Control for HIV testing (using ELISA, Western Blot, PCR)?
“She was the victim of false positive ELISA testing over a decade ago (not that unusual) and, worse, a physician who disclosed her test results without the mandatory Western Blot confirmation. Subsequently learning of her HIV NEGATIVE status, Christine has taken the conspiracy theory ball and run, run, run away with it.
“Believe me friends, Maggiore is HIV NEGATIVE - which explains consistent claims that she and her children are 'ridiculously healthy' - most young HIV negative women are ridiculously healthy too.
“She is a charlatan who has desperately harmed the lives of HIV positive people by outright lies. They believed in her - by example. If she were healthy after so many years of HIV infection, then HIV=AIDS was a lie (a wonderful fantasy, I know).
“No lie folks. If left untreated, HIV is lethal.
“For an HIV NEGATIVE woman such as Christine Maggiore to claim that HIV is harmless certainly lacks conviction!” [all emphasis in original]
On September 8, 2005, one week before the release of the coroner's report on E.J.'s death, someone (possibly Dr. Howard,) anonymously posted a review identical to the above on the Barnes & Noble website.
In a June 29, 2005 article in the New York Press, Jeanne Bergman had this to say:
“Maggiore has built a profitable career by combining a gift for self-promotion with a couple of false-positive HIV test results. The story she tells begins in 1992, when, despite the complete absence of risk factors, a routine HIV antibody test came back inconclusive. The retest was positive, and Maggiore threw herself into the whirlwind life of an AIDS poster girl, 'booked for a year's worth of engagements before I'd even finished [a speaker's] training course. ...' When a year or so later her doctor suspected she wasn't really infected with HIV, she 'finally found the courage to retest,' and in a series of tests received results that were inconclusive, she reports, then positive, negative and positive again.
“False-negative HIV tests are extremely rare, while false positives are much more common, though infrequent. This fact and all the other available evidence strongly indicate that Maggiore was never infected with HIV, and she herself emphasizes the term 'positive' and avoids saying she is infected or has the virus, allowing others to draw that erroneous conclusion. Most people would be thrilled to learn they were uninfected, but Maggiore was unwilling to give up the spotlight. This HIV pretender twisted her good health and the marginal incidence of false positives into a lucrative new racket—selling HIV denialism and bragging about her good life 'without pharmaceutical treatments or fear of AIDS.' But of course Maggiore has no 'fear of AIDS'—she doesn't have HIV. She has since had two children, now three and seven years old, whom she boasted ... 'have never been tested. … They don't take AIDS drugs. And they're not in the least bit sick.' But of course Maggiore didn't want them to be tested: she knows that they are not at risk and that their being uninfected would lead people to question her own status. And of course they don't take 'AIDS drugs'—they don't have HIV or AIDS.
“Christine Maggiore isn't living proof that HIV doesn't cause AIDS; she's just another lying AIDS profiteer, exploiting the real fears of those who actually are infected with HIV and the real suffering of those living with AIDS to get public attention, sell books and pick up well-paid speaking gigs. This might matter less if she wasn't telling parents and caregivers of children who really are HIV-infected to take the kids off difficult but life-saving antivirals. Maggiore has never had to make agonizing treatment decisions for herself or for her children.”
It is true, as Bergman points out, that Christine emphasized the word “positive” and avoided saying that she was actually infected, but Bergman was disingenuous in her claim that Christine allowed others to draw the “erroneous conclusion” that she was actually infected with HIV. In fact, Christine was quick to point out that being “HIV-positive” had never been proven to correlate to actual infection. In one interview, when the interviewer asked Christine, “Did [Robin] know that you have HIV from the get-go?” Christine quickly corrected her, saying, “I wouldn't ever say to anyone 'I have HIV', I would tell them, 'I have tested HIV-positive'.” So while Bergman is correct in stating that Christine herself was aware that she was not actually infected with HIV, it is an outright lie to suggest that Christine at any point encouraged or even allowed anyone to infer an erroneous conclusion from her HIV status that she was actually infected – Indeed, the truth was exactly the opposite: Christine was quick to correct anyone who inferred that she was actually infected.
Ironically enough, Bergman wrote this article more than a month after Christine's daughter had died, but prior to receiving the “good news” of the child's death. Bergman is currently listed as the second-in-command on the AIDSTruth team, so it seems reasonable that the following statements, posted at AIDSTruth less than a week after Christine's death, are consistent with Bergman's current view:
“The death from pneumonia of AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore, 52, is eliciting sadness but no surprise from HIV researchers, AIDS activists, and clinicians. The known facts of the Maggiore case follow the tragic arc of HIV disease in untreated HIV-infected women. Christine Maggiore was HIV-positive, rejected medical care, gave birth to two children, one of whom died at three of AIDS, and then died herself, about 16 years post diagnosis, of prolonged pneumonia, which is a common consequence of HIV infection. These events are consistent with mother-to-child transmission and HIV disease progression...
“...Ms. Maggiore reportedly first tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1992. Unwilling to accept the challenges of her diagnosis and under the influence of Berkeley denialist Peter Duesberg, who has never done research on HIV, Maggiore adopted the scientifically indefensible position that HIV does not cause AIDS, known as AIDS denialism. On this basis she refused anti-retroviral therapy for herself and to prevent transmission to her children, whom she breastfed despite the known risks. When her untested 3-year-old daughter become desperately ill in 2005, Maggiore did not disclose to hospital personnel that HIV was a possible underlying cause, and the little girl died. While information about the underlying causes of the pneumonia that took Maggiore’s life is not yet available, deaths from pneumonia among otherwise healthy women in their early 50s are extremely rare. At this time, it is not known if the family will allow an autopsy to be performed.
“We urge her family and supporters to have an official autopsy performed and to publish the full facts of her illness and death. Christine Maggiore’s visibility and influence were based on the details of her personal story, and specifically on her claim that despite her HIV diagnosis she and her family were vibrantly healthy without medications. ... Now, the two family members known to be HIV positive are dead, and those known to be uninfected (her husband and son) are alive. Her survivors and supporters have a moral obligation to make all the facts public. Anything less can be reasonably assumed to be a cover-up.
“Maggiore certainly acted in accordance with her misguided beliefs: during her two pregnancies, she refused the perinatal anti-viral treatments and formula feeding that would have sharply reduced the likelihood of mother-to-child HIV transmission from about 25% to less that 2%. In 2005, three-year- Eliza Jane died of AIDS-related pneumocystis pneumonia. (Her son, Charlie, reportedly tested negative for HIV after his sister’s death: since a majority (75%) of children of women with HIV are not infected even without prophylaxis, his status does not suggest that Maggiore was not herself infected.)”
I realize that your head is still probably spinning from reading such a quick 180-degree turnaround, but there are a couple of assertions in the above statements that I'd like to discuss.
The first of these is the AIDSTruth assertion that fatal pneumonia is “extremely rare” in 52-year-old women. Several days after Christine's death, I had the occasion to debate with someone else who made exactly the same claim, so I looked up the relevant CDC statistics, and found that annual fatal pneumonia cases in women aged 45-54 outnumber fatal pneumonias in all age groups younger than 45 combined. Given the fact that most of these deaths occur in wintertime and Christine died two days after Christmas, it is in fact entirely reasonable to infer from the statistics that in the month of December, a woman in that age group dies of pneumonia somewhere in the US literally every single day, on average. “Extremely rare” indeed!
Bergman further exposes how utterly disingenuous her argument is by her claim that Christine refused ARV medication on the basis of Duesberg's claim that HIV is harmless. It is an amply-documented fact that Christine's decision not to medicate her alleged HIV infection was made long before she'd ever even heard of Peter Duesberg, and was based primarily on the advice of her doctor that she should not take meds until she actually got sick. Of course, it is true that after Christine abandoned her former belief that HIV causes AIDS, this resulted in her continuing to refuse ARVs, but given the fact that her doctor had advised her not to take them unless she got sick (standard procedure in 1992 in the case of healthy HIV-positives) and the fact that she remained “ridiculously healthy” right up until the last few weeks of her life, it is every bit likely that even if she'd never heard of Dr. Duesberg, she still might never have taken ARVs. I would seriously doubt that Jeanne Bergman herself actually believes her own claim; the fact is that Bergman and others like her (the real denialists, in my opinion,) will say anything to convince you that anyone who questions the HIV/AIDS hypothesis is a murderer by virtue of causing people like Christine and myself to refuse “lifesaving” medication, and to this end, the demolition of truth is considered nothing more than collateral damage.
The third issue that I'd like to submit for your consideration is Bergman's assertion that “False-negative HIV tests are extremely rare, while false positives are much more common, though infrequent. This fact and all the other available evidence strongly indicate that Maggiore was never infected with HIV...” I would agree 100% with that statement. In fact, I have learned that false positives outnumber false negatives by an order of hundreds, and that it is considered common knowledge among HIV experts that virtually all false negatives occur within six months after initial infection, and that false negatives are considered to be virtually unheard-of after that six month window has elapsed.
But wait – Christine tested negative and indeterminate repeatedly about 1 year after her initial positive test. This means, with almost absolute certainty, that Christine was not infected with HIV at all, but was rather a textbook example of what's known as a “persistent false positive” – someone who doesn't actually have HIV, but who, for whatever reasons, repeatedly tests false positive.
So little Eliza Jane died of AIDS-related pneumonia despite the fact that she didn't have pneumonia and couldn't possibly have had HIV, (since her mother was HIV-negative,) and despite the fact that her symptoms in no way resembled AIDS and bore every resemblance to a textbook adverse reaction to amoxicillin, and Christine herself died of AIDS-related pneumonia despite the fact that she didn't have HIV.
….Just who is it that's in denial here?
Of course, if Christine didn't have HIV, then that leaves the very interesting question of why she died of what had every appearance of being AIDS.
I would submit that, like all AIDS cases, Christine's fatal illness was the result of a combination of factors, and that in Christine's case those factors included prolonged stress of unusual intensity, and toxicity from drugs and medical treatments in the last weeks of her life.
I am not one of those AIDS dissidents who seems to feel compelled to insist that Christine was spectacularly healthy from birth right up until the day she suddenly keeled over dead. I see too many reasons to believe that Christine's health was less than perfect for several years of her life, though I am thoroughly convinced that she did maintain impeccable health for the bulk of the last 17 years of her life.
At the time of her diagnosis, Christine's CD4 count was over 1700, and she'd been treated for a chronic thyroid illness since early adulthood, with drugs that had caused her to experience all sorts of devastating side effects, including chronic deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, elevated heart rate, elevated metabolic rate, uncontrollable weight loss, chronic illness, severe outbreaks of Herpes sores, swollen lymph nodes, and what her doctor described as a “devastation” of her immune system. I do not know the nature or severity of her underlying illness, only that it turned out that she didn't have a thyroid disorder to begin with, and she later mentioned that the illness had cleared up only a few years after her first positive HIV test, and that she credited her improved health to improvements that she'd made in her diet and her lifestyle, and to having discontinued the medications that she'd been taking for 15 years before she tested positive. In an interview with Splash Media, Maggiore noted that after she stopped taking these medications, she had stopped having cold sores altogether, and that she'd also noticed the complete cessation of all of the other symptoms – gone were the swollen lymph nodes, the chronic illness, and the mineral deficiencies, and her immune system seemed to recover quickly after she discontinued the medication. Given my own medical history and statements that I've made elsewhere in this book concerning the link between autoimmune disease and elevated CD4 counts, it seems at least plausible that Christine was suffering from some form of undiagnosed autoimmune disease at the time of her HIV diagnosis (possibly caused or at least exacerbated by the medications she'd taken for so long), and that this was what caused her to test false positive when she did.
After her diagnosis, however, she did manage to improve her health dramatically by making healthier choices. As her 50th birthday approached, she still maintained a youthful appearance and a high energy level, all the while maintaining a grueling workload. This would have been impossible for someone such as myself who has less-than-perfect health, and very difficult even for someone of average health for a woman her age. It therefore seems more than reasonable to believe that during this period, her description of herself as “ridiculously healthy” was accurate.
As for stress, I doubt that I need to be redundant in my description of the last 3 years of her life.
Several weeks before Christine died, she began a parasite cleanse which had been recommended by her doctor. This regimen left Christine lethargic and dehydrated. There are those among the dissidents who maintain that this treatment was a contributing factor in her death, and I would not necessarily dispute nor endorse this claim; however, I raise the issue in order to bring up a more important point: Christine Maggiore was not the type of person to submit to (or for that matter continue) a toxic treatment regimen unless she were already suffering from some measurable health complaint prior to starting treatment. This is evidenced by the fact that she did not start antiretroviral medication even in the days when she believed that she had HIV and that HIV would surely kill her. Nothing in Christine's history suggests to me that she condoned any form of preventive treatment in the absence of illness, unless that treatment were harmless. Given that this parasite cleanse was not harmless, it seems unthinkable that she would have undergone such a treatment, unless she was already suffering from some sort of illness and she were reasonably convinced that the benefits of the treatment would outweigh the risk of toxic side effects.
At this point, it bears repeating that only recently, Christine had watched herself metaphorically burned in effigy on her television screen, and the experience had left her with a stress-induced rash. She explained on her podcast (www.howpositiveareyou.com), that the reason for her stress was that she felt that the program (along with two similar programs that had aired previously,) were the embodiment of a collective death wish against her, held by the AIDS activist community at large.
Lest the reader be tempted to dismiss Christine's feelings as mere understandable paranoia on her part, here's a tidbit of TV trivia for ya: The October 28 episode of Law & Order: SVU was financed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In an April 1, 2009 article, the New York Times reported this fact, along with the information that the Gates Foundation had similarly financed episodes of Private Practice and ER, that the Kaiser Family Foundation had long been making similar deals with CBS and UPN, for the purpose of working story lines about HIV and AIDS into their programs, including an episode of the reality series, America's Next Top Model,and that the Gates Foundation had plans for a future partnership with Viacom, which would be called “Get Schooled”, and which would result in the insertion of similar messages (alleged to be socially positive messages, though I fail to see how the murder by proxy of an innocent bereaved mother could be mistaken for a socially positive act,) into programs on the VH1, Nickelodeon, MTV, and BET networks. Welcome to the age of the stealth infomercial, ladies and gentlemen, where “news” is actually entertisement and “entertainment” is actually adverganda. Was Christine paranoid for perceiving these programs as the expression of a collective death wish against her? Well, like the man said, “It ain't paranoia if they're really out to get you, now is it?”
Further evidence that Christine was under an unbelievable amount of stress in her final weeks comes from political journalist Terry Michael, who had dinner with Christine just a few weeks before her death, and posted the following at his website shortly after she died:
“Christine Maggiore died December 27, 2008. I had dinner with her on November 13, 2008 on a trip to Los Angeles, by chance just six weeks before her death. She appeared physically healthy but in great emotional stress from the airing two weeks earlier of a "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" episode (Season 10, Episode 5, "Retro", October 28, 2008.) The cheesy, sordid TV drama fictionalized Maggiore's life, alluding to the death of her 3-year-old daughter, who died in May 2005, of what a Los Angeles coroner's report--produced four months after the death--ruled was AIDS-related pneumonia, without any evidence of an "HIV positive" blood test. Maggiore and her husband, Robin Scovill, engaged a toxicologist to review the autopsy, producing a report that asserted the death was due to an adverse reaction to an anti-biotic the child was given for an ear infection. After the daughter's death, Scovill and his 13-year-old son Charlie, who he fathered with Maggiore, agreed to take the "HIV blood test" and both were found to be "negative" for the proteins Gallo and Montagnier claimed were associated with anti-bodies to the allegedly blood-and-semen-borne pathogen.
Those of us who knew Christine and admired her courage, tenacity and intellectually rigorous research into the HIV=AIDS enigma believe the illness she suffered for several weeks, that resulted in her death, was at least partly--and probably mostly-- psychogenically induced, from the emotional burden of that scurrilous TV show and the cumulative effect of hate directed at her for 15 years by The HIV-AIDS Industrial Complex.” [emphasis in original]
Stress.... …..hmmm ... Now, I'm just speculating here, but do you think that three years of living under the weight of a death in the family (the very worst kind, no less), while being falsely accused of murder for your own bereavement, followed by repeatedly watching your own death in effigy on TV, combined with years of depression, insomnia, and loss of appetite from stress and resultant malnutrition – d'you think maybe that after having suffered such a series of emotional and physical stressors, that stress alone might be enough to make you begin to become more than a little sick, perhaps enough so as to drive you to take a chance on a toxic regimen recommended by a doctor you trust, despite your usual policy of avoiding toxic therapies unless you believe you have a serious illness for which there is absolutely no safer or more effective remedy? Now, what happens when you pile a toxic medical treatment on top of an immune system already overloaded by all these emotional stressors?
Can you say “AIDS”, boys and girls? I knew you could.
In the days of witch trials, a method was devised of determining the guilt of the accused by means of what was called “Trial by Ordeal”. The basic premise was that a true witch could not be drowned, and so the court would order the accused to be subjected to mortal peril (usually an attempted drowning,) and if the accused died, she was presumed to be innocent, and was believed to be promoted straightaway into Heaven, but if the accused survived, then she was found guilty and was sentenced to death.
Given that stress, social ostracization, and good-old-fashioned voodoo death curses are known to be potentially fatal, Christine spent the last 42 months of her 52-year life being subjected to a modern-day form of Trial by Ordeal, with a new twist in the form of a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” clause. If Christine survived the constant assault of a collective death wish, she was guilty and deserving of death for her heresy, but if she died, she was guilty and deserving of death for her heresy.
...And then there was the stress inherent in being an AIDS dissident to begin with.
Those who have not walked that particular mile in the shoes of an HIV-positive AIDS dissident like Christine or myself cannot imagine what a hostile world we dissidents face on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, you do not need to imagine it, as I can describe it with a simple recent example:
A dissident friend of mine named Jonathan maintains a web presence at resistanceisfruitful.com, where he blogs regularly about HIV and health.
Not long ago, he developed a rash of large purple sores on both of his legs. He sought the advice of a doctor, who diagnosed venous insufficiency (a circulatory problem having nothing to do with HIV infection,) and after successful treatment, Jon posted before and after pictures of his legs on his blog.
This drew the following series of comments from AIDS activist J. Todd DeShong:
“It is amazing that no one has left a message in the last four weeks since you posted this miraculous cure. I wonder why that is?
“Perhaps it is because I, your mentor, has not posted a message regarding this miracle? Do you think, Jonatha?[sic]
“Where is Karri Stokely? Where is Brian Carter? Where are any of the AIDS Denialists? Perhaps they do not actually care about your prognosis?
“I am certain that you have not even considered the fact that none of these people who came to your aid when that big, bad AIDS Truther J. Todd DeShong posted his sincere wishes for your health and the prognosis of your leg over a month ago????? “Jonathan have you wondered where they have been? Have you even considered that NONE of these people put their lives NOR their careers on the line in the past month?...
“...Why do you think no one has come to your blog to offer good wishes about your health? It is because they do not care. It is only because they wanted to post defamatory remarks about me. NOT because they care about you. Just as the denialists do not care about Kim Bannon now or about Rex Poindexter in the past!
“Think about it!...
“...Don’t you see? If they chose to wish you good health via personal means, then why did they chose to pounce on me via this blog? It is because of me. And only me. These denialists only care about you as long as you tow the dissident line. Which of course, you have not. You and I both know that. You can be as hypocritical as you need to be to keep these people around you. However, it is obvious to myself and others who have their mental faculties about them, that you are just a lowly pawn in a futile, pathetic agenda.
“Why not just be honest with yourself and others? It will bring you much needed relief. The truth, will set you free. As trite as it sounds, it is true.
“How long do you need to surround yourself with those who do not care about you?
“Think about it....
“...Before and After both look like Kaposi Sarcoma to me. However, I know that David Crowe has said that I am not a Health Care Provider and that you lied and said I am a 'laboratory clerk'…although I am certified by the Am Society of Clinical PATHOLOGISTS…the Society who decide this type of cancer…that I am not worthy…however, you may want to get another opinion as you obviously have KS, the GAY CANCER!!!!” [all emphasis and punctuation in original]
And if J. Todd DeShong acted alone, his actions might be easily dismissed as the work of a lone zealot. However, human vultures work in packs, as evidenced by another commenter on the same blog who identified himself only as “Oleanly”:
“Seriosly[sic]- looks like you might have KS dude. You don’t want to be added to the list of denialists who have died. Get it checked out by a physician- seriously.”
Imagine, if you would, living in a world where you are beset on all sides by the likes of DeShong; vultures who stalk you (and what DeShong regularly does to Jonathan is the very definition of cyberstalking,) waiting for you to show any sign of illness, so that they can pounce on you and declare that you have AIDS.
Having at least walked the proverbial mile in Christine's shoelaces if not her shoes, I can honestly say that I understand what she meant when she used to complain that she felt that she wasn't allowed to get sick.
However, what I and Jon and most other dissidents like us have experienced is nothing – a tiny fraction of a fraction of what Christine endured. I think that by now I don't need to tell you that I'm no stranger to extremes of stress; indeed stress is to me like that old friend you never hang out with anymore because you know him all too well and you're tired of his shit – and yet the extremes of stress that Christine endured are incomprehensible to me – I literally cannot wrap my brain around it.
Christine lived (as many of us do) surrounded by human vultures – the only species of vulture known to be an opportunistic predator rather than a mere scavenger. Human vultures stalk their prey with a watchful eye for the slightest sign of illness, and at the first sign of opportunity they attack their prey with a piercing bird-call: “A-HA! A-HA! AIDS! AIDS!”
And God forbid that the human vultures' quarry should die of any natural cause, for they will feast upon her flesh, and use it to feed their own delusions of immortality.
Since Christine died, HIV believers have asked me whether her death has caused me to reconsider my opinions about HIV and AIDS, and more than one dissident has confronted me for being so callous as to suggest that she died of AIDS, but in my heart of hearts, I reconcile the questions of both sides by saying, “If Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-Wee Herman) went blind immediately after having a bad case of welder's burn, it wouldn't cause me to reconsider whether masturbation causes blindness, so why should I reconsider whether HIV causes AIDS, simply because someone I knew died of AIDS immediately after being subjected to 3 1/2 years of the sort of stress that would have killed me in about 3 1/2 minutes?”
And in fact, this analogy doesn't do justice to the facts, when you consider that there is compelling evidence that Paul Reubens has masturbated, while there is no compelling evidence that Christine Maggiore ever had HIV.
Blindness exists and there exists an immune condition which we might call “AIDS”, which is characterized by the loss of immune function, opportunistic infection, chronic disease, and death, but make no mistake – Masturbation does not cause blindness, and HIV does not cause AIDS.
Having told her story as completely as I can, I'd like to allow Christine to have the last word on her own death. In response to an interviewer's question concerning whether she thought she would eventually develop AIDS, Christine had this to say:
“There is no way that I can die of anything except AIDS, because I've tested HIV-positive. No matter what happens to me – if I'm hit by a meteor, my death will go in the 'AIDS' category, because if you look in the US Centers for Disease Control report, where it lists deaths in people with AIDS, you don't have to die of AIDS to go in that category. So once you test positive, that's it – you can't die of anything else. They'll call it 'AIDS-related/AIDS complications' if it's so far removed from the constellation of illnesses that are called 'AIDS'. Like right now, the leading cause of death in HIV-positive Americans is organ failure from the drug therapies ... You die of organ failure while on AIDS drugs, not of AIDS; guess what you are – you're an AIDS death. There's no way to escape the category. If I'm hit by a bus – you know … it's ridiculous but it's true. That's where I'm going.”
A few months after Christine's death, a filmmaker named Brent Leung released a documentary about AIDS entitled House of Numbers. The film explores many of the same questions explored by Christine's book and Robin's film, and features an interview with Christine. During the course of the interview, several of what are presumably Christine's HIV tests are displayed on the screen.
This sequence from the film prompted the following diatribe from our old friend, Jeanne Bergman, who is apparently now convinced that the evidence presented in Leung's film proves conclusively that Christine was indisputably infected with HIV:
Updated December 23, 2009
"House of Numbers" offers new information about the late Christine Maggiore's experience with HIV testing. In the movie, her oral narrative and the dated lab reports on screen simply don't correspond. By including the lab documents, the film provides evidence that Maggiore was indeed HIV infected, and the earliest reports suggest that her immune system was controlling the virus well initially. What follows is a verbatim transcription of the history she gave in House of Numbers, with a description of what was shown on screen and what it means medically.
Christine Maggiore: “In 1992, I was encouraged by a doctor to take what’s called an HIV test as a matter of social responsibility, and I was shocked and devastated and horrified when the results came back positive. It was one of those moments that everyone fears their whole life. A week later, I take the same test to an AIDS specialist. He looks and says, this isn’t a positive test. I don’t know what this test means.”
The screen shows a lab report from Patricia O’Connell, NP, for Christine Maggiore, dated 02/24/92. The ELISA (EIA) screening test for HIV antibodies result is positive, and the Western blot shows two reactive bands, p24 and gp120/160, but no others. The Western blot is reported as “positive,” with the additional comment running out of shot, saying, “If the test results are not consistent with the clinical…”
A WB showing both p24 and gp120/160 bands but not Pol bands such as p31 is quite likely to be from a person truly infected with HIV but in the earliest stages before the full range of antibodies have developed. However, there have been rare cases where such patterns have later proven to be false positives. Kleinman et al, for example, found 20 such false positives (without p31) in a series of over 5 million tests from low risk blood donors (a 0.0004% false positive rate). Particularly given that at this stage Maggiore had no known risk for HIV infection, the specialist was quite correct to be cautious and read the test results as “indeterminate” – that is, requiring further testing before making a firm diagnosis.
See, for example: Kleinman et al: False-positive HIV-1 test results in a low-risk screening setting of voluntary blood donation. Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study. JAMA. 1998 Sep 23-30;280(12):1080-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9757856
Maggiore: “So I take the test again, and this time my results come back from the lab marked “’indeterminate.”
The screen shows part of an undated report with GAG and ENV bands reactive but no reactivity to POL proteins. This is essentially the same result as the first Western Blot, but is more cautiously interpreted as “indeterminate” (requiring further testing) rather than “positive”. Indeterminate results can be from cross-reacting antibodies, or they can be because the test was taken before the full range of antibodies to different HIV proteins has developed, often several months after the initial infection. While a p24 plus gp120/160 pattern is more likely to be the latter, you cannot be absolutely certain without doing follow-up testing over the ensuing weeks.
Maggiore: “I’m faced with a decision: do I want to wait six weeks to test again, or do it right away? I opted for right away. My results that time come back positive.”
At this stage she is still with the first specialist, in early 1992. But we don’t see the positive result slip for the test Maggiore is talking about on the screen: instead we are shown a result from 23rd September 1993 – a year and a half later. The 23rd September 1993 result shows all eight bands on the Western blot – an unequivocally positive result.
Maggiore: “Took it again, came back negative.”
We now fast forward from early 1992 to a result slip dated 9th August 1993. Only a fragment is visible. It appears to be a test related in some way to HIV, but it is not clear what kind of test it is, whether an antibody test or perhaps a p24 antigen test. HIV-1 p24 antigen tests in 1992 were very insensitive and usually only reacted positive during seroconversion and later in the course of the disease when viral load levels were high. P24antigen tests cannot, by themselves, be used to exclude HIV infection.
The shot has been cropped so that the text immediately before the “HIV” is out of vision, but there is a fragment of a character at the edge of the frame that looks like a “4.” Immediately after and below the “HIV” text are illegible printer marks that don’t occur elsewhere on this image of the slip, suggesting the possibility some text may have faded or been incompletely erased.
The test result slip as shown is unhelpful in determining whether Christine Maggiore was ever given a negative diagnosis for HIV infection.
Maggiore: “I took it again—positive”
Presumably the test she is referring to here is the one shown earlier, dated 23rd September 1993, and showing all eight bands on the Western blot.
The screen shows a result from 29th September. It is normal practice to immediately repeat a positive HIV test to exclude handling or laboratory errors. The result shown appears to be the check test for the positive result from the specimen taken a week earlier. That result is:
HIV-1 IgG CONFIRMATION IB Positive
(IB stands for “immunoblot” or “Western blot”)
HIV-1 Ab IgG EIA 9.9
(An EIA or ELISA reading of 9.9 is very high, well beyond the range of most false positive readings which are usually between about 1.0 and 2.0)
Maggiore: I’m very much opposed to the concept of mandatory testing of any population, because the tests are scientifically shown to be unreliable and inaccurate.
With the exception of the August 1993 test “result” which lacks any information even about what type of test it was, the series of results shown on HoN shows beyond any reasonable doubt that Maggiore had HIV. The first tests from February 1992-on show reactive EIA with initially indeterminate WBs which, according to Maggiore, eventually resolved to a clear positive (but we don’t see this first clear positive result on screen). This is a typical series of results for someone who starts testing a short time after being infected with HIV.
The second series of diagnostic tests in September 1993 includes two WBs a week apart, one of which is reported simply as positive, and one of which individually reports all eight bands as reactive – an unequivocally positive result. There is also at least one EIA done in this series, and it reacts at 9.9 – a very clear positive.
Far from showing that HIV testing is “scientifically shown to be unreliable and inaccurate,” the series of tests shown on HoN demonstrates that Maggiore’s specialists were diligent and cautious in interpreting her test results, and only gave her a positive diagnosis once the evidence proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the results were true positives.
HouseofNumbers.org thanks the specialists who provided a careful analysis of Maggiore's test results.
I want the reader to disregard anything I've said up until this point about Christine's or Jeanne Bergman's credibility. Disregard the fact that Bergman apparently adopts whatever belief is convenient to her at the moment and defends it as the absolute truth, and disregard the fact that I never caught Christine in a lie, despite having checked the facts that she offered on numerous occasions. Also, ignore completely the fact that Bergman's latest argument is based not on evidence, but on absence of evidence – Leung didn't include any indeterminate or negative tests from 1993 in his film, therefore, according to Bergman, they don't exist. I want the reader, for the moment, to consider the possibility that in fact Jeanne Bergman is 100% correct in her latest version of the “Absolute Truth”, and that Christine lied about having negative and/or indeterminate HIV tests at any point later than early 1992.
If Bergman is correct, then according to the prevailing theory on the “window period” of HIV testing, there is a 99% chance that Christine was infected no earlier than late November of 1991, and virtually a 100% chance that she was infected no earlier than late August of 1991.
This is because the prevailing theory on the “window period” of HIV testing holds that during the first weeks after infection, the test may vacillate, but that after a period of three months has elapsed after initial infection, an HIV test is 99% sensitive (meaning that it will detect true infection 99% of the time.) After 6 months has elapsed, it is generally considered to be virtually 100% guaranteed that a truly infected person will test positive on an HIV test.
Thus, Christine Maggiore could not have been infected more than 3-6 months prior to her last negative or indeterminate test. Assuming that her last negative or indeterminate test was no later than late February 1992, this places the time of her initial infection no earlier than late November '91 with a 99% certainty, and no earlier than late August '91 at the very earliest with virtually a 100% certainty.
There's just one problem: At the time that Jeanne Bergman alleges Christine to have been infected, she was separated from the man who allegedly infected her by at least one continent and at least one ocean in any given direction. To her north, Christine was separated from Marco (who lived in Italy) by half of North America, the Arctic Ocean, and nearly all of Europe. To her south, they were separated by half of North America, all of South America, several oceans, the entire continents of Antarctica and Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea. To the east of her home in the Los Angeles area, there was North America and the Atlantic Ocean between them, and to her West lie the Pacific Ocean, Asia, and half of Europe.
Apparently, in addition to being able to shape-shift and time-travel, HIV is also capable of teleportation.
Bear in mind that after testing positive, Christine had contacted all of her prior sex partners and all of them had tested negative save Marco. He was the only HIV-positive partner she'd had, and is therefore the only possible person from whom she could possibly have gotten HIV.
How, other than by teleportation, can HIV cross oceans and continents to infect the formerpartner of an HIV-positive?
So, once again, we see that Jeanne Bergman's latest version of the “Truth” is, in fact, 100% impossible. If, as Bergman suggests, Christine's tests only vacillated in early 1992, and this means that she'd been recently infected at that time, then that places Christine's infected lover too far away to have possibly infected her at the time that Bergman claims that she was infected.
A favorite epithet that Bergman and pals use to refer to people like Christine and myself is the term “denialist”. In a later chapter, I shall further explore what this term reveals about the people like Bergman who use it in this manner, but for now I'd like to simply take this opportunity to point out that Bergman's behavior is the classic behavior of someone who is herself deeply in denial. She cherry-picks information in order to claim “absolute proof” of her belief du jour, and clings to her chosen belief with a desperation that can only be described as obsessive.
Why is it so important for Jeanne Bergman to believe whatever she seems so desperate to believe about Christine Maggiore? Why is she so obsessed with Christine Maggiore's HIV status, and why does she seem so desperate to believe that Christine was killed by HIV?
In the case of Jeanne Bergman, it is because Bergman is deeply in denial of the fact that Christine's blood is on her own hands. She and her fellow “AIDSTruthers” persecuted Christine Maggiore into an untimely grave, partly by doing a victory dance on the grave of Christine's daughter.
Given that fact, do you think that Bergman wants to know the truth about Christine's death? Would she rather believe that she murdered an innocent mother while dancing on an innocent child's grave, or do you think she'd rather believe that the true killer was a shape-shifting, time-traveling, teleporting virus?