Contested, and Contestable: AIDS, Pseudoscience, and the Formulation of Scientific Policy

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Title: Contested, and Contestable: AIDS, Pseudoscience, and the Formulation of Scientific Policy
Author: Morrison, Connor
Advisor: Muñoz, Braulio, 1946-
Department: Swarthmore College. Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: AIDS, like so many other epidemics before it, has posed a tremendous challenge to the global public-health establishment, but it has also s a uniquely tortured history that has been riddled with missed opportunities and bad decisions. When AIDS first appeared in the United States, federal funding for AIDS research was a contentious issue due to a perceived connection between AIDS and homosexuality, and homophobic sentiment impeded government action on AIDS until the eventual appearance of AIDS in the heterosexual population removed some of AIDS’s stigma. Then, two decades later, South African President Thabo Mbeki based his nation’s public health response to AIDS on the demonstrably false belief, advocated by the American biologist Peter Duesberg, that HIV was not the cause of AIDS, causing untold damage. This thesis analyzes the social dimensions of the global AIDS epidemic, paying special attention to the pseudoscience that shaped government AIDS policy in South Africa. Through a comparative analysis with other pseudoscientific movements, a taxonomy of pseudoscience is assembled. We see that pseudoscience owes much of its popularity to a mistrust of science and to a perception that scientific consensus is somehow unreliable; additionally, the rise of the internet has facilitated the circulation of pseudoscience and has made it likely that, going forward, pseudoscientific movements will play an increasingly prominent role in debates over, and the formulation of, scientific policy.
Subject: AIDS (Disease) -- Government policy
Subject: Pseudoscience
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Morrison, Connor. "Contested, and Contestable: AIDS, Pseudoscience, and the Formulation of Scientific Policy". 2011. Available electronically from

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