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Documentary Revives HIV/AIDS Conspiracy Theory Experts Say Could Harm Prevention Efforts In South Africa

The Guardian: Ex-mercenary claims South African group tried to spread AIDS
“A South Africa-based mercenary group has been accused by one of its former members of trying to intentionally spread [HIV] in southern Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. The claims are made by Alexander Jones in a documentary that premieres this weekend at the Sundance film festival. He says he spent years as an intelligence officer with the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), three decades ago, when it was masterminding coups and other violence across Africa. The film also explores the unexplained murder of a young SAIMR recruit in 1990, whose family believe was killed because of her work on an AIDS-related project run by the group in South Africa and Mozambique. And it also claims the group’s then leader had a racist, apocalyptic obsession with HIV/AIDS…” (Graham-Harrison et al., 1/27).

New York Times: Quest to Solve Assassination Mystery Revives an AIDS Conspiracy Theory
“…AIDS experts said the film’s claim — which arose in interviews with the former militia member, who described its activities over decades — unnecessarily gave currency to conspiracy theories. They warned that the claim could cause serious harm in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates. … Though the filmmakers present Mr. Jones as a self-assured whistle-blower, their notes from several interviews they conducted with him before the final taping reflect that he repeatedly denied that his group was involved in an AIDS project. … When asked about the discrepancies in Mr. Jones’s story, the filmmakers acknowledged that they could not corroborate the account and that the plan Mr. Jones had described might not have been medically possible. They encouraged journalists to investigate further…”