Getting beyond a joke

BBC: Concern over HIV homeopathy role

Doctors and health charities have expressed concern about a conference which will examine the role of homeopathy in treating HIV.

The event includes discussion of what have been described as "healing remedies" for HIV and AIDS.

One of the speakers believes that the treatment, involving flower essences, can be used to halt the AIDS epidemic.

In case any of these homeopaths were wondering, the 'V' in HIV stands for virus. Viruses are parasitic segments of genetic code which replicate by incorporating themselves into their host's own genetic material and piggybacking on the host's genetic replication process. It is debatable whether viruses should be viewed as living organisms at all, but they often participate in evolutionary arms races with their hosts as the hosts evolve counter-measures against the viruses and the viruses evolve corresponding counter-counter measures.

Antibiotics, the most powerful form of medicine known to man, have no effect on viruses. In order to fight viruses such as HIV, we need to develop special anti-viral drugs. In the case of HIV treatment, patients require a cocktail of other drugs to treat the undesirable side-effects of the anti-viral drugs—and other drugs to overcome the side-effects of some of those drugs. It's far from an ideal situation, but it's the best we have at present—and it has vastly extended the life-expectancy of those people with HIV who are lucky enough to live in countries which can afford such treatments.

Adding a few homeopathic sugar-pills to the cocktail of real medicines given to people with HIV will not (and, indeed, cannot) do any harm. But be in no doubt whatsoever that near-infinite dilutions of flower essences have no role to play in our genetic war against the human immunodeficiency virus.

Anyone who advocates homeopathy as an alternative treatment to HIV, however, deserves to be set on fire. Then put out very slowly.

With a spade.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. To be open minded about this, you could say that........oh, shit..I can't keep it up....homeopathy is just garbage. Anyone too stupid, ignorant or apathetic to seek real information about any remedy (albeit approved drugs or bogus snake-oil) deserves what they get potion-wise. We live in a fabulous age of information and misinformation, we just have to use our brains a little.

  2. I have ranted before that in combination with real medicine homeopathy has a potential role as an application of the placebo effect, but this is madness. I'll hold the matches.

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