The Svecha Charitable Foundation, with the support of the Treatment Preparedness Coalition, conducted the first research in Russia to analyze the anti-scientific movement of HIV / AIDS dissidents on social networks and its negative impact on the opinion of people living with HIV.
AIDS dissidents believe that the human immunodeficiency virus does not exist, and AIDS is the result of other non-infectious factors. This approach is widespread, but it is pseudoscientific and detrimental to people living with HIV, since under the influence of AIDS dissidents, patients refuse treatment.
The researchers studied the largest community of AIDS dissidents, VKontakte, found out who constitutes the core of the movement and how its members are related to each other, and also collected data on rhetorical strategies of movement, with the help of which they influence “newcomers” who have just learned about their diagnosis., and "doubters" - those who did not accept either one or the other point of view.
According to the results of the study, AIDS dissidents use the opposition of personal experience to medical experience as a persuasion strategy: as an argument in favor of AIDS dissidence, examples are given of how someone has been living with a diagnosis of HIV infection for several years, does not accept therapy and does not has health problems. “In reality, the immune system of each of us is individual, in someone's body the virus can“sleep”for several years and not make itself felt, and in someone the disease develops very rapidly,” the authors of the study note.
In addition, AIDS dissidents often use pseudoscientific and ideological arguments to support their beliefs about the grand conspiracy theory of pharmaceutical companies and governments, collusion among the governments of major countries, and spread false information about the ineffectiveness and toxicity of antiretroviral therapy.
After studying the rhetoric of representatives of the movement, the researchers formulated recommendations for medical institutions and patients that will help reduce the dangerous impact of AIDS dissidents on HIV-infected people. Researchers propose to change the existing approach to patient counseling, provide patients with full information about the risks of refusing therapy, develop information materials on possible adverse events of taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and conduct detailed consultations on this topic. It is also necessary to pay special attention to discordant couples and pregnant HIV-positive women.
Researchers have identified at least 1,369 at-risk members of Russia's largest online community of AIDS dissidents and hope they have persuaded them to seek the right treatment.
Recall that in July the UN named Russia the epicenter of the global HIV epidemic - according to the latest statistics on the incidence rate, Russia has overtaken even the countries of South Africa in terms of the spread of the epidemic. The number of cases of HIV infection in Russia is growing by 10-12% annually, now there are about a million people with this diagnosis in the country. Why everyone should be tested for HIV and what to do next, we talked about in a separate article.
You can read more about the research results here.