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Today is World AIDS Day, and the Society of Homeopaths is holding a meeting to “discuss the evidence” concerning the idea that you can treat AIDS with sugar pills. Needless to say, there is no evidence to discuss, but that doesn’t put them off for a moment.

Not content with killing people with malaria, some homeopaths are now into killing people with AIDS, by treating them with their funny water. That is a serious allegation, but how else can one interpret the treatment of people with serious diseases with sugar pills?

It isn’t only pharmacologists who believe that. Even the better-educated homeopaths would take a position not much different from mine. Of course they word it a bit more diplomatically than me, in a vain attempt to disguise the obvious fact that there is
now all out internecine warfare between medically-qualified homeopaths (in the Faculty of Homeopathy), and the far greater number of non-medical homeopaths (in the Society of Homeopaths, among other splinter groups).

For the malaria scandal, click here and here, and follow the links. Recall that Peter Fisher (of the Faculty of Homepaths) said of that scandal

“I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.”

The two warring branches of homeopathy have fallen out over immunisation too.

The medical side, the Faculty of Homeopathy, recently issued a statement about AIDS.

Statement from the Faculty of Homeopathy on HIV/AIDS
27-11-2007, 9:57 am

In the light of current knowledge, homeopathic treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS should not replace, but may usefully sit alongside, conventional
anti-retroviral treatment. However, the Faculty regrets that for many people in developing countries like Africa, antiretroviral drugs may not be available.


. . .


The Faculty of Homeopathy does not support the approach of and claims made by Peter Chappell for the use of “PC” remedies.

The “PC remedies” referred to here are advocated by one of the speakers at the meeting, Harry van der Zee. They were ‘invented’ by Peter Chappell (the chap condemned by the Faculty of Homeopathy). They are probably not even homeopathic but it’s hard to say, since they’ll say next to nothing about what’s in these “remedies”.Chappell and van der Zee are respectively chairman and treasurer of the Amma Resonance Healing Foundation (ARHF), the folks who think you can cure AIDS by downloading music. OK that is not homeopathy either, though it does have in common the delusion that you can cure viral infections with nothing whatsoever.
Incidentally, one can’t help wondering if it is a coincidence that the Amma Resonance Healing Foundation (ARHF) has almost the same initials as AHRF, the totally respectable African HIV Research Forum. It was presumably in an attempt to gain respectability that the press release from the Society of Homeopaths, signed by Jayne Thomas, had a single link at the bottom to the National AIDS Trust (NAT). Or at least it did until the ever alert quackometer blogger told NAT about it, whereupon they were told by NAT to remove it. NAT is a serious organisation that has no truck with sugar pills.


Today Programme. The Society of Homeopaths’ conference was featured on the Today programme this morning, Hear the interview here [mp3 file, 1.6 Mb]Jayne Thomas spoke for the Society of Homeopaths. She is Vice Chair of the Society of Homeopaths, Chair of the Professional Standards Committee and Professional Conduct Director. When challenged about how they fail ever to find fault with a member, however grossly that member breaches the society’s own code of ethics, she denied everything (see links in the follow up for more on that)Jayne Thomas also said, of today’s conference

“today will afford a critical examination of those opportunities we may have to provide relief to patients”

The interviewer, Edward Stourton, said

“The ambition of the meeting sounds relatively modest. They’re just going to discuss the evidence and presumably if it doesn’t stack up to much we’ll hear that.”

I just hope that Today will have a follow-up to see what the “critical examination” will yield. Perhaps a statement from the Society of Homeopaths that there is no evidence and that it “doesn’t stack up to much”?

Somehow I doubt it. But watch this space.

Follow up

Letting off steam posted the results of a complaint against a member of the Society of Homeopaths, Sue Young. Young persistently makes claims to cure specific, serious diseases, in clear contravention of the SoH’s (utterly ineffective) code of ethics. Needless to say, the complaint got nowhere. Just read the account here if you were inclined to give a moment’s credence to Jayne Thomas’s remarks about self-regulation on the Today programme yesterday.


Quackometer has some relevant comments. In particular he points out the disgraceful and inconsistent attempts of the Society of Homeopaths to pretend that their members had nothing to do with the malaria scam.

Gimpy blog makes related points

Badscience this week is on the ball, as always, with “AIDS Quackery International Tour”

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17 Responses to AIDS: more homeopathic killing

  • I just listened to DC’s radio clash with Jayne Thomas. At one point Thomas referred to a 1999 study on the efficacy of homeopathy in treating HIV +ve patients, claiming that a homeopathic remedy increased CD4 counts.

    I think she must have been referring to this paper (Rastogi DP, Singh VP, Singh V, Dey SK, Rao K. Homeopathy in HIV infection: a trial report of double-blind placebo controlled study.
    Br Homeopath J. 1999 Apr;88(2):49-57.
    PMID: 10335412).
    This is one of only 15 publications in Medline with the key words HIV and homeopathy, and judging by the abstracts it’s the only one in the whole homeopathic literature that includes some kind of objective lab measure of efficacy (CD4 counts).
    If anyone can get hold of a pdf of this paper, I would be interested in reading it. I would like to see how the study holds up compared to some of the dozens of trials of other HIV treatments.
    In particular, there have been many attempts to treat HIV with a variety of innovative, unconventional and even bizarre approaches that at least have (or had) a kind of plausible scientific basis.
    Some appear to be effective (IL-2 treatment as adjuvant for antiretroviral drug therapy for example – that really dose boost CD4 counts), others have not shown any beneficial effects. The point is that they have all been tested in a rational way, and it takes more than one study (run by the inventors) to make a reasonable claim for the efficacy of a treatment.

  • PS, after checking Peter Chappell’s Vital Remedies site, it appears they are touting PC preparations in pill form
    http://www.vitalremedies.com/ordering.php
    You are supposed to buy the codes from Chappell, then give the secret code to one of three homeopathic drug companies, who’ll make them up for you – presumably by playing the radio at a bottle of sugar pills. So Chappell’s PC nonsense is part of the homeopathy business after all.
    Another infuriating thing is that after pages of testimonials claiming efficacy for everything from AIDS to multiple sclerosis http://www.vitalremedies.com/testimonials.php#ms, there is a feeble disclaimer at the end of the ordering section.
    It’s all too slick and calculated just to be the ravings of a sadly deluded but harmless crank. I’m afraid Mr Chappell is the worst kind of ambulance-chasing snake-oil salesman.

    I’ve copied the disgraceful MS “case report” here below, in case he takes it off his site in future. It seems to me he is very specifically claiming that his PC “remedy” succesfully treats MS:

    Multiple Sclerosis Case – in brief

    First symptoms 1984. Diagnosis made 1992

    Main Symptoms:
    Tired.
    Ascending numbness in left arm and left leg.
    Numbness of the tongue.
    Vertigo.
    Loss of strength.
    Awkwardness of left hand

    Treatment: Has had Cocculus since 1992. Responded ‘well’ for many years, nevertheless there has been a slow deterioration. No effect of other resonances tried. In 2004 mentally and physically really bad. Strong twitch like cramping of the eyes. Nothing helps.

    PC243p for Multiple Sclerosis given. There is a quick improvement.

    Mood much better ‘I feel more fit’.
    Numbness under feet gone after each dose.
    More firm on her feet than in years.
    Can wear slippers again (could only walk on high shoes for the last ten years).
    Can make longer walks now. Can stand and work in the kitchen longer. Uses her wheelchair less.

    Later…
    Since taking PC Multiple Sclerosis daily the tingling no longer tends to return but is for 95% gone.

    This summer she has made a walk on her bare feet on the beach, something which was impossible for more than ten years. Walking and standing remain better without relapses.

    Two-and-a-half year after starting with PC MS is stable.

    Taking 3 drops of PC Multiple Sclerosis daily works best for her, and once the improvement is stable she can stop taking it for weeks to months.

  • I’m interested in this from the FoH:

    In the light of current knowledge, homeopathic treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS should not replace, but may usefully sit alongside, conventional anti-retroviral treatment.

    For what benefit might I ask, apart from as a vehicle to extract money from the seriously ill?

  • I wonder the same thing as PV — just what benefit might anyone with HIV derive from taking sugar pills or drinking water? I also wonder just why there seems to be some sort of slack given to members of the FoH when homeopathy is discussed. Just because they’re all medical doctors surely doesn’t absolve them of believing in homeopathic gobbledegook.

  • Having listened again to Saturday’s Today programme item on homeopathy and AIDS, it is interesting to analyse Jayne Thomas’s answers. She does what the alternative ‘therapists’ all seem to do, which is to evade the questions. The interviewer first asked her ‘What sort of claims do you make in terms of degree of treatment which can be effective’? to which she replied ‘The symposium is about evaluating…… ‘. She then mentioned that there had been two trials, which they were ‘seeking to take further…’ – unlikely in a symposium and was the answer to another, unasked question. The subsequent question was answered with ‘There was a trial in 1999…’ but she didn’t indicate whether this was one of the trials to which she had previously referred.

    When asked whether the homeopaths in Africa were perhaps giving people ‘unjustified hope’, she rather piously replied that it was good to give people hope, before claiming that if any of their members gave false hopes it would be deemed unprofessional and dealt with accordingly, which, as past records and recent writings have indicated, is unlikely to happen.

    When DC brought up the subject of prophylaxis for malaria, she said she was glad this had arisen because the SoH encourages professional regulation and still did not really address the topic of the claims and their lack of reality.

    Overall she did not answer a single question directly (as bad as politicians): I found her delivery quite offensive with its ‘holier than thou’ insinuations.

    Another thing that struck me was that at one point, the interviewer said to DC, ‘David Colquoun, obviously you don’t like it…’. Journalists need to be challenged when they use language like this. It is insulting to serious scientists, because whether or not DC liked what was being said is irrelevant: it is the scientific truth that is being discussed, not a few chatty opinions.

    Finally did anyone note the air-time given to each speaker? JT appeared to have a little more, but then I guess I am biased!

  • My guess is that there is a bigger budget for media training available to SoH spokespeople than, perhaps, to serious scientists! Lindy’s point about not answering questions directly is well made – I would just add, not answering directly while appearing to do so by first repeating the question before diverting the discussion onto prepared themes.

  • The really frustrating thing is that the simple fact of her behaving like a politician with something to hide was not used explicitly against her by Ed Stourton.

    It is part of the irritating daily dance performed by the interviewers and political interviewees every day. The interviewers never choose to cut the crap by saying, “Look, I know this is how media-training encourages you to answer, but I’d like a straight answer”. It is a tiresomely choreographed process.

    But ‘real’ people with genuine points of view should have no need to play this game. DC does not and I did not when in the same position last year. But the homeopaths do: each and every time. Why would they behave like this if honest answers to straight questions were not embarrassing? What conclusion must we draw?

  • I agree, BSM. It is utterly regrettable that slick plausibility and confident spin broadcast well and with not much in the way of effective challenge from journalists, while genuine thoughtfulness and honesty can come across as abashed and hesitant. Maybe it’s a bit late in the day but I intend later today to go through the Today segment line by line and contact the programme about it.

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