South Africa: The Aids Epidemic and Its Denialists Have Lessons for Anti-Vax Conspiracy Theorists


Most Covid-19 vaccine misinformation in the US is driven by 12 individuals, most of whom work in 'alternative medicine'. Joseph Mercola, the leading member of the 'dirty dozen', is worth more than $100-million. At the height of South Africa's Aids epidemic, purveyors of alternative medicine, many supported by then Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, benefitted directly from Thabo Mbeki's distrust of ARVs.

Dr Remy Daroowala provides some good advice on engaging with anti-vaxxers and the vaccine hesitant in Daily Maverick, 14 September 2021.

He recommends a process of "active listening" to learn about their concerns and unmet needs and to find out if the person is ready for a conversation about vaccination. He notes that if the person is "a full-blown conspiracy theorist", you are unlikely to "convince this person no matter how hard you try" and that walking away with "grace and equanimity" may be "doing more for your cause and your mental health than you realise".

It is indeed frustrating arguing with a "full-blown conspiracy theorist" but there are ways of reaching into their world. There are two chinks in what appears to be an invulnerable intellectual armour that depicts all counter arguments and evidence as necessarily corrupted by...

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