Homeopathic HIV 'infection'

Well, you cant say Brian Dunning doesnt put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his skepticism about homeopathy:

I’ve been speaking with lab managers, AIDS researchers, and doctors about my plan to make a documentary short film about drawing blood from an HIV-positive patient, properly making a 30C homeopathic dilution of it using safe, legal laboratory procedures, and then drinking it.


From a statistical standpoint, his risk of acquiring HIV from his proposed method is low. Assuming he found someone to 'donate' HIV that was at acute infection or end-stage AIDS, the highest viral load you might expect would be 10viruses/ml.

108 divided by 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 means you would have something like 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 viruses/ml, final 'preparation' (might have missed a '0' in there).

Thats the 'highest' one would expect. People in the US who have access to antiretrovirals have much lower viral loads. Not a real high-risk exposure, there, but we all already know the numbers involved with homeopathy are bunk.

But its also silly from numerous other angles.

1-- HIV doesnt 'like' water. Certainly some viruses *are* happy as a clam in water, but HIV is not one of them, as being in water is not a natural part of the HIV life-cycle. When we grow HIV artificially in the lab, we use solutions that contain vitamins, amino acids, sugars, and most importantly for the viability of HIV: salts. HIV is not stable in distilled water. Tap water is almost certainly worse, with chlorine, ammonia, and other disruptive components. I have no idea what kind of water he is planning on using, but, meh.

2-- Adults do not normally get infected with HIV via ingestion. There is a relatively low risk of acquiring HIV via oral sex, but the danger comes from HIV particles coming into contact with open sores in the mouth. Its not the actual consumption of HIV that is the issue, because adult human stomachs are extremely acidic, with a pH of 1.5-3.5. No way HIV is happy there. Now, babies, on the other hand, ingestion of HIV particles or HIV infected cells is a big problem. Huge problem. But not adults.

3-- I dont know the legality of this situation for the donor. While the risk of infection playing this 'game' is low, intentionally exposing someone to a deadly virus in this manner might be bad news. You definitely are not going to find a nurse, physician, or scientist who will participate in this. So its just going to be Dunning and an HIV+ person doing this all by themselves, and thats just sketchy and odd.

4-- Its an exercise in futility. If homeopathists followed logic they wouldnt be doing what they are doing. Whether you play this 'game' with HIV or arsenic or donkey pee, Im not sure it is going to convince any of them to change their ways.

So, I dont think Dunning is:


“Reckless ignorance.”

“Darwin Award candidate.”



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Wouldn't homeopaths believe he just immunized himself against getting HIV / AIDS? Like cures like?

"(might have missed a ’0′ in there)"
Priceless! Homeopathy, in its entire 200+ year history, has missed only one '0' (its zero evidence for efficacy) and realizes how insignificant this is from an overall business perspective.

I would think in the homeopathic community they would see this as a powerful immune system booster. I fear that now the idea is out there someone will start marketing this and sell those little bottles of distilled water at a hefty price - probably most successfully during flu season.

By daniel pyron (not verified) on 16 Jun 2014 #permalink

As someone who works with human blood products I would say that the greatest risk of infection would be during the processing, not the final drinking. Also, don't you generate a lot of waste during all those serial dilutions? That's all got to be treated as biohazardous. If he does end up doing this I *really* hope he's got appropriate facilities.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 17 Jun 2014 #permalink

What's the point? Homeopathy folks believe diluted x cures x (except diluting it more makes it stronger.... so wouldn't the dilution by more worser? Oh, that's Big Pharma linear logic).

Argue with a fool ...

By Spectator (not verified) on 21 Jun 2014 #permalink

Isn't the ocean full of homeopathic medicine by now! I mean, all the pathogens are diluted beyond anything imagined by practitioners, and as understand it that just makes it stronger and more effective.