HIV/AIDS conspiracies and their consequences

As we all know, conspiracy theories are a popular topic. Ask anyone, I’m sure they will have some sort of opinion (pro-conspiracy, or anti) on the topic. And, this is exactly the reason why conspiracies need to be studied, and maybe one-day fully understood. With so many millions endorsing conspiracies, does it have an impact on any of their behaviours, or feelings? Or, instead, are they just harmless bits of fun? 

This is a question that has fascinated me for several years now, and it appears from my own research, and others, that conspiracies are indeed not just harmless fun. This doesn’t appear to be surprising to me. For example, if individuals are believing that those in power, or at least perceived to be, are involved in significant events, then surely this is going to have an impact on whether, let’s say, they want to engage with these powerful figures.

Indeed, this was further supported when I attended a speakers’ event at LSE on Tuesday 13th November. The event was called “Conspiracy theories and distrust in health programmes in Africa”, and the speakers discussed the rise in conspiracy beliefs in Africa concerning HIV/AIDS, and the decline in uptake for medicines, and also condom use. Indeed, conspiracy beliefs were a central reason in this decline regarding usage of medicines, but also confusion was a big issue. For example, the panel provided some example quotes from local residents, from memory they were as follows:

“We need to pay for water; however, these medicines are given out to us for free from the western people. Why are medicines free, but water is not? It surely must be some type of experiment”.


“We are told that all medicines need to be given to you by a doctor, however, school teachers are giving out tablets to help with a tropical disease. How can teachers give out medicines, it must be something else they are giving us”.

These are interesting statements, and are indeed rational questions to be asking. Coupled with the mistrust in the HIV/AIDS medicines, it can fuel disengagement.  

Furthermore, the LSE event made it increasingly clear the difference between conspiracy theories about governments (e.g., 9/11, Princess Diana) and HIV/AIDS. This was highlighted by a trend in all the talks that suggested it was those in power who actually increased endorsement of these conspiracies. Indeed, if the president of the country believes the conspiracy theories that it was western world who had man-made HIV/AIDS to eliminate blacks (and, further, making using the medicines illegal), this, as you can imagine, increases endorsement of the conspiracy.  This was a really interesting perspective. Moreover, one scholar is starting to develop ways to tackle this using a variety of interventions. She has been looking into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, amongst other things. She hasn’t got any data on this yet, but her ideas are going in the right direction, as the idea is to get people to talk about HIV/AIDS, and also provide them with the information about how the medicines work, thus limiting their confusion.

Conspiracy theories, and indeed their consequences, are an important area of research. As shown from the LSE event alone, conspiracy beliefs are widespread, and their popularity is growing. They should be taken seriously, by both people on the street, but those in power too. It is not surprising that HIV/AIDS conspiracies are becoming popular when the President of the country is endorsing them.

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5 Responses to HIV/AIDS conspiracies and their consequences

  1. Very interesting discussion and questions.
    What is the difference between knowing and believing? Knowing is influenced by sensory perception, while believing is influenced by intuition and linguistic process that address existing perception framework. At the same time knowing and believing interacts when making decisions.
    Conspiracies are just alternative explanation of events by using evidence or motives (real or imagined) that was overlooked in initial explanation. So why are they so frowned upon – it’s just another way of looking and examining something. I think raised problem is not about conspiracies itself it’s about belief. I guess in information age such thing as conspiracy (real or fake as long as it’s believable) could also called a weapon as it could be used not only to influence, but to intentionally undermine some process.
    If we were to give in to idea that uncertainty exist in any theory no matter how solid it is, the quest for finding more wouldn’t be portrayed like the reinvention of bike. I think modern man is conditioned to cling to importance of believing that mind feels like threatened when it has no answer to some question. Uncertainty is pretty much equals to neurosis and mind is easily swayed by some new found evidence or revealed possible hidden motive as it fills the gap better.

    • hybridrogue1 says:

      I think to believe is some very strange syntax like sin tax for licking forbidden objectivity. It exist to maybe almost. However there that and the other thing too can be.
      Walking to school lunch carry drive-by colorists heavy handed. Or cum into the gap drifter while harmonium is stroked by monkeys from Balfour creates strange strains of green ooze in bucket the.
      Nevertheless I don’t know howl you mean? Perhaps foreign pocket full change. Yea?

      “Strawberries” (she said).

  2. Pingback: Conspiracy beliefs and TV licences: Who knew? | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

  3. Pingback: Conspiracy beliefs and TV licences | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

  4. Pingback: Conspiracy beliefs and TV licences: ‘Turning off’ engagement | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

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