A coalition of more than 30 organizations and 70 public health advocates demand that Simon & Schuster drop distribution of a book pushing AIDS denialism and HIV/AIDS misinformation. The Real AIDS Epidemic: How the Tragic HIV Mistake Threatens Us All, by known AIDS denialist Rebecca V. Culshaw from their subsidiary Skyhorse. You can read more about this in, AIDS Denialism Is Still Deadly in 2023. This call to action asks to end the distribution of this book and take a stand against AIDS denialism and misinformation.
Penned by ACT UP NY members, in the letter we demand that:
- Simon & Schuster immediately end plans for distribution of the book, The Real AIDS Epidemic: How the Tragic HIV Mistake Threatens Us All by Rebecca Culshaw.
- Simon & Schuster reassess other future releases to ensure that other books won’t assist similar damage to public health.
- Simon & Schuster create a public health working group to assure community members that this will not happen again.
Join the call to action and read the full community letter here:
Jonathan Karp Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020 March 20, 2023
To the attention of Jonathan Karp, President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster,
As a robust and comprehensive coalition of HIV/AIDS advocates, organizations, and public health experts, we are writing to you with an urgent concern. Simon & Schuster (by subsidiary Skyhorse) has plans to distribute a book called, The Real AIDS Epidemic: How the Tragic HIV Mistake Threatens Us All by recognized AIDS denialist Rebecca Culshaw on March 28, 2023. In the midst of coexisting pandemics and public health outbreaks, we know the dire and deadly consequences of spreading misinformation and denialism. It is disappointing that a book like Culshaw’s is on a roster of your releases in 2023, but you still have a chance to reverse this decision. We are asking you to reconsider this book deal and stop its distribution.
The thesis of Culshaw’s book is that HIV does not conclusively cause AIDS, but that this was a ‘mistake’ made in the 1980s and never amended or corrected. To the contrary, that HIV causes AIDS was demonstrated first in the 1980s, when the virus was discovered, and subsequently research has only strengthened that causal link in the subsequent decades, including via in vitro systems, in animal models, including non-human primates, via molecular phylogenetics, and in human samples.
Research has shown conclusively that misinformation and denialism do material harm to HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved oral PrEP over a decade ago in 2012. However, this drug, which is 99 percent effective in preventing HIV, has been woefully underutilized, especially in the communities that would benefit from it the most. While 67 percent of white people recommended for PrEP have access to the drug, astonishingly, only 8 percent of Black people eligible – who also disproportionately make up a majority of new HIV transmissions – are currently using the medication. With new prevention tools on the market, as well as revolutionary treatment options (people living with HIV who are on effective medication with their HIV viral load undetectable cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners, known as undetectable = untransmittable, or U=U), misinformation which helps exacerbate stigma, discrimination, and medical distrust should not be an added barrier to accessing lifesaving drugs.
Furthermore, research has shown that AIDS denialism poses real health risk to people living with HIV and their sexual partners. We know that patients who fall into AIDS denialism are more likely to experience HIV-related symptoms of illness and have higher, detectable viral loads, meaning the virus ( which is real ) can be transmitted to their sexual partners. By releasing an AIDS denialist book, Simon & Schuster would be encouraging vulnerable people to ignore medical directions and to stop their medications, which is dangerous to their health and is likely to lead to a higher amount of virus in their bodies.
In late 2019, weeks prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which is still disproportionately deadly to people living with HIV, HIV/AIDS advocates raised the alarm about inaccurate Truvada lawsuit ads promoted on social media and allowed by platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. In response, advocates penned a letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook executives to take down the ads knowing that they would heighten fears about taking PrEP. Since then, Facebook has taken down a majority–if not all–anti-PrEP ads. Now Simon & Schuster faces the time and obligation to do the same.
Rebecca Culshaw’s book Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS? tipped off veteran HIV/AIDS advocates and leading doctors in the infectious disease space back in 2007. Dr. Kenneth Whitaker Witwer of John Hopkins Medicine and Dr. Ruy Ribeiro of University of New Mexico break down Culshaw’s “egregious errors” in this four-page critique . They both also co-authored this critical response of her paper titled Mathematical Modeling of AIDS Progression: Limitations, Expectations, and Future Directions in 2006. Advocates time and time again have tried to warn educators and publishers the dangers of platforming someone like Rebecca Culshaw. It is important that Simon & Schuster apply this thorough and science-backed guidance and put an end to the distribution of Culshaw’s HIV/AIDS denialism and misinformation.
The co-signatories of this letter demand that:
● Simon & Schuster immediately end plans for distribution of the book, The Real AIDS Epidemic: How the Tragic HIV Mistake Threatens Us All by Rebecca Culshaw.
● Simon & Schuster reassess other future releases to ensure that other books won’t assist similar damage to public health.
● Simon & Schuster create a public health working group to assure community members that this will not happen again.
As a major publishing house, Simon & Schuster has a duty to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS misinformation and denialism. Every occurrence adds needless life to an epidemic that has persisted for far too long. These concerns listed from HIV/AIDS advocates, organizations, and public health experts must be prioritized and taken seriously by Simon & Schuster.
Organizations: Act Now: End AIDS (ANEA) Coalition ACT UP London ACT UP NY African Services Committee Albany Damien Center AVAC CRISPR for Cure Collaboratory Disability in Publishing GLAAD GMHC Hacking//Hustling Health GAP (Global Access Project) Health Justice HIV and Aging Research Project | Palm Springs Housing Works iHealth LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland Long COVID Justice My Fabulous Disease NAM aidsmap Plus Life Media Positive Women’s Network – USA PrEP4All Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT and Harvard Strategies for High Impact (S4HI) Southern Tier AIDS Program/Southern Tier Care Coordination The Well Project Trans Equity Consulting Treatment Action Group (TAG) U=U Plus
Individuals: Ivy Arce John J Barry Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore Jeff Berry Marke Bieschke Oni Blackstock, MD, MHS Erik Bottcher Alexander Chee Alexander Cheves Jason Cianciotto Emerson Collins Eliel Cruz JD Davids Mr. H O Davies Kenyon Farrow Cecilia Gentili Nan Goldin Joshua Gutterman Tranen Russell S Halley Mark Harrington Stephen A Hicks Trevor Hoppe Matthew Hodson Ellen Isaacs, MD Richard Jefferys Perry Junjulas Tom Kalin Michael J Kerr Naina Khanna Ken Kidd Charles King Mark S. King Richard Klos De’Ashia Lee Matthew Lesieur Victor Li Caleb LoSchiavo, MPH Amanda Lugg Ira Manhoff Nina Martinez Ben Miller Skylar Moore Tim Murphy August E. Naston Victoria Noe Anthony Oliveira Steve Orlando Joseph Osmundson, PhD Murray Penner Eric Pfleider Zara Raven Gary D. Rissman Mathew Rodriguez Jason D. Rosenberg Grant Roth Hugh Ryan Eric Sawyer Karl Schmid Benjamin Heim Shepard Jason Silverstein Danez Smith Mandy D Smith Kimberleigh Joy Smith Peter Staley Miranda J. Stinson Stephen Sukumaran, MPH Jeff Taylor Steven Thrasher Fran Tirado Reed Vreeland Jack Wakely