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Some blacks believe in AIDS conspiracy

November 10, 1995
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Martin Hill

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The theory that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to kill African-Americans is taken very seriously by some in the black community. (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound) The belief is fed by some African-American books, magazines, and newspapers.

The Minister of Health for Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam has called for a congressional investigation.

"We know from the Congressional Record that money was appropriated for the creation of artificial biological agents to defeat the human immune system. This took place in July of 1969. Ten million dollars was allocated to the U.S. Army. So...let there be hearings to uncover the files," said Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad.

A survey of about 1,000 black church members found 35 percent believed the AIDS conspiracy theory and another 30 percent would not rule it out.

The study grew out of a work by researchers Sandra Quinn and Stephen Thomas.

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"In the hands of demagogues, talking about AIDS as a form of genocide polarizes us, separates us, and Dr. Quinn and I both believe places more people at risk," said Thomas. (165K AIFF sound or 165K WAV sound)

Badili Jones of AID Atlanta suggests that African-Americans take more of a role in their own health care.

"People need to be able to trust the people who are providing the health care. People need to take their own health care into their hands, and actually get over the sense of being victimized and have the power to govern their own lives," he said.

Many African-Americans cite the Tuskegee experiment as grounds for cynicism about the government's intentions. From 1932 to 1972 about 400 poor black men were used as guinea pigs as scientists studied the effects of syphilis left untreated.

"It's very easy for a number of people to think that 'Well, since that happened,' ... a number of people have the idea that there's always that possibility that people who are disadvantaged may be used as guinea pigs in terms of medicine," said Thomas Blocker, Director of Health Professions at Morehouse College.

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While scientists search for answers in the laboratory, many African-Americans say their answers lie at the grass roots, at places like Atlanta's Believe and Receive Ministries.

"We must educate our people. Education. We sometimes talk about prevention, but you can't prevent a thing until you've been educated about it," said Pastor Julia Robinson. (100K AIFF sound or 100K WAV sound)

Thomas says the theory may have a slight upside -- bringing African-Americans together to fight the disease. Something, he says, they are not close to now.


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