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Letter to ELLE Magazine Vice-Presidents

Dr. Helen Lauer

1 September 2006

Ms. Carol Smith,
Vice President and Director ELLE Group Publishing

Ms. Roberta Myers,
Vice President and Editor in Chief, ELLE Magazine

1633 Broadway 44th Floor New York, New York 10019

Dear Mss. Smith and Myers,

When I first saw your feature in the September 2006 ELLE issue concerning the work of Ms. Christine Maggiore, (“The Believer” pp. 468-471, 553) I was delighted with the expectation that ELLE was really about to cut new ground: not only can women be fashion beauties, but they can think astutely and see through popularized pseudo science and widespread mythological beliefs associating sex mysteriously with premature death and unwarranted illness.

I was astonished to find the mess made by your writer Gretchen Reynolds. At this distance, it looks as if ELLE might be liable for misrepresentation of facts on a personal level about the case of Christine Maggiore’s child, which I have been reading about in the press and other women’s magazines for some years. But further than that, I have been researching since 1999 the issue of AIDS in Africa, working with a global data base of information provided by medical researchers, virologists, pathogenicists, OB/GYN experts, and public health officials here in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa—as well as in Germany, Canada, Australia, Colombia, all around USA. I have published analyses of the current misconception about AIDS in Africa to varied audiences. I am grieved to discover that the world’s most widely distributed women’s magazine has portrayed a scientific consensus as if it were a radical fringe of faith healers.

It is hard to understand how your article so badly botches information that is laid out clearly in other popular magazines (e.g. Mothering circa 1998) newspapers, books, as well as in top ranking medical journals. The impression your author gives of Maggiore’s case, her individual persona and her relationship with her husband, is in stark contrast to the image that I have come to respect of a thoughtful, well-balanced, highly intelligent, circumspect and socially aware woman—a paragon of independent level headed thinking and truly responsible, deeply committed freedom of the will. Her work on behalf of humanity in general, advocating in the public domain a perspective of scientific methodical reasoning and integrity, her portrayal of the basic but courageous insistence on honesty and her painstaking sacrifice to correct commonplace prejudices and superstitions currently rampant in the public domain, are all completely undermined by your singularly misrepresentative article.

It wouldn’t make any difference if your subscription base was not so large. But you have a public responsibility not to purvey sheer nonsense. Even the title of your article is misleading—why refer to an articulate, well read and highly versed “sceptic” concerning current false dogma as “The Believer”? Believer in what? The title actually has no bearing or reflection upon Maggiore’s perspective. It appears only to sensationalise and discredit her. Nor is any service done for your readers by the discrepancy between the very photograph in your own magazine (and in others) and your author Reynold’s misleading description of Maggiore as emaciated (“collarbone” deep enough to “collect water” and as a ‘chic-sloppy’ dresser. What is the point of this defamatory portrayal?

Maggiore is a straightforward dresser, a community minded individualist who is able to mobilise and organise a wide range of expertise in an arena that is very difficult to navigate even for those who are in the forefront of their fields. She provides a forum for Nobel Prize winners in science, for god’s sake. Obviously this is a person whose profile needs to be emulated, not smeared and dissipated with insinuating remarks concerning her marital relationship as a “whirlwind affair”, depicting her as a mindless, careless exhibitor of heedless and irresponsible sexuality.

From what I have discerned about Maggiore, someone I do not know personally but respect highly and hope to emulate in my professional and private life, she is especially positioned with personal experience and professional poise to help your readers understand one of the most deeply troubling, profoundly unethical scams of our times. And you completely misrepresent her, the information she has to share with the world and the experience she has gone through, as it is depicted elsewhere in the media.

HIV is a misnomer for a wide range of (purportedly) viral pathogenic material, according to viral geneticists that are tracking its mutations worldwide. Its connection to AIDS is dubious. Even those who are convinced there is some connection have to fully understand it after 25 years of intensive study by top rate scientists globally. In many populations, geographic areas and pathogenic environments, it is completely harmless where and when it can be traced in vivo at all. The pathogen is so ephemeral that leading microbiologists—including the Nobel Laureate responsible for the technique by which HIV is still ‘counted’—question whether it exists at all.

AIDS in Africa has little or nothing to do with any pathogen transmitted sexually, and your interviewee Ms. Maggiore was surely in a position to help your readers to understand this. There are many theoretical positions taken about this highly controversial topic. Only one position is widely publicized because only one point of view is lucrative for the medical research community and pharmaceutical industry built up and advertised using the slogan ‘HIV causes AIDS’.

Maggiore is one person who is working hard to clarify this latest abuse of public gullibility promulgated in the name of medical rights and community health care in Africa. Why do you allow someone who had the best chance of helping your readers get a grip on such an important concern, to completely ruin that opportunity and to surely alienate your source, Maggiore herself, through gross misrepresentation and denigrating reportage?

I would be glad to provide you independently with whatever references and sources that I can in order to help you gain a more accurate perspective on the issues that you nobly have attempted to tackle. I am committed to telling the truth, I have no personal investment in presenting scare-mongering stories about HIV or about Maggiore. From what I know about Maggiore and HIV, you are very, very far off the mark—libellously so. If this article is any example of the way you treat current controversies, I tremble to think what foolishness you may have promulgated about the environment and global ecology in your ‘green’ issue, topics about which I know nothing. I would never rely on ELLE to teach me about topics of the day, after this article’s sad and destructive treatment of the confusion surrounding AIDS.

Unless you make some effort to correct the falsehoods and misinformation that Gretchen Reynolds has indulged in using your prominent journal as a forum, I vow never to have anything to do with ELLE magazine again, and will encourage those young women with whom I come into contact as a teacher and women’s advocate to avoid it as well. Your article suggests that you are, corporately, a disgrace to the journalistic profession, for having given a forum to a fraud science-writer such as Gretchen Reynolds. As an invited (albeit virtual, not registered) member of the Ghana Journalists’ Association, I would urge you to distance yourself as much as possible from the writer of this unfortunate piece. I sincerely hope for your sake that Gretchen Reynolds is free lance, not a permanent member of your staff.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Helen Lauer
University of Ghana
Legon, Ghana