Editor's Desk

by Paul Philpott

Florida A&M math prof reappraises AIDS

Mathematics professor Tom Mason at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, which I attended as a biology and chemistry undergraduate from 1991 to 1995, wrote to say, "The scene at FAMU lapsed into its usual level of mediocrity once you left. The Afro-centrists have decided that AIDS is the white man's invention. They even now have an exact date and place for the seminal event. I went to a presentation, but the paranoia was so absurd I couldn't stomach it." FAMU's 12,000 students make it the US's largest black university.

Mason used to attend the regular campus AIDS reappraisal seminars I conducted. He would advertise them in his classes and to his colleagues
Mason, who is black, included photocopies of two newspaper articles, one entitled, "Facing HIV, AIDS in the black community," by St. Petersburg (Fl.) Times columnist Bill Maxwell published July 28. "I was amused by the comment that, 'You can't continue to lose three people every hour and continue to exist.' Three people per hour add up to 26,280 people per year. I seriously doubt that that number of African-Americans are dying from so-called 'AIDS' in a given year. Even if they were, 26,280 represents about 0.1% of the total African-American population. So I doubt that our existence is threatened. So much for the numeracy of ministers."

The other article was from the January 20 St. Pete Times , "Soldier Pleads Guilty to 9 HIV Assaults." The wire story described "an HIV-infected army private," 21-year-old Gerland Squires, in Aberdeen, Md., who pled guilty to "aggravated assault for having unprotected sex with nine men" and to disobeying a superior officer who ordered her to tell her partners "she carried the virus. She could get up to 77 years in prison." Mason commented, "Here we have a woman's life being thrown away on something that doesn't even exist. This madness must stop."

Mason intervened on my behalf when the dean of pharmacology banned me from using the pharmacy building for my lectures, and also when the dean of student affairs banned me from discussing AIDS anywhere on campus.

Each semester Mason would turn both sections of his 30-student undergraduate statistics class over to me for one lecture period. He had me discuss HIV and AIDS statistics, and demonstrate from the data why he and I, like many scientists and physicians, reject the HIV explanation for AIDS. Mason continues to devote one lecture period every semester to this discussion. That may make him the only professor in the world to critically evaluate the HIV explanation of AIDS and promote scientific inquiry in a course that involves a technical aspect of this topic (in this case, statistical analysis).