HIV-1, HIV Denial, and boxing

HIV(+) status and sports is a big deal.

Any time there is a non-negligible risk of a bloody nose (golf or swimming vs soccer or basketball), there is a risk someone is going to get a blood droplet in the eye. Another player, a ref, a coach, a spectator, a beer vendor-- yes, the odds might be fantastic, but whatever the risks are, they arent worth it for entertainment.

Kudos to *most* state boxing commissions for recognizing that HIV status is a very, very big deal in their sport, thus require HIV tests before fights. And, if a boxer fails a test, they dont go all "DUDES GOT AIDS!", they just 'fail' the physical (could be anything, from steroids to weight to too many concussions or something) and move on. Its such a relief when regulatory bodies actually do things right.

Turns out back in the 1990s, a boxer failed his HIV test, and had to back out of a high-profile fight-- Tommy Morrison. It looks like for a while, he was a pretty good guy, a la Magic Johnson. Went on antiretrovirals, came out as a spokesman for HIV awareness (its not just a disease druggies or coloreds have to worry about):

"This is a disease that does not discriminate," he said, misting up. "It doesn't matter if you live in a drug-infested ghetto in New York City or on a ranch in Jay, Okla. [where Morrison then resided]. It can jump up and bite you, no matter where you're at. It doesn't matter what color you are. It doesn't have a favorite color."

It appears he is done with all that, and is now an HIV Denier.

"I'm living proof that HIV is a myth," Morrison said recently. "All the things that were going to happen, didn't. Medical mistakes happen all the time and people are misdiagnosed."

Wait, wat? No.

I mean, yes, there are false positives all the time. Medical mistakes happen all the time. Thats why there are numerous layers to HIV-testing (1. fast test for antibodies, 2. Western + ELISA, 3. RT-PCR numerous times over the course of infection). But that doesnt appear to be the case with Morrison. He appears to be evading testing (either refusing, fighting places that do not require testing, or substituting others samples as his). And I dont think he understands that if you are tested with RT-PCR, and your physician tells you that there are 'undetectable levels of viral RNA'-- that does not mean you are not/never were infected.

It means the antiretrovirals you are taking are working.

It does not mean "HIV is a myth". It does not mean "All the things that were going to happen, didnt".

It also means that if he now thinks "HIV is a myth", he has stopped taking that medication, and his viral load will go back up. That in turns mean that when he is fighting (not 'if', 'when'-- he is boxing, and fighting MMA), he is putting other people at risk (not just the other fighter, everyone within blood-shot) of contracting HIV. Other people who might have no idea who he is or know about his HIV-1 diagnosis, and assume that all the fighters are tested.

Hell, I didnt know about him until a few days ago, and Im a damn HIV researcher who loves boxing and MMA and thought everyone was tested.

I dont know how this isnt criminal.

Its also not criminal to be a Wormtongue in the ear of HIV(+) individuals, convincing HIV(+) people that "HIV is a myth", "their dreams were shattered" for nothing, psychologically 'allowing' them to put others at risk. People like Terry Michael, the epic douche who first brought this issue to my attention with this idiotic article:

"What if most everything you think you know about HIV and AIDS is wrong?"

That's the message U.S. boxer Tommy Morrison is sending to Canadian sports fans -and the world-in a confrontation with the Regie des alcools, des courses et des jeux. The gaming board is asking the 42-year-old fighter to take an HIV blood test to qualify for meeting Eric Barrak in a main event Feb. 25 at Pierre Charbonneau Centre.

... The HIV-AIDS story is complex. Many of us have devoted years of study to it, and have concluded there is not now and there never was a human immunodeficiency virus. We ask the world to reassess 27-year-old politicized junk science. Canadians can contribute to that fight for truth by opposing injustice being visited on an American athlete who should be allowed to enter a ring Feb. 25 without taking a test about nothing.

Who is Terry Michael? The guy who runs this HIV Denial website.

The Quebec boxing commission better not drop the ball on this one. Allowing a boxer to fight after one demonstrably false positive HIV test is one thing. Encouraging an HIV(+) fighter to 'oppose' testing (or blatantly forge test results or mix testing samples), go off antiretrovirals, and put others at risk of contracting a deadly disease is something else entirely.

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Wow. I didn't even know Tommy Morrison was still alive. Who knew the kind of character he played in Rocky V was like the kind of person he is in real life? In Rocky V, the retired Rocky Balboa takes Tommy under his wing and offers to train him. Then Tommy falls into the clutches of a Don King imitation and turns on Rocky, only to have Rocky kick the crap out of him in a street brawl. And in real life, medicine saves Tommy's life and he turns against it.

But by far the silliest part of the movie though is when Adrian goes back to work at the pet shop.

I prefer HIV denialist Henry H. Bauer.

He is deliciously crazy.

Ask him about Nessie.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 07 Feb 2011 #permalink

Tommy, Tommy, Tommy...tsk tsk.

What would your uncle (The Duke) say?

I am pretty sure they won't allow it. It would mean near infinite liability if anyone contracted HIV from going to the fight. No insurance company will sell them liability insurance for it.

There could even be criminal liability for reckless endangerment.

If he is on antiretrovirals, I seriously doubt that he is in any condition to be any kind of contender. Antiretrovirals mess with mitochondria biogenesis. If there is anything that boxers need it is mega-healthy mitochondria.

It also means that if he now thinks "HIV is a myth", he has stopped taking that medication,

Like the paranoid, bipolars and schizophrenics.

Only he doesn't have a bloody excuse.

MMA appears to be some sorta "ultimate fighting", though, so in that case I don't see why venom shouldn't be allowed. If people don't wanna get Aids, then they can stay out of the friggin' cage.

"Any time there is a non-negligible risk of a bloody nose (golf or swimming vs soccer or basketball), there is a risk someone is going to get a blood droplet in the eye. Another player, a ref, a coach, a spectator, a beer vendor-- yes, the odds might be fantastic, but whatever the risks are, they arent worth it for entertainment."

I disagree. The odds of a driver getting in a crash and dying in a race, or of a tire coming off a race car and bouncing into a crowd and killing someone, are pretty low, but it's happened a number of times. People take reasonable measures to prevent it, but racers and fans have decided that the risk of death is small enough that it's worth it for entertainment.

Ever drive to the movies? You risked death, paralysis, not to mention getting HIV from one of those needles in the seats that we got chain emails warning us about back in the '90s. For what? Entertainment.

If the odds against contracting HIV through boxing truly are "fantastic" (which to me suggests something like winning the lottery), then I say go ahead and fight. That would make them orders of magnitude less than someone dying of acute brain injury, and that doesn't seem to be a show-stopper. I might even argue that if the odds are that low, then a fighter's responsibility to inform their opponent that they had HIV would be outweighed by their right to privacy. Same as a guy on the street doesn't have a responsibility to tell me he has HIV on the off chance that he might trip and break his nose and splatter me with a little bit of blood.

Note that I don't mean to say that I think the odds of contracting HIV through boxing are as low as winning the lottery, and I don't even think that you can reasonably quantify those odds short of actually having a large number of boxing matches between people with HIV. I just mean that we have to have some reasonable threshold for acceptable risk.

Anybody have an idea of what the odds are for infection from someone else's wound?

In my own preferred sport (Rugby Union - just a spectator these days) they introduced special laws for "blood injuries" a few years ago, (essentially, any player with an open wound must leave the field until it's dealt with), which I always assumed was out of fear of HIV although it was never explicitly stated, (not that I noticed).

It has seemed to me that referee's are being a bit less rigid about this. A few years ago, the slightest sign of red was cause for a blood substitution. These days, they only seem to invoke it if it's actually dripping. I assume because the level of HIV paranoia has dropped.

Boxing would seem to be a higher risk - close proximity; multiple blows on the same (already bleeding) areas - but rugby isn't exactly gentle.

Yeah, ten or eleven people die boxing every year. Maybe, just maybe a boxer with high viral load could infect another boxer in the ring under the right conditions. But a boxer on ART? I doubt it. Simple solution, HIV+ boxers could fight if their VL were under 50/mL and the opponent signed a waiver or agreed to take PEP in the event of blood splatter as determined by the ref.

But that's boxing's business. What I want to know is, how the f did a real newspaper publish Terry Michael's AIDS-is-a-gay-disease BS? This guy is a free-lance journalist like I'm an amateur astronaut because I swept my own chimney. Journalists need to wake up and stop letting the Wakefields and Michaels walk all over them.

By EpicDeutsch (not verified) on 07 Feb 2011 #permalink

Apparently Mr. Morison is 42 years old. Aside from everything else, that would seem to be rather long in tooth for someone to be engaged in professional boxing.

I just mean that we have to have some reasonable threshold for acceptable risk.

Sure. But boxers and racers go into the arena knowing the risks. But if this wanker doesn't disclose his status, his opponents cannot make an informed choice as to what they consider acceptable.

"It's the lying, stupid."

Given what I suspect the odds are that a boxer could transmit HIV during a fight, I agree with you, Sili. But ERV stated that "the odds might be fantastic, but whatever the risks are, they aren't worth it for entertainment." That's what I disagree with.

And how low do the odds of transmission have to be before he's not a wanker for not disclosing his status? (Deliberately lying about it is a different matter.) 1 in 1,000? 1 in 1,000,000? Surely there's some limit, because I don't think anybody is seriously proposing that people with HIV wear a sign when they walk down the street - there is a very small but non-zero chance that the disease could be transmitted.

There are two issues:

1) Whether or not it is reasonable for national or international boxing commissions to test for HCV, HIV, tuberculosis and/or other diseases that could be transmitted in the ring.

2) Whether of not Tommy should play by the same rules that all the other boxers play by.

The world of sports is not much different than the rest of the world, in regards to irrational discrimination. The reasons that most people fear HIV more than they fear HCV or extremely drug resistant tuberculosis are complex. It would be wonderful if Tommy Morrison argued that discrimination against HIV seropositive boxers was not rational, and he worked to get the rules changed. It would help not only himself but also the world, in regards to irrational fears of HIV.

Instead, he has become a spokesperson for the AIDS denialists.
This will neither be good for his boxing career, nor his health.

I understand your points and your objection, Tom, but at this point I'm not sure it changes much. Yeah, the odds are probably hard to calculate, but given that the sport frequently involves exposure to blood amongst participants in the ring, I think that could be a reasonable standard. I think informed consent, at the very least, is necessary for anyone in the ring and for those who may treat his injuries. In reality, I'd still probably be inclined to require testing and ban him if he's positive out ethics and simple liability fear. I certainly wouldn't insure the match were I an underwriter. If everyone signed waivers with clear understanding and the only denialist was Morrison...well, maybe.

That may not be fair, but HIV sucks. That's why he's in denial.

The Montreal Gazzette has now (in the Feb 9th edition) published a sort of an apology for printing Terry Micheal's denialist rant. The new article is by Norbert Gilmore who is professor of medicine (emeritus) at McGill University and a senior physician at the McGill University Health Centre.

While one can at least be sure that reasoned argument will leave the blatherings of anti sciencers and deniers exposed for what they are, the menace of partial sciencers is far more insidious as they happily take up any sound argument and re-purpose for their own partialist cause, no matter how far that may be from any meaningful context in which the argument could be used.

Gilmoreâs argument re: anti virals and HIV 1, or at least versions of it, are now regularly used by the XMRV fanatics to justify why anyone who has tested positive under the Whittemore Peterson Institute licensed tests, should be on ARVs: âYou donât need to prove that XMRV causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so long as treating sufferers with ARVs makes those sufferers feel better â because thatâs what they did with HIV and no one can prove that HIV causes Aidsâ.

Pointing out the contextual holes to the 'partialists' gets one nowhere because unltimately they are believers for whom the skeptisism of science is an easily discarded inconvenience, not an essential tool. On balance I worry more about the 'partialists' than the deniers.


There are large differences between the argument from antiretrovirals for HIV-1, and for XMRV.

There are quantitative measures for the functionality of antiretrovirals with HIV-1 that have jack shit to do with 'feeling better'.
1-- Viral load goes down. This is a measurable number, not 'yes' 'no' It can be high and you feel great, low and you feel like shit.
2-- Women who take antiretrovirals in preparation for birth do not pass on the virus to their children. Women who do not take antiretrovirals do. Makes no difference how Mom or Baby 'feels'
3-- People who test HIV-1 positive and take antiretrovirals not only live longer (approaching normal ages of death), but they die from age related things (and liver/kidney failure), not secondary infections as a complication of AIDS. The end readout is 'death', not 'feels better'.

"You donât need to prove that XMRV causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so long as treating sufferers with ARVs makes those sufferers feel better..."
If someone starts taking antiretrovirals and proclaims they 'feel better', you can be pretty damn certain they are faking and or lying.

Ask an HIV-1 patient how they felt after they started taking antiretrovirals. Hell, ask Tommy Morrison how he, a young athletically gifted athlete felt. You can ask some of my co-workers, who have been exposed in the lab. They had to be on antiretrovirals for 6 months-- young, healthy, active people, who say that six months was the worst six months of their lives.

Thats why 'antiretrovirals work for XMRV cause they feel better!' is bullshit... or evidence that their illness is bullshit, and why RT-RT-PCR is the only way you can assess antiretrovial efficacy.

ART is a common treatment for CFS? By two doctors? Out of how many? Which planet you do you live on? I know you like to kick the shit out of straw men, to get your Ann Coulter repartee shtick going on, but this is pathetic.

Besides, ERV, you've pushed all your chips into one hand that looks like its sinking fast. Remember, your professorial, epistemological bullshit "Ockhams Razor" theory? You are (maybe were) 99% certain it was contamination. Please leave the science to the scientists, and go back to your day job as a glorified lab tech blogger.

By RedDirtDevil (not verified) on 19 Feb 2011 #permalink

"Oh, I think Ockham's Razor means that XMRV is really.., blah blah"- please, give me a break. You know exactly what I'm taling about. You are bullshitter extraordnaire. Your eyeballs are floating. It took a month, and your entire thesis disappears with one primate study. You and your empire of science nerds and shmucks, checking out your blog on sly at work, between visits to their fav porn sites.

Have you ever thought about going outside of HIV to do your *research*? I know you call youself a researcher, but please, what extravagant concrete findings have you ever produced? Having read just a modest number of your observations, your entire strength seems to be a normal knowledge of PCR lab jargon. Reading of your posts generates thoughts of *so what?* or *it doesn't fucking matter bitch*. Do you have anything on CV that I should be impressed by? Other than this blog; which *you* pay to keep going on the web.

Truth is you are attracted to HIV because the science has been settled; the etiology, the mode of transmission, the treatment. You are basicaly a parasite, sucking off the giant HIV-research grant complex. Here in Honolulu, they are now using govt dollars, basically whoring themselves, for a study of "HIV and Dementia." There are 8 million HIV infectees; and 80 million babyboomers, who will be getting dementia as they enter senility. Each of whom will need a persnal ass-wiper paid for by govt dollars. Yet the HIV bullshit beehives, such as your dept, remain intact, grant-whoring, sucking off the real research. It is an area for the dim and the lazy. An area in which you are eminently qualified

By RedDirtDevil (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

Yeah bitch. Haha!

By RedDirtDevil (not verified) on 22 Feb 2011 #permalink