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Associated Press
AIDS skeptic Christine Maggiore dies at 52

December 30, 2008

Los Angeles, CA (AP) -- Christine Maggiore, an activist who vehemently denied that HIV causes AIDS, declined to take anti-AIDS drugs and sued Los Angeles County for stating that her 3-year-old daughter succumbed to AIDS-related pneumonia, has died. She was 52.

Maggiore died at her Van Nuys home on Saturday. She had been treated for pneumonia in the past six months, but the officialcause of her death was pending, county coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said Tuesday.

He said it was unclear if her death was AIDS-related. She was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus in 1992.

A call to her home seeking comment from her husband, Robert Scovill, was not answered, and no message could be left because the recording mailbox was full.

Supporters told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that they doubted she died of AIDS.

"Why did she remain basically healthy from 1992 until just before her death?" asked David Crowe, a former board member of the nonprofit group Rethinking AIDS, which advocates for the "scientific reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis."

Others said she may have benefited by following standard treatments for AIDS.

"It's just really sad that she never could understand and never could trust the medical community, unlike the rest of the world," said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles.

For a year after her diagnosis, Maggiore was a volunteer at AIDS shelters and spoke about the risks of the virus at health fairs and schools.

However, she began to change her views in 1993 when she had more HIV tests that gave contradictory results, some negative and some positive.

"My desire to learn finally led me outside the confines of the AIDS establishment," she wrote on the Web site of her nonprofit organization, Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives.

"The more I read, the more I became convinced that AIDS research had jumped on a bandwagon that was headed in the wrong direction," she said.

She was heavily influenced by University of California, Berkeley, biology professor Peter Duesberg. In conflict with generally accepted scientific views, Duesberg argues that AIDS is caused not by HIV but from long-term consumption of recreational drugs or even AZT, the compound used in AIDS treatment.

Maggiore founded her nonprofit organization, which challenges mainstream medical views about the causes and treatment of AIDS. She wrote a book, "What If Everything You Thought About AIDS Was Wrong," and appeared on national television to promote her view that pregnancy, alcoholism, drug use and even common viralinfections could cause false positives on HIV tests.

She contended that people were at risk of AIDS because of factors that lowered the immune system, including malnutrition, drug use, chronic anxiety and lack of sleep.

Maggiore believed that AZT was both ineffective at preventing AIDS and toxic to healthy cells. She refused to take anti-retroviral drugs.

For pregnant HIV-positive women who didn't want to take the drugs, she recommended alternatives such as homeopathic medicine, vitamins, herbs, acupuncture, mental "imagery" to boost the immune system and "cleansings" of the body's toxins through such methods as "colon hydrotherapy" and juice fasts.

Maggiore breast-fed both her children, despite the accepted view that it increased the risk of spreading HIV.

In 2005 her daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, died at age 3. The girl never had an HIV test. The county coroner's office concluded she died of pneumonia related to an advanced case of AIDS. Police reviewed the death to determine if negligence or child endangerment was involved. The county district attorney's office in 2006 declined to file criminal charges, noting that the girl's parents had taken her to several doctors.

Maggiore retained a toxicologist who served on her group's advisory board to review the autopsy results. He concluded the girl died as a result of an allergic reaction to an antibiotic.

Maggiore sued the county last year, contending that the conclusion of the autopsy lacked proper medical and scientific evidence. The case is pending.

Maggiore's death was an "unmitigated tragedy," said Jay Gordon, a pediatrician consulted by Maggiore and her husband when her daughter was sick.

"There are medications that enable people who are HIV-positive to lead healthy, normal, long lives," said Gordon, who believes HIV causes AIDS.

In addition to her husband, Maggiore is survived by a son, Charles. Both have tested negative for HIV.