Playing on the nerves: Why anti-vaccines and HIV dissidents are believed

By | September 26, 2021

A few days ago we learned that Russia at Eurovision will be represented by Yulia Samoilova, a singer with the first group of disabilities due to spinal muscular atrophy. Unfortunately, the news was followed by reports that the cause of the disease was a complication of vaccination. In reality, this disease is genetic and cannot be caused by vaccination . We tried to understand the mass anti-scientific movements and the reasons for their appearance.

A few days ago we learned that Russia at Eurovision will be represented by Yulia Samoilova, a singer with the first group of disabilities due to spinal muscular atrophy. Unfortunately, the news was followed by reports that the cause of the disease was a complication of vaccination. In reality, this disease is genetic and cannot be caused by vaccination . We tried to understand the mass anti-scientific movements and the reasons for their appearance.

Of course, not understanding or denying science is not always dangerous. After all, what difference does it make if someone thinks that the sun revolves around the earth? But in medical matters, this position does not pass without leaving a trace: dissenting people may refuse treatment, causing serious harm to themselves and others. Perhaps the most notable example is the anti-vaccination movement, whose proponents are called anti-VAX in America and anti-vaccines in Russia. Although the risks of vaccine complications have been proven to be negligible compared to the risks of refusing it, they insist on the dangers and unnecessary benefits of vaccines. Even in the most developed countries, the arguments of opponents of vaccination can sound quite convincing, and this leads to outbreaks of seemingly forgotten diseases, such as polio in the Netherlands in the 1990s and pertussis in California in 2010.

Surprisingly, even many parents who vaccinate their children are still not sure how safe it is. In part, this happens simply because there is not so much clear information on the topic. Some terms only seem familiar and do not require explanation: for example, the same Yulia Samoilova, when asked about the hereditary nature of her disease, answered in an interview that “Mom and Dad donated blood, they don’t have anything like that”. But the word “hereditary” does not mean that the disease is transmitted from mom or dad; it means that the disease is associated with a defect (disorder, mutation, gene rearrangement) in the hereditary material, that is, chromosomes. Even a child of two perfectly healthy parents may develop such a disorder for the first time.

Emotions play an important role in decision-making –
and anti-vaccination campaigns take advantage of this

We have already written that a slight cold, malaise, snot is not a reason to refuse vaccination or postpone it, and no tests are needed before vaccination. The risks associated with vaccination are highly exaggerated, and the most common side effect is pain, swelling or redness at the injection site, which disappears in a couple of days. Opponents of vaccination usually rely on research evidence that it is linked to the development of autism. Its results were quickly refuted, and the design was deemed flawed; Millions of dollars have been invested in the development of vaccines and the study of autism – no link has been identified. How do anti-vaccinators manage to convince even reasonable and educated parents that they are right? It’s very simple: they play on emotions.

People tend to associate themselves with the heroes of specific stories, and especially negative stories. The stories of the dire consequences of vaccinations raise doubts in readers , even if they do not believe them. Emotions play an important role in decision-making: when interviewing people who have recently undergone hospitalization, it turned out that the support and empathy of nurses influenced their impressions even more than the actual result of treatment. This is a normal human reaction – and anti-vaccine campaigns take advantage of it.

They are gaining momentum precisely due to the emotional connection with the public and banal intimidation: when emotions come to the fore, we can no longer calmly assess the facts. Our decisions are influenced not so much by the information as by the way it is presented: the persuasion methods used on anti-vaccine sites involve more than falsification of facts. Their creators play on the feelings of parents, bringing up the conversation about such values ​​as freedom of choice. They involve both healthy lifestyle themes and advocacy for alternative medicine, homeopathy or organic products. The trick “because you love your children and want to protect them from danger” works great. A vicious circle arises: emotions do not allow to understand the facts, and the facts are not presented clearly enough. As a result, frightened parents pass on unproven but very impressive information to acquaintances, and the anti-vaccination movement is expanding.

Falsification of facts, playing on feelings, mistrust of statistics and belief in conspiracy theory are the bricks that make up an anti-scientific movement. Another manifestation is denial of the existence of HIV infection; proponents of this approach are called HIV dissidents. Despite the fact that the virus itself has long been examined and photographed, and the most accurate tests have been created to detect it, there are still people who claim that HIV is an invention of pharmaceutical companies. According to their theory, drug manufacturers, governments of different countries, doctors and scientists have teamed up to poison people with toxic drugs for financial gain. The most surprising thing is that among the deniers there are many HIV-positive who refuse treatment and die from the complications of AIDS.

Supporters of such theories bring a whole philosophy under them , create a pseudoscientific theoretical base, not disdaining accusations of scientists of lies and conspiracy. This includes the movement for the most natural, without medical intervention, childbirth. Of course, a healthy pregnancy is a natural process that can be successfully resolved even without medical assistance, but many women remember childbirth without anesthesia as monstrously painful. Every woman has the right to decide for herself whether to use pain relief, but for this she needs the most honest information.

It has long been proven not only that epidural anesthesia is safe, but also that long and painful labor increases the risk of postpartum depression in the mother and is accompanied by stress for the baby. From a medical point of view, childbirth without anesthesia is no better than anesthesia. Her opponents distort the facts, talking about her perceived danger to the child and the high risk of side effects, and also, like other deniers of scientific evidence, “put pressure on the conscience.” Painful childbirth is touted as heroism and dedication for the sake of the child.

And all the same: when we hear about a terrible incident that happened in the family of acquaintances “because of the vaccination”, it is difficult not to panic – such a story is much easier to digest than a dry academic text about how this does not happen. Perhaps for more people to make smart decisions, information about the benefits of vaccinations, treatments and pain relief needs to be communicated through personal stories as well. Maybe it’s time for the ministries of health of different countries to switch from the avian language to the human language – you need to talk even about serious things in an accessible way, remembering such values ​​as freedom of choice, the right to receive truthful data, responsibility for the health of loved ones and others.

WE ALREADY TOLD THE PROS AND CONS OF COW’S MILK , and came to the conclusion that the majority of adults do not have any mandatory requirements in it, no need to exclude it from the diet. Milk is a source of protein, calcium and vitamin D and is generally a healthy drink, but you can do without it; in addition, there are various types of vegetable “milk”. In fact, it is juice mixed with water, squeezed from nuts or cereals, which resembles milk in appearance, consistency and, in part, taste and composition. These products are suitable for people with lactase deficiency, vegans, those who don’t like the smell of cow’s milk or just want to add variety to their diet.


The controversy surrounding soy products has not subsided for several decades: ardent opponents argue that soy is to blame for almost all modern diseases, from malignant tumors to dementia, and many clinical studies have not led scientists to a consensus. So, in some studies, results were obtained on the prevention of breast cancer through the consumption of soy in childhood and on the absence additional risks with an already established diagnosis. In others, conducted in animals and in laboratories, phytoestrogens (hormone-like components of soy), on the contrary, promoted cell division in this tumor. Soy is one of the most common allergens, so milk from it is not suitable for everyone.

Be that as it may, soy products are becoming more and more – and soy milk is still number one after cow milk. It is probably not worth consuming soy daily and in large quantities, because the effects of herbal estrogen analogs have not yet been properly studied. But, if you approach the matter wisely, you can get a lot of benefits: such milk is extremely high in protein, and soy lecithin contains choline, a deficiency of which is associated with liver dysfunctions, atherosclerosis and, possibly, diseases of the nervous system. Other important sources of choline are liver and egg yolk.


Healthy eating habits and vegans love almond milk – and for good reason. Due to the fat content of the nuts, the drink is relatively dense, resembling cow’s milk in consistency and texture. Unlike other herbal counterparts, almond milk does not have a pronounced taste – it is light and slightly sweet. In addition, it is low in calories (about 50 calories in one glass) and low in carbohydrates. Squirrel, however, almond

milk also contains almost no, therefore it can be a substitute for cow’s milk not from a nutritional point of view, but only from a taste point of view. Due to its low energy value and content of vitamins E and D, it has been compared to an aqueous solution of a multivitamin.

Almond milk can be added to coffee, muesli, whipped smoothies on it, or cooked oatmeal; however, some because of the sweet taste may not like it in omelets. You can find almond milk in stores or make your own, it will take a blender and a little time. As part of the experiment, you can replace almonds with hazelnuts, walnuts, or even pumpkin seeds.


Coconut milk feels right at home in Asian and Caribbean cuisine, so it is often associated with curry or tom kha soup rather than the daily diet. Indeed, such milk is much fatter than cow’s or any other vegetable; it is quite high in calories, and because of its dense consistency, it rather resembles kefir.

Coconut fats are primarily rich in lauric acid, which increases the level of the so-called good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), which reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and its consequences. There is also evidence that medium-chain fatty acids, of which coconut milk fat mainly consists, are absorbed especially quickly in the intestine and are destroyed in the liver, releasing a significant amount of energy. On the micronutrient front, such milk also has everything as it should: it contains a significant amount of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.

You can cook porridge with coconut milk , dilute it with water 1: 1 or to taste, make smoothies, and, of course, it is on its basis that the most delicious vegan desserts are obtained.


Cereal milk is slightly inferior in popularity to those listed above. It can be rice, oatmeal, or multigrain and is increasingly found in supermarkets next to soy or almond. It has fewer vitamins and minerals, but it boasts a high fiber content, which has a beneficial effect on the digestive processes. Oat milk is mildly diuretic and

helps to cope with swelling. Rice contains a small amount of inorganic arsenic, which an adult organism can easily cope with, unlike a child’s; therefore, in England and the countries of the European Union, expert organizations recommend not giving such milk to children.

Compared to analogues, cereal milk is rather tasteless; it practically does not contain healthy fats, is watery in structure and looks more like a decoction. It can be used to diversify the diet – especially vegan: it will serve as an excellent basis for smoothies, and it can also be diluted with thick coconut milk.

Cedar and others

One of the rare alternatives to cow’s milk is pine nut milk, with a pronounced taste and smell of nuts. Siberian producers present it almost as a panacea, but it is better to perceive cedar milk as another opportunity to make your morning oatmeal more interesting. If you have the time and desire, you can find or make your own milk from almost any nuts or grains: flaxseed, sunflower seeds or quinoa.

Separately, it is worth noting hemp milk, which, contrary to suspicions, does not contain the psychoactive components of marijuana, and also, due to its consistency, is well suited for latte art – drawings on the surface of coffee and for cappuccino.

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