Liam Scheff’s Exceptional Journalism: The Story That Almost Brought Down The HIV Murderers

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Liam Scheff has passed away, after a long battle with extreme nerve damage (tinnitus)–described here, leaving his many fans, readers, followers, and friends bereft. He’d been mourning the loss of the love of his life, Helen, for many years, who died suddenly in 2010.

I had, like many, recent exchanges with Liam, in which death was openly discussed, and I was fairly good about refraining from imposing useless or banal advice on my suffering friend. Nothing makes people feel more lonely than the feeling that the person they are addressing can’t quite hear what they are saying. Including when they are saying they are ready to die, because living is too excruciatingly painful. (Not psychically–physically, in this case.)

Liam addressed that in his farewell letter, linked above, so I don’t have to run the risk of a ham-fisted or cloying effort to represent it.

If I were to be dead, I would want somebody to bring up my best work.

Liam was both one of the most penetrating, fearless, investigative reporters of our time and one of the funniest YouTube satirists of fake science (I’ll post some of these later.)

He broke a story that was bigger, darker, more devastating, I think, than anything any of us ever broke (proved) before or since, on HIV/AIDS. It came to be known as “Guinea Pig Kids.”

I am a little unclear on whether it was 2002 or 2003 that Christine Maggiore first connected me with Liam Scheff, but when she did, it was because she had found out about a story that Liam then went after like a Tomahawk Missile–emerging with smoking gun evidence that got parlayed into several articles, got picked up by other reporters, and even became a BBC documentary.

Christine deserves the credit for making initial contact with the story, and Liam did the absolutely unparalleled penetrative, undercover investigative reporting that blew it wide open, locally, (here in New York City, nationally, and internationally.

In memory of Liam Scheff, I invite you to tread his original story, “Orphans On Trial,” published in NY Press, here.

And “The House That AIDS Built,” here:

[Note: This was NY Press under Jeff Koyen, a very brave editor.]

You can read about how all hell broke loose here, and read the letter that temporarily caused the BBC to expunge the film from its archives, after industry bullies threatened and threw tantrums.

The film below is painful to watch. I worked on it as a researcher when Liam fell out with the producer, Jamie Doran, and I know everything in the film is true, sourced, and accurate.

If you have time for nothing else, watch this 25 minute BBC documentary, based on the original reporting by Liam Scheff.

You will find hard to believe, but it’s all true. And it all happened because of two remarkable people: Christine Maggiore, and Liam Scheff. May they both rest in peace, and hey guys–don’t squabble.

Send word. We miss you.



17 thoughts on “Liam Scheff’s Exceptional Journalism: The Story That Almost Brought Down The HIV Murderers”

  1. The documentary was riveting.

    I am astounded at the human rights violations on children that were allowed in the name of medical experimentation.

    Medical fascism.

    Liam was a good man for daring to confront and expose this. It is a shame that a foreign news service had to be called in to shine the light on this travesty.

  2. His suffering reminds me of Pam Weintraub’s account of her son’s ordeals with lyme in Cure Unknown.
    He suffered cranial nerve damage, middle ear myoclonus, but an otoneurologist was able to help.
    So for those suffering a similar malady, there is hope.

  3. Rest in peace, My Friend…a friend of Afrika and its downtrodden children. Maybe someday, your passing will not hurt as much as is does now.

  4. I too am sorry to hear of his passing. I’ve read and enjoyed his book Official Stories from a few years ago, RIP Liam.

    1. Manuel Garrido? THE Manuel Garrido. Sir it is an honor. You may now and always translate and publish anything of mine you see, here or elsewhere. I would be thrilled!

  5. Thank you Celia Ingrid Farber for your obituary on Liam Scheff. Liam’s death leaves a hole in our world, one that cannot be refilled with the same joy like the one he’s brought to us. His legacy is incredibly rich. He was kind, and he gave the word kind the true meaning, and he was a genius, a very modest one. A few years ago Liam gave me permission to translate the Orphan report into German, here it is for the German readers ( This was such an intense experience that made me understand a bit the pain and suffering he’d seen in his life. We have not lost a friend, we have actually had the great honor to experience friendship with one very special soul. I understand the myth of Achilles now, as before I knew it, read it and liked it. Liam’s spirit will always surround and fulfill us, as the spirit is immortal.

  6. There just seems to be this limitless evil in the world. It really gets me down sometimes, when my wall of sarcasm just fails me. I can’t just joke it away.

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