John Lauritsen & Ian Young, The AIDS Cult: Essays on the gay health crisis, Asklepios USA 1997, 224 pages, ISBN 0-943742-10-2.

Reviewed by Henry H. Bauer


That HIV is not the sufficient and necessary cause of AIDS continues to be argued by some mainstream scientists (see reviews in JSE 10 #3, 1996: 430-42); indeed, the ranks of those who take this view are swelling -- see for instance the lists of names and other information at The present collection of essays takes as a medical given that HIV=AIDS is wrong and considers psycho-social and psychosomatic factors. The discussions are relevant to psychosomatic illness, social psychology, faith-healing, alternative medicine.

The first essay, "The group-fantasy origins of AIDS", is reprinted from Journal of Psychohistory (Summer 1984). It is by Casper Schmidt, M.D. and psychoanalyst, and will not find much favor with those who dislike dogmatic Freudian assertiveness expressed in sweeping generalizations, say "China is ignored as a superpower for purposes of fantasy, since one has only two parents" (p. 38) or "This curb on phallic-assertiveness created a feeling of gender dysphoria, which was then injected into the nation’s homosexuals in fantasy" (p. 39). However, some indubitably substantive points are made:

  • The scapegoating of lepers during the Middle Ages bears similarities to attitudes toward PWAs (People With AIDS) nowadays.
  • Epidemic hysteria is a well attested phenomenon.
    Schmidt gives useful references to the literature about this, mentioning several items that many anomalists will have come across, for example the June-Bug epidemic and the phantom anesthetist of Mattoon. The specificity such an epidemic can have is illustrated such incidents as one in Singapore in which Malays were predominantly affected and the Thai koro epidemic in which no ethnic Chinese (10% of the population) became infected.
  • Clinicians’ skepticism can be undermined by subconscious beliefs.
  • Casper Schmidt tries to make the case that the causes of AIDS are psycho-social. Take this with as much salt as you wish: the subsequent essays make a very strong case that psycho-social factors do play an important role in who gets sick or dies. Lauritsen’s chapter II, "Psychological and toxicological causes of AIDS", briefly reviews salient points made in his earlier writings: that "HIV infection" is diagnosed by presence of antibodies, which in other diseases is taken as a sign of immunization; that it is only a small sub-set of gay men that seem at special risk for AIDS; that this small sub-set is known to have typically suffered recurring sexually-transmitted diseases, treatment and over-treatment with antibiotics, and high use of alcohol, tobacco and "recreational" drugs including the "poppers" that are almost certainly the prime cause of Karposi’s sarcoma.

    Why did these men not mend their ways after the AIDS syndrome was noted? For one thing, "denial: the lies an addict tells himself and others in order to conceal, rationalize, and ultimately sustain his addiction". There but for the grace of God go we all: think of the lies most of us tell ourselves, after all, to avoid actually dieting or actually giving up cigarettes or maintaining any of our other annual New-Year’s resolutions. Both Lauritsen and long-time surviving PWA Michael Callen claim to have not found an AIDS sufferer who did not fit this sub-set description, albeit a few of them had initially lied about it (p. 85).

    The gay scene after "liberation", Lauritsen points out, involved group activity: "If something was done, everyone did it. At a disco like The Saint, several thousand gay men would be on the same drug at the same time. An hour or so later, word would get around that it was "Special K time", and everybody would go on that" (p. 91). What might the long-term effects be of even a short period of high intakes of "poppers, MDA, quaaludes, LSD, alcohol, cocaine and Special K" in combination?!

    Lauritsen also reminds of the changing definition of "AIDS" after HIV was discovered: "In 1982 someone who earned an ‘AIDS’ diagnosis was very close to death; after 1992 someone could acquire an ‘AIDS’ diagnosis without even being sick" (p. 97). Here the psycho-social factors can hardly be gainsaid: given a positive HIV-antibody test, "Gay men were programmed by the AIDS Establishment to become sick; they were provided with a schedule, told not only that they ought to become sick, but exactly how and when to become sick" (p. 98). Recall the well-known epidemic hysteria that affects medical students, who "suffer" vicariously many of the symptoms of many diseases as they learn about them without anyone telling them that they have those diseases. If HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, but everyone is convinced it does, what might we expect to happen to someone who tests positive and is then prescribed significant doses of toxic "drugs" which themselves mimic many of the symptoms of AIDS, thereby reinforcing the belief that he is ill?

    In Chapters III & IV, George Hazlehurst draws parallels with his experience of survivors at Hiroshima, where the rate of premature death exceeded that medically traceable to radiation effects. He reminds us that HIV-AIDS is unique in postulating no natural survivors; and "the only disease where treatment with powerful drugs is begun several to many years prior to the actual onset of any illness, when there is still the possibility that AIDS may never develop" (p. 105). How well the Establishment and the media silence dissidents is illustrated by the fact that Hazlehurst, a medical practitioner, learned first in the summer of 1994 that a significant number of scientists dispute the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. Today, he points out, "The doctor is a technician ... a highly trained professional caught up in a narrowly mechanistic medical system ... to follow the strict rules provided from above" (p. 114) -- illustrated say by the Virginia doctor whose license was recently suspended for 6 months because he had given many patients with intolerable pain enough narcotics to ease their suffering; the pharmacist who filled the prescriptions also lost his license! Hazlehurst does a fine job of describing how the system can produce nauseating results even when the actors have no malevolent intent, just "play it safe", "go with the rules", wishfully think that the drugs they invent or produce might be of benefit.

    The psychological pressure on PWAs includes "a glorification of HIV/AIDS ... as a magnet of compassion and a celebrity life -- a meaning and purpose for lives that may have lacked such qualities before being infected and pitied, and even taking on heroic proportions as kinds of martyrs. Here were lives perhaps lacking in self-esteem suddenly in the forefront of an historic meaning, victims of the great AIDS epidemic of the latter part of the 20th century" (p. 117). "Primitive peoples ... would recognize a hex when they saw one" but we are "far too civilized, educated, and sophisticated to believe in the casting of spells, and when we are all hexed by the AIDS industry’s hoax, we ... have no remedies in place to deal with" it.

    Chapter V is an interview with Casper Schmidt, raising an intriguing issue about "the psychology of hemophilia. All the male children with hemophilia are subjected to the most restrictive regimen, which inhibits their ability to express aggression" -- a stress that Schmidt thought might weaken the immune system. At the end of the chapter we learn that Schmidt himself died of AIDS, far from the first physician who could not heal himself.

    Michael Ellner & Andrew Cort, in "Programmed to die: cultural hypothesis & AIDS", (Chapter VI) remind us that people in Africa, Australia, and Haiti indubitably do die when they have been marked for death by voodoo or by bone-pointing. It is then chilling to read the following chapter, in which Cass Mann describes "Deadly counsels: the necrophiliacs of ‘AIDS’": how following the advice of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, innumerable "counselors" urge their clients to prepare for death as soon as they have tested HIV-positive! It seems hard to believe that at a Westminster Abbey "Celebration of Life" associated with the Fifth International Conference for People with HIV/AIDS there was this reading from Kubler-Ross (p. 152):

    "Being a gay man today in a commercial gay culture is in and of itself a toxic and dangerous condition": for gay "liberation" led to infantile excesses; a life-style inappropriate for adults became the cultural norm, and now there’s added a supposedly incurable virus that makes living beyond 40 or so in any case moot.

    Chapter VIII, by Lauritsen, is a telling indictment of AZT, reprinted from his The Aids War. Chapter IX is by Michael Callen who survived a dozen years after a diagnosis of AIDS (note, not just HIV antibodies). He makes this unfamiliar but crucial point: "The activists only seem to talk about two possible outcomes to taking an experimental drug: one is that it works and the other is that it doesn’t work. But there is a third, much more common possibility, which is that you will be worse off than if you did nothing at all" (p. 186).

    The last chapter by Ian Young returns to some chilling psychological facts, notably "a psychological epidemic among uninfected gay men" (p. 188). They suffer "survivor’s guilt": "in today’s breezy, out-of-the-closet gay ghetto, HIV Negative men tend to be profoundly clinically depressed, anxious, disoriented, hypochondriacal, uncertain about the future, sexually dysfunctional, deeply demoralized and psychically numb" (p. 189). "AIDS is increasingly presented as the new Gay Lifestyle ... everything revolves around AIDS" (p. 192). "All my friends are Positive -- how can I relate to them?" "I feel like I’m being left out of the great event of our time". "I feel as if I won’t really have come out until I’m HIV Positive" (p. 195) ... There is also the "attitude, widespread in the gay community, that only PWAs and HIV Positives have a right to express strong feelings" (p. 193). "In 1992, the Act Up chapter in Chicago split into two factions, one for HIV Positive people, the other for HIV Negatives. The possibility that a member might not know his ‘status’ was presumably unthinkable" (p. 207n).

    So "the actual consequences of the AIDS System are at variance with its stated aims". Part of that stems indubitably from the preoccupation of modern medicine with technological fixings. This book makes the case that this part is a very large one. There is no index but a useful brief bibliography and URLs for Internet sites with much further information. *

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