John Lauritsen, 'The AIDS War; Propaganda, profiteering and genocide from the medical-industrial complex' Asklepious Press USA 1993, ISBN 0-943742-08-0.

Summer/Fall 1993

  Reviewed by Jerry Terranova

"The first casualty when war comes is truth."
Senator Hiram Johnson
"Dispatches from the front," is how John Lauritsen describes his new book "The AIDS War: Propaganda, Profiteering and Genocide from the Medical Industrial Complex," a collection of his writings from the "New York Native" from February 1985 to present. (with some new chapters written especially for this book). "I want them to stand for the record," Lauritsen says, "so that no one, when the truth finally prevails, can pretend that there were no AIDS-critics, or that we didn't speak out."

Lauritsen employs war as a central AIDS metaphor for reasons he considers obvious: "the terrible suffering, loss of life, propaganda, censorship, rumors, hysteria, profiteering, espionage and sabotage. ... I maintain that AIDS reporters should be regarded as war correspondents ... and that the salient characteristics of war coverage are also those of AIDS coverage." The book reads like a chronicle, covering virtually all aspects of AIDS, from one who has been on the front lines for over a decade.

Lauritsen is a Harvard-educated, survey research analyst by profession. As in his first book [the indispensable "AZT Story: Poison by Prescription" (1990),] this book employs his wide range of journalistic and research skills; it is painstakingly documented and referenced, grounded in his solid knowledge of survey research protocol and presented in a tone that is fair, sane, and reasonable. The book is overflowing with information (most of it fascinating and freeing) but somehow manages to avoid adding to the "AIDS info overload:" the work is infused with a spirit of independent inquiry a passion for truth which stands in stark contrast to most "official" sources of AIDS information, much of which is mindless rehash of the same unchallenged assumptions.

With characteristic frankness and ardor, Lauritsen relentlessly and in detail exposes the bad research and botched industry grossed upwards of $50 million a year) and the health hazard they represent (lung and immune system damage, anemia, cancer). Largely due to the combined efforts of Lauritsen and Hank Wilson (co-author of "Death Rush,") poppers were made illegal in 1989, with the impetus coming from the gay community itself.

In a previously unpublished piece ("The Political Economy of AIDS Incidence") he dispels the notion of AIDS as an epidemic, (and the mass hysteria generated by that perception) by demonstrating that there is still no evidence that AIDS is spreading beyond the original risk groups. He challenges the continually dismal official AIDS projections and even suggests that AIDS may have already peaked: he contends that AZT use is producing a continuance of AIDS when we should really be seeing a decline by now. The fact is, AIDS is not behaving like an infectious disease at all; it seems "the numbers" are routinely inflated and the notion of epidemic continuously fueled in order to generate funding.

In "Science by Press Release (August '89), Lauritsen refers to the work of Noam Chomsky, political analyst, and his seminal work "Manufacturing Consent" (co-authored with Edward Herman) in which a model of modern-day propaganda and the media's role in it is put forth. In their model, criticism and dissent are tolerated as long as they are within the presuppositions of what they call the "elite consensus," a system so powerful as to be absorbed largely without awareness. Lauritsen picks up from there and postulates an "AIDS elite consensus" consisting of an "elaborate mythological system which is so well internalized by most AIDS writers that they could recite the basic catechism in their sleep: AIDS is a new deadly disease, invariably fatal, caused by HIV ... and so forth. Facts that don't fit into the official paradigm transmute into unfacts and go down the memory hole!"

In a chapter covering the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco (written July 1990), Lauritsen captures the energy and atmosphere of these events, particularly the information overload with over 2500 abstracts distributed (making the "evidentiary weight of any one abstract nil"), and wonders aloud on what basis the other 2500 abstracts submitted were rejected: were they not good enough or did they simply not uphold the orthodox view? (Of the 1,000 he personally scanned, not one disputed the HIV-AIDS hypothesis or the benefits of AZT.) As one might expect, Burroughs Wellcome's presence dominated much of the conference. Lauritsen comments, "One realized what conferences like this are really about: billions of dollars of profits for the medical industrial complex." He concludes: "Whatever the merits of this conference might be, it has a least provided a historical record of great magnitude. Literally millions of words were recorded for posterity. Some day, when it has been established that HIV and AZT were the two greatest blunders, hoaxes and frauds in all of medical history, historians will be able to delve into the conference documents to contemplate with amazement the delusions of which even well-meaning and otherwise intelligent scientists are capable."

The centerpiece of this book is the newly written chapter "The Risk AIDS Hypothesis" for it is here that Lauritsen puts forth a new AIDS paradigm. He argues that underneath the information overload and AIDS "technobabble," AIDS is basically simple.

With the current paradigm, AIDS is defined entirely in terms of old diseases in conjunction with "dubious test results and even more dubious assumptions." He argues that "although people are undeniably sick, AIDS itself does not exist;" it's a phony construct ... "a product of muddled thinking and hidden agendas." Lauritsen argues that the official definition of AIDS the presence of one or more indicator diseases and the "tendentiously named" HIV is a "tautology:" the CDC has given the retrovirus a causal role as "an artifact of the definition." Indicator diseases are said to be caused by the underlying condition of immune deficiency which is said to be caused by HIV. But, he argues, "In fact, everything about the paradigm is wrong. The presumed condition of immune deficiency is not present in all AIDS patients, tests used to diagnose immune deficiency are new and inaccurate, many of the heterogenous indicator diseases are not even caused by immune deficiency, and the hypothesized microbial culprit, is harmless." [My underlining]

Lauritsen then presents an alternative hypothesis as to the real nature of AIDS and what its causes might be in different groups. His is a toxicology model, not a microbial one which seems more viable in that it addresses itself to the reality of people's illnesses, rather than the vagaries of an unproven theory of causation. He states, "Under the obfuscatory rubric of "AIDS" lies the reality of people who are sick in diverse ways and for diverse reasons."

"The Risk AIDS Hypothesis" asserts that the AIDS diseases are entirely separate conditions caused by a variety of factors (most of which have in common only that they involve risk behavior) and does not see AIDS as being a transmissible condition at all. It suggests that AIDS is caused by non-infectious agents (including drugs, antibiotics, AZT, etc.) According to Lauritsen, different risk groups and individuals are getting sick in different ways and for different reasons. "We need to find out what risks have affected their health in ways that caused them to develop one or more of the old illness that qualify for a diagnosis of AIDS ... With regard to any specific risk group, the question is not 'Why have these people developed AIDS?' but rather, "Why are these people sick?" The rest of the chapter attempts to answer this question one risk group at a time.

Why are IV drug users sick? From drug use, Lauritsen states, and from the same related illnesses from which they've been suffering for the last 30 to 40 years: lung disease and emaciation (resembling an AIDS patient profile). Yet our whole approach and effort with regard to this risk group is centered not in the actual effect of the drugs but in the "shared needles" idea, which he discounts immediately partly with an excellent quote from William Burroughs which suggests sharing needles is not even a common practice amongst IV drug users. [Similarly, elsewhere in the book he dispels the notion of accidental needle pricks causing AIDS amongst health care workers. "There are now well over 1,000 well-documented cases of health care workers accidentally stuck with syringes that had been used on AIDS patients. In no case has AIDS resulted."]

Why are gay men getting sick? For a particular "subset of gay men," with a "fast-lane lifestyle" the answer is in the use of recreational drugs, repeated incidents of VD, and psychological factors. [Note: this is touchy territory for some gay men and may make many uncomfortable, but the value of his theory is in the impetus it can provide for one to take stock of oneself, one's past habits and abuses, to face the facts on what was actually ingested. The issue is not blame but accountability: no one knew or now knows the long-term effect of many of the drugs and antibiotics we've all ingested.] Lauritsen assembled this profile from survey research, interviews with people with AIDS, and his own observations.

What about hemophiliacs? As Lauritsen states, "Nothing demonstrates more clearly the phoniness of the AIDS construct than hemophiliac cases which represent less than 1% of total AIDS cases but have claimed a lot of media attention. Why are hemophiliacs sick? They were born sick and the sickliness of a hemophilia goes far beyond the inability of the blood to clot. Once a hemophiliac has been diagnosed with HIV, he will not be allowed to die of anything but AIDS." The Ryan White case is used as a good example as it was one of the most widely publicized AIDS cases (with the media especially fond of the "innocent victim" angle). Though White's death was viewed as an "AIDS death" with the assumed cause of HIV, the media successfully covered up the simple fact that Ryan White, a hemophiliac, had died of hemophilia. (This was verified by calling the Hemophilia Society in Indiana and speaking with people who knew Ryan White and confirmed that hemophilia itself was his major health problem and the cause of his death.) Lauritsen claims that AIDS amongst hemophiliacs is "nothing more than congenital sickliness aggravated by the toxicities of Factor 8 Concentrate [a blood clotting agent] and nucleoside analogue therapy."

Lauritsen then discusses transfusions. The "official mythology" holds that previously healthy people received transfusions of tainted blood which led to HIV infection which led to AIDS. This belief is punctured by what he calls "the most important study to date regarding HIV infected blood." Of the 437 patients who received HIV infected blood who died within 4 years, 97% died of causes having nothing whatsoever to do with AIDS.

The chapters's conclusion is cogent: "Prevention is crucial in the AIDS epidemic. If my arguments are correct that AIDS is a phony construct and that people are getting sick from specific health risks then the proper course of action is to identify and eliminate those health risks."

In the next chapter "Recovery From AIDS" Lauritsen puts forth his model of health. "There will never be a cure for AIDS," Lauritsen claims, "because it is not one single thing to be cured. However recovery from AIDS illness is possible and has been happening without publicity since the early days of the epidemic." His recovery program consists of detoxifying both the body and mind; its components include taking charge of one's own recovery, questioning the diagnosis itself, a healthy skepticism of doctors and medical advice, rejecting "voodoo" ( e.g. pronouncements like "AIDS is invariably fatal"), eliminating all health risks (prescriptive and recreational drugs, drinking, smoking, sugar, etc.), good nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and proper rest.

In the chapter "Hiv Voodoo from Burroughs Wellcome (Jan. "Living with Hiv" ads we've all seen in newspapers and at bus stops. He illustrates the truth in the statement "The virus doesn't kill; the diagnosis does." by revealing the elements of hypnosis in these ads: "highly sophisticated psychological techniques are being used to make gay men perceive themselves as sick and become sick in order to qualify as consumers of AZT." He also discusses the Burroughs Wellcome video sent to doctors where they are told to "ally with the treatment," by knocking down any objections their "HIV-infected" patients have about going on AZT.

And finally, in a chapter on AIDS organizations, Lauritsen explores the role most mainstream agencies have played in promoting AZT and keeping the AIDS delusional system intact.

The good news message of this book is that the HIV delusional system is falling apart. "As the HIV hypothesis goes into its death agony, even more crazy and convoluted sub- hypotheses are spun out about how HIV might really cause AIDS, perhaps with the assistance of this or that cofactor, an ever increasing incubation period, and even more arcane diagnostic criteria."

I found myself in accord with the vast majority of material in this book. I view it as a major work, one in a handful of books I consider essential in terms of my own "alternative AIDS education." I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Lauritsen's message and in particular his "Risk AIDS Hypothesis" can save lives.

There's little I can add to this book except to state, that in my understanding, the "AIDS delusional system" is part of a much larger illusory structure created by fear and ignorance. This fear and ignorance is the preexisting condition, the context of our times. It preceded AIDS and AIDS orthodoxy and provides the fuel for any "delusional system." We've all played a role in the creation and perpetuation of an environment in which illusion flourishes and authoritative structures shape our perception. If our fear hadn't already stopped us from thinking for ourselves, we wouldn't be so eager to believe what authorities tell us; if our fear hadn't already made us dependent, what hold would authority have over us?

If AIDS is indeed a war, (though I am uncomfortable with that AIDS metaphor) then the enemy (in my book) is not other people, or "the establishment;" it's the fear and ignorance itself. That "enemy" is within as well as without. It's vital that we look inside ourselves to see those demons lurking, not just to condemn their external manifestations.

Lauritsen closes with an optimistic bulletin from the front lines: truth is winning! He cites recent developments like the discrediting of the "co-discoverer" of HIV, Dr. Robert Gallo (indicted on two counts of scientific misconduct by Public Health Service's Office of Research Integrity (ORI); the recent release of the Concorde study; current media breakthroughs, and more coverage of alternative perspectives (e.g. PBS's "Tony Brown Journal). I share in his optimism and base mine on some of the same recent developments. The illusion is being shattered. Reality is breaking through. People are waking up.

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