Benjamin O. Gardiner
Founder of the AIDS Information Bulletin Board
When Ben Gardiner started the AIDS Information
Bulletin Board in 1985, there was still an openness to discuss various
theories on the nature and cause or causes of the “gay health
crisis”. The “human immuno-deficiency” virus had not
yet been named. Censorship had not set in. Ben's approach, from the
very beginning, was one of determined impartiality. He reported what
the AIDS Establishment said, and he also reported what we said —
those of us who dissented from the orthodox AIDS model.
I first met Ben in February 1989 in Los Angeles,
where we both attended a conference on holistic healing organized by
the Foundation for Research Of Natural Therapies. A year later, June
1990, I stayed with him when covering the International AIDS Conference
in San Francisco, at which time I interviewed him for the New York Native. After that, I stayed with him whenever I visited San Francisco. The last time was in November 2009, when I attended the Rethinking AIDS 2009 Conference.
Ben had shrunk, but he still got around, and his mind was as alert as
ever. He introduced me to Skype, and we had good long talks about
everything from Harvard to web design.
After my return to Boston we continued to
correspond. When I asked him to describe the AIDS Info BBS in his own
words, he replied on 11 November 2009:
hesitate to say how to describe the aidsinfobbs page [site]. It is a
total mix of quality, but I'd state that all of it is real and created
mostly by men who were ill with what was called “AIDS” at
those times. There is information and there is emotional outburst.
There is expectation, hope, and also sadness and despair. It is a very
human document, in something like 16,000 files that should eventually
become part of the social history of this country. Some have said it
should be in the Smithsonian. I have said they can have a copy, but
nothing came of it.
It is also
unique. There is nothing like it anywhere, of those years when we
really did not know anything for sure. It was world-wide. Calls came
from (I tallied it because all callers had to register and so I knew
who was calling) seven countries on five continents.
The only larger
databases available by wire were either run by government or subsidized
by drug companies, with consequent tons of useless or misleading
articles and admonitions from the backers and no way for the caller to
know which was which.
It used to be at
the top of all the search lists because it began with “a”
and because it was encyclopaedic and recognized as such. In the last
five years it has become less renowned but the hits count has gone up,
in those five years, from an average of 500/day to an average of
10,000/day, with a maximum one day of 85,000. Not big numbers by
today's reckoning but quite big for a 10-to-25-year-old database.
His letter of 15 November 2009 is worth quoting in full:
Hi John —
Daybook reminds me that this Nov. 15th is the day of Asclepius, and I
remember that that name was given to your publishing house at one point.
knowing this, I celebrated by attending a lovely surprise party for my
grandson's wife, and met many of the people they work with, mostly of
Danish origin. The weather was good, the goodies delicious, and I felt
a certain rejuvenation or I might say healing.
It all adds up to another day of being glad to be alive.
In his last letter to me, written on 13 January
2010, only ten days before his death, Ben complimented me on the videos
I had added to my website. I shall miss Ben, and the many snail-mail
letters and e-mails he sent over the years.
— John Lauritsen
• To read an obituary of Ben Gardiner from the website of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association click here.
• To read my New York Native interview with Ben Gardiner, June 1990, click here.