Ben Gardiner
Benjamin O. Gardiner

Ben 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:

    I 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 —

    The Pagan 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.
    Without even 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.   

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