In Defence of AIDS Critics *

by John Lauritsen

    According to the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860): “All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed, Second it is violently opposed, Third it is accepted as being self-evident.”  I'd add that, even before ridicule, truth will be ignored or censored, especially if powerful political-economic interests are involved. There is a German word for this: Todschweigen (to kill off through silence).
    For over a quarter of a century there have been critics of the orthodox AIDS paradigm, the HIV-causes-AIDS hypothesis. We call ourselves “AIDS dissidents” or “AIDS critics” or “AIDS realists”. We have experienced every imaginable form of censorship and ridicule, and now, as our ranks have grown, violent opposition — which almost always attacks our persons, not our ideas.
    Dr. Mark Wainberg, president of the International AIDS Society, has called for jailing AIDS dissidents, whom he calls “HIV deniers” (his explicit analogy to “Holocaust deniers”). John P. Moore of Cornell University advocates even more violent measures, stating:

    This IS a war, there ARE no rules, and we WILL crush you, one at a time, completely and utterly (at least the more influential ones; foot-soldiers like you aren't worth bothering with). (Letter from John P. Moore, PhD to AIDS-dissident Michael Geiger, 27 January 2007, 10:24)

    The latest attack pit bull for the AIDS Establishment is Seth Kalichman, a clinical psychologist, who has written several books on AIDS and set up his own blog site. An article by Kalichman — “Are You Positive? Rogues, pseudoscientists, snake oil peddlers” — appears in the November/December issue of the New Humanist. [1] Kalichman goes for the jugular, portraying us as warped, devious, evil people. According to him, we are responsible for untold deaths of those who, following our ideas, avoid “anti-HIV” drugs. Kalichman's article has a sidebar, taking up two-thirds of a page — “The Denialist Hall of Shame” — which gives head-shot photos and derisively untrue descriptions of Peter H. Duesberg, David Rasnick, Jody Wells, Huw Christie, Michael Baumgartner, Neville Hodgkinson, Gordon Stewart, The Perth Group (Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and Valendar Turner), Henry H. Bauer, Christine Maggiore, David Crowe, and Kary B. Mullis. (I, to my regret, am omitted.)
    Before going into the specifics of Kalichman's article, I must defend the good names of AIDS dissidents. We are not bad people, who in some sinister (if unspecified) way are profiting from the stands we have taken. This is the opposite of the truth. Believe me, there are no financial rewards for attacking the AIDS cash cow. The AIDS dissidents I know have been motivated by a concern for truth and a desire to save lives. All of us have taken hard knocks; all have suffered social, professional and financial losses. AIDS dissidents have been ostracized and slandered; fired or had grants canceled, driven into bankruptcy; physically assaulted.
    Profits of the AIDS Industry run into many billions of dollars every year. This is where the money is. People with meager qualifications have become rich as “AIDS experts”, heads of AIDS organizations, or “treatment activists”. Regardless of how Wainberg, Moore and Kalichman receive their compensations, there can be no doubt that their interests lie with Big Pharma. The crux of the matter is revealed in Kalichman's panegyric to “HIV treatments”:

    People are living longer and healthier lives with HIV infection as a result of earlier detection through HIV antibody testing and a remarkable success of HIV treatments. Indeed, countries that launched aggressive testing and treatment programs, such as Brazil and Botswana, have reduced suffering and prolonged life. In contrast, South Africa delayed testing and treatment programs as a result of former President Thabo Mbeki's AIDS denialism, policies that resulted in over 300,000 unnecessary deaths and over 35,000 infants senselessly infected with HIV.

    There is not a word of truth in this. The “HIV-antibody” tests have never been validated, so no one knows exactly what they mean, let alone how reliable they are. A German AIDS dissident, Erhard Neubert, said it exactly: “The virus doesn't kill, the diagnosis does.”  Healthy people who receive “HIV-positive” diagnoses are prescribed drugs which cause malaise, deformity, and eventually death. In Massachusetts, where I live, the largest cause of death among “HIV-positive” people is death from liver failure, caused by “HIV treatments”. Since many of these people don't live long enough to acquire an “AIDS-indicator” condition, they are not counted as “AIDS” deaths, thus perpetuating the myth that “AIDS” deaths are dropping thanks to “anti-HIV” drugs.
    So far as South Africa is concerned, the figures are made up from whole cloth. AZT, the drug Big Pharma was marketing to Africa, would not have saved lives, but destroyed them. AZT is a drug on which I have written extensively. Using documents obtained from the Food and Drug Administration under the Freedom of Information ACT, I demonstrated that AZT was approved on the basis of fraudulent research. [2] AZT is cytotoxic, meaning that it harms healthy cells. The toxicities of AZT include anemia; myopathy (muscular pain, muscular inflammation, muscular atrophy); cachexia (wasting); nausea; headache; and damage to the kidneys, liver and nerves. AZT is a known carcinogen. (It is highly positive in a standard test for carcinogenicity, the Cell Transformation Assay; it causes cancer in rodents; and there is a strong correlation between long-term AZT therapy and cancer of the lymph system.)  AZT is a random terminator of DNA synthesis, the very life process, without which body cells can neither be formed nor develop. [3]
    In the United States alone, upwards of a third of a million gay men have been murdered through AZT. I say murdered, because the drug was criminally approved for marketing on the basis of fraudulent research, and because it was promoted through fraudulent claims that the “HIV-positives” would have better and longer lives. Most of these gay men would be alive today, if they had avoided AZT and had taken appropriate health measures. [4]
    Kalichman's article, as well as his book, Denying AIDS (2009), consists of nothing but ad hominem argumentation — attacking the persons, but not the ideas, of AIDS critics. Indeed, he explicitly states that he will not enter into scientific debate:

    This is not a book about AIDS and how it is caused by HIV. Rather, this is a book about HIV/AIDS denialism. I did not write this book to answer the denialist claims, but rather to offer insight into their wacky and destructive world. [Denying AIDS, p. xv]

    Kalichman urges us to “trust true experts and scientists who know more than we do to decipher the technical details.” (Denying AIDS, p. 156)  Using a variant of the tired old argument, “Eighty million Frenchmen can't be wrong”, he writes:

Tens of thousands of studies show that HIV does cause AIDS. If HIV does not cause AIDS it would mean that thousands of scientists, researchers, medical doctors, and public health officials — essentially the entire biomedical science and public health enterprise — had conspired to maintain a lie for 25 years. (Denying AIDS, p. 111)

    Kalichman portrays “HIV/AIDS denialists” as mentally ill individuals, filled with suspicion and paranoia, who are obsessed with other kinds of “denialism” and conspiracy theories. In his book he refers to “those who doubt that the Holocaust or 9/11 ever happened” (Denying AIDS, p. 9) — a strange statement. Thousands of people — including top-notch architects, physicists, and engineers — dispute the government's explanation of why three buildings (WTC1, WTC2 and WTC7) collapsed in the way that they did, but none have denied that the buildings collapsed, or that two of the three buildings were hit by airplanes.
    Of course, conspiracies do exist. In business or in politics, they are part of the game. While denying the conspiracies in which we AIDS critics allegedly believe, Kalichman seems to believe that we ourselves form some sort of conspiracy. Using stealth tactics and the pseudonym of “Joseph (Joe) C. Newton” to penetrate our ranks, he ingratiated himself with some of us (not me), professing to greatly admire our work. This was pointless, as we have nothing to hide and our ideas are readily available. Kalichman seems particularly proud of his incognito relationship with Peter Duesberg: on page 27 of his book is a photo of himself next to Duesberg. (Kalichman is on the right, with beard.)

Peter Duesberg & Seth Kalichman

    The ugliest ad hominem tactic used by Kalichman and others of his ilk is to gloat over the deaths of a few AIDS-dissidents, arguing speciously that their deaths were caused by HIV, and they would have lived longer had they taken “anti-HIV” drugs. Without going into personal details, I can say that in every case there were health risks in their lives, having nothing to do with viruses, which could explain why they died.
    What about the hundreds of thousands of people, in the United States alone, who died while taking “anti-HIV” drugs?  Did the drugs kill them?  What about the prominent advocates of AZT therapy who have died in the past two decades?  Did guilt cause them to develop cancer, commit suicide, or succumb to organ failure?
    Consider the recent death of Steven Lagakos, who co-authored a bogus study which advocated giving AZT to asymptomatic HIV-positives. [5] Driving on the highway, Lagakos suddenly veered over into the lane of on-coming traffic, killing himself, his mother, his wife, and the man in the other car. Was Lagakos killed by an Avenging Conscience?  Why not?  The conjecture is no less rational than the conjecture that AIDS-dissidents were killed by a retrovirus.
    In an earlier book, Understanding AIDS: Advances in Research and Treatment (1998), Kalichman toes the line of AIDS-orthodoxy and doesn't even mention AIDS critics. In addition to the usual “AIDS” commodities, Kalichman puts in a pitch for those of the Therapy Industry. Kalichman's fellow psychologists have observed that gay men with “AIDS” diagnoses suffer from depression. Why?  A rationalist might say that gay men are depressed because for over two millennia, the Abrahamic religions (starting with the Holiness Code of Leviticus) have punished sex between males with death — because religionists, from the Catholic church to the Moral Majority to the Rev. Fred Phelps, have told gay men that they are going to Hell and should die — because Hollywood movies have conveyed the message that gay men should commit suicide, be murdered, or both — because gay men with “HIV-positive” diagnoses have been told that they have a fatal disease — because they have been prescribed “anti-HIV” drugs, which make them feel awful and cause physical deformities (Crix bellies, buffalo humps, bulging veins in the head, shriveled arms and legs, wasted death's-head faces, grayish or cyanotic skin color). Anyone with eyes open can see that gay men, with or without “HIV-positive” diagnoses, have ample reasons to be unhappy. But Kalichman, ignoring all of these reasons, argues that gay men with “AIDS” diagnoses need therapy, as well as “anti-depressant” drugs — drugs which cause irreversible neurological damage, and which have caused previously sensible people to commit murder and/or suicide. In thus blaming the victim, Kalichman follows in the footsteps of an earlier shrink, Irving Bieber, who in the 1950s sneeringly diagnosed gay men as “injustice collectors” (as though we were not the victims of real injustices).
    Kalichman, both in his New Humanist article and in his books, does not want his readers to know the real arguments of AIDS critics or where to find them. Notably missing are references to our books or URLs to our websites. In Denying AIDS, one paragraph in Appendix B: (“about the HIV/AIDS Denialists”) mentions me and gives a brief quote from my book, The AIDS War — an atypical quote torn out of context. There is an superscript number, but no note, so the reader would have no idea where the quote came from. Indeed, there are no endnotes at all for Appendix B, although there are 14 superscript numbers 
one more example of the sloppiness of this shoddy little book. When “ad hominym” appears for “ad hominem” the reader suspects that Kalichman doesn't understand the concept any more than the spelling.
    It is regrettable that Kalichman's stridently abusive article should have appeared in the New Humanist, which was once a distinguished publication. I subscribed to the New Humanist for many years, until about 2002, when the layout became uglier and less readable, and the content became increasingly alien to freethought or humanism.
    As soon as I became aware of Kalichman's article, I wrote Editor Caspar Melville, asking if I could write a rebuttal piece. He replied:

    I appreciate your offer but in this instance I don't think there is a case for publishing a rebuttal. When we published Kalichman's piece we got quite a lot of comment from the 'dissidents' on our blog, (most of which I'm afraid to say seemed to confirm his argument): 668270485826433  So I feel that we have covered the issue well, allowed space for rebuttal, and there is little point in going over it again. (Caspar Melville to John Lauritsen, 10 March 2010)

    I replied:

    You are the editor, so that's that. Of course I don't agree with your decision. “Blogs” — open to anyone and everyone — are hardly a substitute for a rebuttal in the same publication as the piece being rebutted. It's elementary fair play that a rebuttal should be written by someone qualified to make the case for the opposing viewpoint. (John Lauritsen to Caspar Melville, 10 March 2010)

    The New Humanist blog didn't allow much “space for rebuttal”, since it was closed after AIDS-dissidents entered the discussion. Melville chose not to suggest that I write a letter-to-the-editor, so even that small “space for rebuttal” was not open. This is a shame, because in the past Melville seemed to favor open and vigorous debate over controversial issues. In his first editorial he wrote: “Humanists are sceptics. Above all, they believe in doubt.” (New Humanist, September/October 2005)  In a later editorial he wrote:

    While both Dawkins and Hitchens are polemicists whose aim is to challenge, stimulate and infuriate they do also make strong and serious arguments which should be engaged at the level of logic and reason. Are they wrong?  If they are, where are the counter-arguments beyond calling them names, or equating them with book-burners and murderers?  (New Humanist, March/April 2007)

    We AIDS critics have also put forward strong and serious arguments, which have so far not been engaged at the level of logic and reason. We do not deserve to be called “rogues, pseudoscientists, snake oil peddlers”.
    On every front cover of New Humanist is stated: “A magazine for freethinkers”. That may once have been so, but it is now false advertising.

                                                                #    #    #

1. To read Kalichman's article click here.  

2. “FDA Documents Show Fraud In AZT Trials” — Chapter XXIX in The AIDS War (1993), originally published in the New York Native, 30 March 1992. To read it click here.  

3. For critical information on AZT click here.  

4. For a table showing that 96% of all “AIDS” deaths in the U.S. occurred after AZT was approved for marketing in 1987, click here.  

5. Paul Volberding, Steven Lagakos, et al., “Zidovudine in Asymptomatic Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection: A Controlled Trial in Persons with Fewer than 500 CD4-Positive Cells per Cubic Millimeter”. NEJM, 5 April 1990.
    Following is my brief critique of this study:

    From my previous experience with AZT-advocacy research, and the unfavorable impression made on me by Volberding and Lagakos at an AZT conference in Washington, I had expected that the research would be bad. But I had at least expected it would be superficially plausible. Instead, I found such a botched job that it is almost embarrassing to write about it. The authors' ignorance of elementary statistics is beyond belief. None of their tables show bases or make sense. Looking at one of their tables, it is impossible to tell either what people or how many people the table is based on. Nor is this information to be found anywhere else in the report.
    Volberding et al. compare raw numbers with each other, without indicating the size of the subsamples from which they are drawn. And then, willy-nilly, they compare percents with raw numbers — something any schoolboy is supposed to know better than to do.
    Much of the article consists of crude special pleading. As support for the “benefits” of AZT, the authors cite the fraudulent Phase II Trials and the shoddy AZT survival study [analyzed here  and here], along with the utterly ridiculous Pizzo study. [Philip Pizzo, et al., “Effect of Continuous Intravenous Infusion of Zidovudine (AZT) in Children with Symptomatic HIV Infection”, NEJM, 6 October 1988.] However, they don't even mention the far superior Dournon study conducted in France, which found that the very, very slight “benefits” of AZT vanished and became nonexistent after six months. [E. Dournon et al., “Effects of Zidovudine [AZT] in 365 Consecutive Patients With AIDS or AIDS-Related Complex”, The Lancet, 3 December 1988.]
    (In the Pizzo study, researchers connected with the government and Burroughs Wellcome gave AZT to 21 children who had “HIV infection”, and claimed that the AZT boosted their IQs by 15 points. Although 5 of the 21 children died, the researchers were so impressed by “neurodevelopmental” improvements that they recommended giving AZT to “infected but asymptomatic newborns”. Anyone who has studied the principles and techniques of psychological testing can only be appalled by this ignorant and/or dishonest misuse of intelligence tests.)
    Before commenting further on Protocol 019, I consider it my ethical obligation as a journalist to talk to Paul Volberding, to see what explanations or excuses he can offer for this rubbish. So far he hasn't returned my calls. [John Lauritsen, The AIDS War, p. 161]

AIDS-Dissident web sites

AIDS-Dissident bibliography

* This article was published in the May 2010 issue of Gay & Lesbian Humanist.

Back to “AIDS”.