Rethinking AIDS Conference
7 November 2009
History of the Controversy
“AIDS” began in 1981, when a young man,
an “active homosexual”, developed severe lung disease. Four
more like him were found. Then a couple of dozen “active
homosexuals” were found with Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). Public health
officials assumed that these few cases must have a connection, and
strained mightily to find one. From their speculations
“AIDS” emerged — a protean construct, rather than a
coherent disease entity — a powerful and ever-evolving myth.
Dubious tests and bizarre speculations were accepted uncritically until
1983, when a few voices of dissent were heard. In a few years there
would be hundreds, and then thousands of us.
With limited time, I can only mention a few highlights of AIDS criticism, and in broad strokes.
An early AIDS critic was Joseph Sonnabend, a New
York City physician with a practice consisting mostly of gay men.
Sonnabend put forward a multifactorial model: AIDS was caused by
multiple infections with known viruses, together with
immune-suppressing effects of semen.
Sonnabend's multifactorial model was incomplete,
since he disregarded drugs, antibiotics, and psychological factors. He
ignored the effects of poppers and other “recreational”
drugs. When told that some of his “AIDS” patients with
pneumonia continued to be chain smokers, he responded: “If you
knew that someone had only a few months to live, would you deny them
something that gave them pleasure?” Sonnabend has since recanted
his earlier heresies; he now attacks “AIDS denialists” and
has prescribed antivirals to his patients.
My own take here: “AIDS” is not a
coherent disease entity, but a phoney construct. In reality, different
people are getting sick in different ways and for different reasons.
In 1983 I began collaborating with Hank Wilson in
San Francisco, to warn gay men about the dangers of using
“poppers” (nitrite inhalants). We wrote articles for the
gay press, and published a pamphlet, “Poppers & AIDS”.
In 1984 a New York psychiatrist, Casper Schmidt,
wrote an article, “The Group-Fantasy Origins of AIDS”,
which was published in the Journal of Psychohistory.
Schmidt argued that “AIDS” could not be an infectious
disease (spread by germs), because it followed cultural fault lines.
Instead, “AIDS” is an example of epidemic hysteria.
Schmidt's paper strongly demonstrates that in the decade preceding the
first cases, psychological warfare had been waged against gay men by
religious fundamentalists, who told them they ought to die.
In February 1985 my first major AIDS article,
“CDC's Tables Obscure AIDS-Drugs Connection”, was published
in the Philadelphia Gay News. Also in 1985 two AIDS articles of mine were published in the New York Native, which in the next eleven years would publish over fifty of my articles. The Native was then the foremost gay publication, sold on newsstands all over the world.
And still in 1985, Ben Gardiner in San Francisco
started the AIDS Information Bulletin Board, which carried information
representing all viewpoints. The AIDS Info BBS evolved into a web site,
and is still running.
In January 1986 Nathaniel S. Lehrman's article,
“A ‘Natural’ Epidemic?”, was published in the New Amsterdam News, and later reprinted in the New York Native. Lehrman argued that HIV failed Koch's Postulates, and that toxicological causes for “AIDS” should be investigated.
Finally, in 1986: a small book, Death Rush: Poppers & AIDS,
by Hank Wilson and myself. We used Koch's Postulates and Occam's Razor
to argue against a viral etiology, and put forward a multifactorial
model that emphasized toxins.
1987 was a momentous year. Peter Duesberg's article,
“Retroviruses as Carcinogens and Pathogens: Expectations and
Reality”, was published in Cancer Research,
March 1987, stating that retroviruses did not cause cancer or any other
illness. I interviewed Duesberg in June, and the controversy burst into
the public arena. A month later Celia Farber wrote her first AIDS
article, also an interview with Duesberg, for SPIN magazine. My first articles on AZT, were published in the Native,
including “AZT On Trial”, which demonstrated that the Phase
II AZT trials were fraudulent. Gary Null began having AIDS critics like
Duesberg and me on his radio talk show on WBAI in New York City.
On 8 September 1987, “AIDS: The Unheard
Voices” — the first of many AIDS-critical documentaries
produced by Joan Shenton and her company, Meditel — was broadcast
over Channel 4 television in the United Kingdom. It won a Royal
Television Society journalism award, equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize.
In 1988 the AIDS Establishment confronted Duesberg
in a forum in Washington DC. Faced with Anthony Fauci, Robert Gallo,
and a truculent William Haseltine, Duesberg was expected to recant, but
he stood his ground, and was supported by Harry Rubin, one of the
pioneers of retrovirology.
Early in 1988 Anthony Liversidge conducted a
telephone interview with Robert Gallo, America's premier “AIDS
February 1988). Gallo ranted, raved, and swore, but failed to rebut
Duesberg's criticisms of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. Within a few years
Gallo would be found guilty of “scientific misconduct”, and
two of his closest associates would be convicted of felonies.
Later in 1988 Peter Duesberg had a brief article, “HIV Is Not The Cause Of AIDS”, published in Science (29 July 1988), arguing against two supporters of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
Several non-orthodox books were published in 1988, the most important being Jon Rappoport's hard-hitting AIDS Inc.: Scandal of the Century and the second volume of Michael Callen's Surviving and Thriving with AIDS.
And on 16 December 1988, the first AIDS-dissident
conference was held, organized by mathematics professor Frank
Buianouckas, in New York City at Bronx Community College.
In 1989, in addition to many AIDS dissident articles, several books were published, most notably Jad Adams's AIDS: The HIV Myth and Richard C. and Rosalind J. Chirimuuta's AIDS, Africa and Racism.
In Los Angeles in February 1989, Lawrence Badgley
sponsored an alternative health symposium, at which a number of
In 1990 the entire 115-page issue of a German magazine, Raum & Zeit — under the title: “AIDS: Die Krankheit die es gar nicht gibt”
(“AIDS”: the disease that doesn't even exist) — was
devoted to German, Swiss and American AIDS-critics, who attacked the
AIDS orthodoxies with intelligence and militancy.
An important article by Peter H. Duesberg and Bryan
J. Ellison, “Is the AIDS Virus a Science Fiction?”,
appeared in the Summer 1990 issue of the conservative magazine, Policy Review.
Among the critical AIDS books published in 1990 were Michael Callen's Surviving AIDS, Michael Fumento's The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, and my own Poison By Prescription: The AZT Story.
On 13 June 1990 Meditel's second major AIDS
documentary, “The AIDS Catch”, aired over Channel 4
television. Narrator Michael Verney-Elliott superbly enunciated such
points as: “AIDS was not behaving like an infectious
In Berlin Kawi Schneider and Peter Schmidt began
showing the Meditel documentaries and their own AIDS-dissident programs
over Offenen Kanal television.
In May 1992 a major conference, “AIDS: A
Different View”, took place in Amsterdam. The conference was sponsored by the Dutch government, which
it include defenders of AIDS orthodoxy. Some of these behaved boorishly, but we AIDS critics succeeded in getting our ideas
Just before the conference, the Sunday Times,
under a banner headline, published a two-and-a-half page article by
Neville Hodgkinson, “Experts mount startling challenge to Aids
After battling with the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) for several months, I finally obtained documents under the
Freedom of Information Act, which documented in stark detail the
cheating that took place in the Phase II AZT trials.
Meditel's third AIDS documentary, “AZT: Cause
For Concern”, aired over Channel 4 television The next day
thousands of “AIDS” patients flushed their AZT capsules
down the toilet. Shares of Wellcome Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer
of AZT, plunged, and the charitable Wellcome Foundation divested itself
of Wellcome stocks. Wellcome retaliated, not by answering any of our
arguments, and not by suing for libel, but by surreptitiously attacking
our reputations and livelihoods.
AIDS critics from all over the world flew to Berlin
for the June 1993 International AIDS Conference. Many of us met for the
first time at the home of Kawi Schneider. Robert Laarhoven set up a
literature table, with books and copies of Rethinking AIDS. Delegates
who came up to the table were keenly interested in our ideas. The next
day Laarhoven was expelled from the conference. Peter Schmidt and
Christian Joswig, who were handing out leaflets, were violently
attacked by several dozen members of Act Up, who destroyed signs,
burned leaflets, and attempted to destroy camera equipment. (Act Up
members were staying in luxurious hotels, with all expenses paid by
Wellcome Pharmaceuticals.) Media people who witnessed these
crimes reported nothing, and the conference organizers took no action
against the perpetrators.
Following the International AIDS conference in
Berlin, an “AZT On Trial” conference, chaired by Martin
Walker, was held in London.
In June 1993 the Perth Group's article, “Is A Western Blot Proof Of HIV Infection?” (BioTechnology)
argued that the “HIV-antibody” tests, although used to
diagnose HIV infection, had never been validated by isolation of the
Christine Johnson expanded upon the Perth Group's
article, showing that dozens of conditions (flu vaccination, past
malaria infection, drug abuse, etc.) could cause positive readings.
During 1993 the Sunday Times and Neville Hodgkinson were subjected to one vicious attack after another, from AIDS activists, medical people, and Nature magazine. They responded with a page-wide banner headline: “AIDS: Why We Won't Be Silenced”.
A number of AIDS-dissident books were published in 1993: Martin J. Walker's Dirty Medicine, Ian Young's The AIDS Dissidents: An Annotated Bibliography, my own The AIDS War: Propaganda, Profiteering and Genocide from the Medical-Industrial Complex, and Robert Root-Bernstein's Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus.
Root-Bernstein's book was unsatisfactory in many ways; he attempted to
straddle the fence, and is now in the camp of AIDS orthodoxy, claiming
that HIV is a necessary cause of “AIDS”.
The fourth major Meditel documentary, “AIDS and Africa”, aired in 1993.
In 1994 the rank of AIDS-dissidents was joined by
Kary Mullis, who had just won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for
inventing the Polymerase Chain Reaction.
On 21 June 1994, here in San Francisco, there was an
all-day symposium sponsored by the American Association for the
Advancement of Science. The AIDS-critics were Phillip Johnson, Harvey
Bialy, Celia Farber, Charles Thomas, Peter Duesberg, Peter Plumly, Kary
Mullis, Harry Rubin, Bryan Ellison, and Charles Geschekter. The
defenders of AIDS orthodoxy were badly trounced.
In May 1994 an alternative AIDS conference was held in Bologna, Italy.
A two-part article by the prominent mathematician,
Serge Lang, “HIV and AIDS: Questions of Scientific and
Journalistic Responsibility”, was published in Yale Scientific, starting in Fall 1994.
In 1994 Bryan Ellison self-published a book written by himself and Peter Duesberg: Why We Will Never Win The War On AIDS. Since this publication was done without Duesberg's consent, it was later withdrawn.
In 1995 a young German virologist, Stefan Lanka,
argued that, not only has HIV never been properly isolated, but it
might not even exist (“HIV: Reality or Artefact”, Continuum,
April/May 1995). Later Lanka would argue that retroviruses themselves
might not exist, but rather be proteins shed by human cells under
stress. This provoked a dispute among AIDS dissidents, which is still
going on. One side (Duesberg et al.) claims that HIV is a harmless
passenger retrovirus. The other side (Lanka, the Perth Group) claims
that HIV does not exist. However, both sides agree that true viral
infection (viremia) has never been demonstrated — that HIV, after
standard purification procedures, has never been photographed using the
electron microscope, and therefore may not exist as an intact,
cell-free, infectious virus.
Ian Young's book, The Stonewall Experiment,
was published in 1995. It debunked the orthodox view of
“AIDS” and movingly portrayed the betrayal of gay
liberation ideals by the commercial sex industry and by hateful
In April 1995, an alternative AIDS conference was
held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, organized by Ricardo Leschot.
In 1996 David Rasnick, an expert on protease
inhibitors, wrote “Inhibitors of HIV Protease Useless Against
AIDS” (Reappraising AIDS, August 1996). Paul Philpott & Christine Johnson debunked the use of PCR counts (“Viral Load of Crap”, Rethinking AIDS, October 1996); their analysis was supported by Kary Mullis, who invented PCR: “Quantitative PCR is an oxymoron.”
In 1996 a new AIDS-dissident militancy emerged with
San Francisco Act Up — which, unlike other Act Ups, was opposed
to the AIDS Industry and its lies. At the International AIDS Conference
in Vancouver, hundreds of angry AIDS activists, led by Act Up SF,
marched behind a banner that read: “AIDS Drugs Kill. Ban Toxic
AZT. Sue Glaxo!” Later SF Act Up members crashed an AZT
panel, and drenched Margaret Fischl and Paul Volberding with fake
blood, charging them with murder for promoting a poison, which had been
approved through fraudulent research.
The leader of SF Act Up, David Pasquarelli, paid
with his life for this militancy. Five years later he was imprisoned on
trumped-up charges of “terrorism”. He was treated harshly,
and his health was destroyed.  Two years later he died. I was very fond of David, and can hardly believe that I am in San Francisco now and won't see him.
1996 saw the publication of three important books: Peter Duesberg's Inventing The AIDS Virus, Steven Epstein's Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge, and Neville Hodgkinson's AIDS, The Failure of Contemporary Science: How a Virus That Never Was Deceived the World.
Hodgkinson's fine book was withdrawn and destroyed by the publisher,
and copies are hard to find — but he will soon be making it
In 1997 Ian Young and I edited The AIDS Cult: Essays on the Gay Health Crisis.
The eight contributors — Casper Schmidt, George Hazlehurst,
Michael Ellner, Andrew Cort, Cass Mann, Michael Callen, John Lauritsen
and Ian Young — explored “the ways that beliefs, group
interests and social forces conspire to make gay men sick.”
In 1998 Joan Shenton told the Meditel story, and
gave an excellent summary of AIDS controversies, in her book, Positively False: Exposing the Myths Around HIV and AIDS.
The 1998 International AIDS Conference was held in
Geneva, and for the first time AIDS critics were on the official
program, thanks to the organizing of Michael Baumgartner. About 60
dissidents were present, and about 18 of us were inside with press
passes. In the panel on testing, the Perth Group debunked the
“HIV-antibody” tests and Etienne de Harven showed how
retroviruses properly ought to be isolated and photographed. An
alternative conference was held near the conference site.
In 1999 Christine Maggiore wrote a large pamphlet,
“What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was
Wrong?”. In time this would be expanded and become the most
popular alternative AIDS publication. She founded the group, Alive and
Well, which — together with proliferating HEAL groups —
provided hope and sound advice to those who had been diagnosed
In 2004 Charles Ortleb (publisher of the New York Native)
made a film, “The Last Lovers On Earth”, based on his 1999
book by the same title. This brilliant satirical film was released in
DVD form in 2006, and is currently available.
Also in 2006: Celia Farber's book, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS.
In 2007 two important books were published: Henry H. Bauer's The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory and Rebecca Culshaw's Science Sold Out: Does HIV really cause AIDS?
Of great importance in the struggle for Truth about
“AIDS” are the web sites, which have provided an end run
around censorship. Some of the main ones, in no particular order: Virus
Myth, Duesberg, AIDS Wiki, Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society, Sumeria
(Memory Hole), AIDS Information BBS, Perth Group, James Hogan, Anthony
Brink, Rethinking AIDS, Alive and Well, Roberto Giraldo, HEAL
(especially Toronto, New York and London), Henry Bauer, David Rasnick,
Lew Rockwell, and the Immunity Resource Foundation.
Publications that were at least sometimes friendly to our ideas include: Continuum, Rethinking AIDS, Reappraising AIDS, New York Native, SPIN, HEAL Bulletin, Raum & Zeit, Bio/Technology, Zenger's, Gay & Lesbian Humanist, Positively Healthy, PWA Coalition Newsletter, Townsend Letter for Physicians, Magnus, and Genetica.
Finally, the alternative AIDS groups, and I'm afraid
this list will be very incomplete: The Group (for the Scientific
Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis) formed in 1991. HEAL (New York
and then many other cities). Act Up San Francisco. Positively Healthy.
Alive & Well. Continuum. Project AIDS International. Cure Now (Los
Angeles). PWA Coalition (sometimes friendly to dissidents). Alternative
Health. Foundation for Research Of Natural Therapies (F.R.O.N.T.).
Science is cumulative. As our discourse moves into
increasingly specialized areas, we should not forget what we already
know for sure.
“AIDS” is not a coherent disease entity.
It has never been defined rationally, and the surveillance definition
has changed radically over time.
Whatever “AIDS” is, it is not infectious.
The Phase II AZT trials, the basis for FDA approval
in 1987, were fraudulent. All of the subsequent “AIDS”
drugs rode in on the coattails of AZT.
All of the “AIDS” tests are worthless:
Elisa, Western Blot, CD4 counts, P24 antigen, and PCR counts.
We are not dealing with honorable opponents. They
lie, cheat and steal, and — oh, yes — they murder. (They
are currently smearing us with the label “AIDS denialists”,
and saying that we are responsible for the deaths of 330,000 Africans
— because we prevented them from getting the AZT they needed!)
People with HIV+ diagnoses can thrive, provided they
learn the truth about “AIDS”, follow good health practices,
and keep drugs out of their bodies.
1. For David Pasquarelli's account of his experience in prison click here.
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