RA2009 In Retrospect
David Crowe – November, 2009
I opened RA 2009 with a poem by Piet Hein:
To be brave is to behave
bravely when your heart is faint.
So you can be brave
only when you really ain’t.
It might seem strange to root a scientific conference in bravery yet it is one of the character traits that mark AIDS Rethinkers. Brave are the scientists who have faced scorn, loss of research funding and inability to publish, but who went ahead anyway to confront the AIDS establishment. Brave are the journalists who have written about the bankrupt HIV=AIDS=Death dogma and suffered blacklisting, loss of their career and financial ruin. Brave are the gay men who have sustained their knowledge and beliefs rather than run with the lemmings over the cliff of HIV testing and AIDS drug dependency. Brave are the mothers and fathers who have defended their children against forced drugging with some of the most toxic organic chemicals known to man. Brave are the Africans who have said, “Beware white men bearing gifts”, only to be ridiculed or ignored in the stampede by others grasping for the money. Brave are those who defied common ignorance and attended RA2009.
The odor of money, which hangs prominently as smog at most AIDS conferences, was virtually absent at RA 2009. Many get poor by rethinking AIDS, but no rethinker gets rich. Many were only at this conference because they had emptied their piggy bank to scrape together plane fare, hotel costs and the registration fee (difficult for many even though heavily subsidized by our donors). At this conference nobody could ask the government or pharmaceutical companies for a handout. People were committed to the cause if they came, not to pharmaceutical companies and their death cult.
RA2009 was a tapestry of which bravery was one prominent thread. Others glistening were the scintillating conversations that touched all of us. And all those who attended weaved their own thoughts, ideas, love and stories around others, binding all of us closer together. The unfinished tapestry already tells thousands of stories, on some of which glint tears of sadness or joy. Some are of science done, corrupted or censored, some of articles told, stifled or distorted, others of human lives destroyed or redeemed by the power of human thought and determination.
One of the highlights of the RA 2009 program was having so many veterans of the AIDS wars of the 1980s and 1990s present, still telling cogent stories of those times, still sharing their critical analyses with those who would listen, with as much energy and commitment as ever. The first of these was John Lauritsen who bottled the history of the rethinking AIDS movement in his speech. He was followed by Peter Duesberg who again hammered home how the germ theory is incompatible with the HIV=AIDS dogma, followed by Etienne de Harven whose title, “Questioning the Existence of HIV”, made it clear that dissidence does not mean adherence to a new dogma, it means questioning everything, even if that is the passenger virus theory of Duesberg and others. All of us agree on most things, few of us agree on all points, something else that dramatically distinguishes rethinkers from the herds of dogmatists.
Other veterans included Charles Geshekter and Christian Fiala who both shone lasers on Africa. Geshekter raised chuckles quoting from AIDS scientists who explained lack of HIV antibodies or AIDS in Kenyan prostitutes by hypothesizing that “to maintain protection [against HIV] people need nearly continual exposure to HIV”. He reserved his biggest criticism for the new fondness for male circumcision, noting that the HIV status of female partners of men who became HIV–positive in a circumcision trial was unknown. Obviously scientists wouldn’t want to have to explain how men became “infected” without a source of infection. Fiala pointed out how Ugandan population statistics indicate a strongly growingpopulation, like most sub–Saharan nations. Just where is the epidemic visible except in the computers at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva?
Roberto Giraldo switched the subject from criticizing the dogma to asking what to do about people with genuine health problems. He talked about the “inner pharmacy”, the resources within us that can help us overcome stresses brought on by exposure to chemicals, radiation, vaccines, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified foods. By a combination of changing our inner beliefs, avoiding immunological stress agents, detoxification and strengthening the immune system, people with “AIDS” can become healthy again, both physically and emotionally.
David Rasnick and Claus Koehnlein switched the topic back to AIDS drugs. Rasnick gave an illuminating discussion of IRD (Immune Reconstitution Disorder), which is what AIDS–defining conditions are called when they occur after the initiation of AIDS drugs. This new epidemic is not blamed on the drugs that the disease, by definition, must follow but on a “reconstituted” immune system. According to this theory an immune system does not real good but just causes nasty things like inflammation. Based on this theory, AZT, which convincingly defeated the immune system in every encounter, should have been the best medication. His talk was a mind–bending descent into the vortex of AIDS.
Koehnlein encourages a nuanced approach to AIDS drugs. His experience treating AIDS patients has shown him that they can be effective when used for a short time in people faced with serious fungal or bacterial infections. This explains the so–called “Lazarus” effect that sometimes occurs without accepting the HIV theory, and does not justify long–term use. Koehnlein also talked about two other faulty “slow germ” theories – Hepatitis C (shown to cause virtually no disease after 45 years) and the prion diseases such as CJD that occurred in England in very small numbers mostly in places where the “Mad Cow” epidemic had not occurred.
Henry Bauer was one of the new voices. Or was he? Despite being virtually unknown to AIDS rethinkers five years ago his commentaries and book are so popular that it now seems like he has been around forever. His talk compared the suppression of AIDS criticism to dogmas surrounding other scientific theories, such as Global Warming, the “Big Bang”, String Theory and the event that exterminated the dinosaurs, and was very well received. This perspective makes it much easier to understand that opposition to HIV=AIDS critics stems not from careful scientific thought but is just the normally brutal knee–jerk reaction of an entrenched scientific establishment.
There were many other new (or at least, newer) voices at the conference offering their own distinct perspectives. Keynote speaker Michael Tracey kicked the conference off by discussing the failings of the modern (in)justice system in which conviction often occurs in the media well before someone ends up in court. One of his experiences was with the Jon Benet Ramsey murder which dominated front pages of tabloids newspapers in America and around the world for years and made frequent appearances even in more “serious” media. The parents were almost always condemned as was Tracey for defending them. But finally, thanks in part to Tracey’s relentlessness, the parents were removed from the list of suspects, albeit more than a decade after the murder. The parallels with AIDS are clear, with HIV–positive people accused of sexual transmission being instantaneously demonized by the media and then given multi–year sentences when they finally end up playing their part in a ritualized court proceeding.
The legal aspects of the HIV=AIDS dogma are a needle I have been trying to thread for a long time. These cases have often been considered too difficult by many AIDS rethinkers and no coherent strategy has ever been developed. Our legal victories are as inexplicable as our losses are predictable. I was pleased that, at this conference, we were able to open this important discussion. Chris Black, a prominent international criminal defense lawyer, was unable to attend, but his paper on the long history of the criminalization of illness was circulated. I spoke in his time slot, sketching the details of some of the more important HIV–related cases that have occurred, including cases of parents fighting for their children, adults accused of sexual transmission, other adult cases (such as Willie Campbell, an HIV–positive drifter in Dallas who got 35 years in jail for spitting while under the influence of HIV) and also of cases where HIV rethinkers have gone or are going on the offensive.
A group of professors and students from the Universidad Pereira Law Group in Colombia spoke about their research into the legal rights of “AIDS” patients to obtain therapies other than the expensive and highly toxic antiretrovirals. They have found that Colombian law does give the right to choose therapies and their analysis will be very useful to people in other countries seeking the same rights based on their local laws.
Marco Ruggiero and Daniele Mandrioli revealed that Italy was home to many AIDS rethinkers, including these two eloquent speakers with a wry sense of humor. Ruggiero revealed the many ways that his country’s Ministry of Health was fully–qualified as an AIDS Denialist organization, by not including any information connecting HIV and AIDS on their website, by a law requiring AIDS to be diagnosed without a positive HIV test for many AIDS–defining illnesses and by also allowing HIV with an AIDS–defining illness to be classified as “not AIDS” if another cause or immunodeficiency is present. His tour through the topsy–turvy world of official Italian AIDS beliefs left our heads spinning.
Mandrioli focused on the drug–AIDS hypothesis which is just as strongly supported in Italy as in America. A peak in Heroin addiction in 1993 was followed by a peak in AIDS in 1995, but no such peak is found in HIV statistics. Mandrioli showed fascinating pictures of what is found in street heroin, including body parts of insects and fragments of metal. This makes it easier to understand that illegal drugs would be toxic even if the active ingredient was not present and that clearly the body cannot withstand the injection of such crap directly into one’s veins for more than a few years.
Tony Lance is a gay man who spoke about “intestinal dysbiosis”, a theory that certain practices associated with gay sex can have a negative impact on the intestinal system, leading to immune suppression. He made people aware of the practice of rectal douching or enemas, which are very common, but which can deplete the body of nutrients and disrupt the normal intestinal bacterial flora. This evidence surely could lead to safer sexual practices – “safe sex” without the need for condoms.
Karri Stokely gave a slide show of her life. First as a healthy young mother, then as a steadily wasting “victim of AIDS” from her diagnosis in 1996 until 2007. That was when her husband came across alternative viewpoints on the internet and after much research and soul–searching she stopped taking drugs. Then the slide show, and her physical presence, shows her rebounding back to her normal, beautifully healthy state. Her bravery in talking about the most intimate aspects of her life brought gasps to many throats and tears to many eyes.
Tears were even more frequent when Celia Farber premiered her short video tribute to the life of Christine Maggiore. In such a powerfully artistic way, without saying a word, Farber induced floods of healing tears from Christine’s many friends and admirers in the room.
After the screening of “House of Numbers”, the powerful new documentary that is rocking the AIDS establishment, many people got to see a beautiful young lady for the first time, Lindsey Nagel, whose story features prominently in the film, whose very existence is an affront to the HIV=AIDS=Death dogma. On the stage with her parents and Peter Duesberg, after the film, they were able to reveal more about the horror of their baby being given an AIDS diagnosis, the awful side effects of AZT, and the shock and joy that this death sentence really was commuted once the AZT was stopped upon the advice of Duesberg.
Joan Shenton also screened some previously unseen video from her enormous archives at the Immunity Resource Foundation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Joan’s videos stunned the AIDS establishment, resulting in a backlash that destroyed her career. The short videos that she showed still have the power to shock today. They illustrate, as well as anything can possibly do, that the arguments of the AIDS elite have changed little since then, and that discussion of flaws is suppressed through force, not reason.
The conference also had lots of time for unstructured mingling. Almost everyone at the conference attended a cocktail party on Friday evening where was enough food to ensure that nobody needed to go for supper, although most people were so excited to meet other dissidents from all over the world that there was far more talking and hugging than eating or drinking. Most people also attended the banquet on Saturday evening where people could decide which VIP to sit with. Each table had the names of two speakers, moderators or other well–known rethinkers, with the other six chairs up for grabs. This ensured that everyone could get involved with lively conversations, with some tables specializing in particular languages, such as German, Spanish or French, others in particular topics. I had arranged for a handful of toasts to be made during the meal, but my arrangements were overwhelmed by a seemingly endless line of people who spontaneously went to the microphone with inspirational thoughts or to give thanks to individuals or groups of people.
The tapestry of AIDS dissent is not yet finished, but it is far larger and more beautiful than it was before RA 2009. People can still get involved by reviewing the presentations posted under the Program tab at ra2009.org and by picking the brains of people who were at the conference and who have now gone back to their homes all over the world.
I would like to give thanks to many people, but most particularly to Siggi Duesberg, who organized the logistics of the conference and without whom this simply could not have happened. Also David Rasnick who was responsible for the program and his wife Terri who coordinated the many videographers, Daniel Garcia who did all the Spanish translations and Frank Lusardi who created and updated the website. The volunteers who patiently sat at the tables outside the room all weekend selling registrations, books and answering innumerable questions – Karen, Ina and Sandra Mason (the RA treasurer). Also the hotel staff who went beyond the call of duty and the Oakland police officers who provided security. Most of all I have to thank the speakers and moderators who made the conference intellectually stimulating and thought–provoking and the videographers whose contributions will become obvious as video emerges over the next few months. And, of course, the over 150 individuals who made sure to be at the conference. Your sacrifices and determination were essential. If you had not believed in this conference, it could not have happened. Lastly, a huge “Thank You!” to our donors whose huge financial commitment made this possible, particularly Bob Leppo, Martin Penny and Michael Geiger.
Thanks are also needed for people who were not there but whose historical achievements must be recognized. Charles Thomas founded (and originally funded) Reappraising AIDS in 1990, soon after retiring as a professor of biochemistry at Harvard and relocating to the Scripps Institute in San Diego. He also played a crucial role in one of the first major symposiums that rethought AIDS, an all–day meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1994. He authoritatively rejected claims that HIV could cause and transmit AIDS in Factor VIII blood products given to hemophiliacs. Paul Philpott, a chemical engineer from Detroit was also critically important to the early group, for several years editing its important newsletter. Charlie Thomas died earlier in 2009 and we remember him as well as others who played critical roles, including Huw Christie, Michael Verney–Elliott, anti–poppers activist Hank Wilson, Mark Griffith, John Kirkham, David Pasquarelli, Robert Johnston of HEAL Toronto, Kelly Jon Landis, Ken Anderlini, Lambros Papantoniou, Winnie Mwebe, Sam Mhlongo, and Serge Lang and the many others who poured energy into this global movement but who did not live to see RA 2009. Please take a moment to remember and thank others who inspired you.
After it was all over, and I was slumped exhausted on an uncomfortable airplane seat, far too early in the morning, I was filled with a mixture of joy and sadness. Leaving all my new friends and the intense beauty of the weekend was hard. But the joy was stronger. The end of RA 2009 was not the end of anything; it was the beginning of big new advances for the rethinking AIDS movement worldwide.
What will be next? We certainly learned a lot at the conference about how to make the next one better. We should have had an outlet for the many people who simply wanted to tell their story. Debates between rethinkers on major topics such as HIV existence should be considered. The conference really should have been one day longer. We will definitely need a bigger space next time, because there was standing room only most of the time. This event probably won’t happen again in 2010 but having another Rethinking AIDS conference in 2011 is quite reasonable. Perhaps 2010 can be the year for regional or more specialized events. If you are interested in participating in future events in any way, please let me know some time over the coming months.