Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2004

AIDS: A Live Debate

John Lauritsen’s article AIDS: A Death Cult in the last issue, arguing that HIV does not cause AIDS, provoked more correspondence than any other single item in the magazine’s history. Letters submitted for publication appear below, followed by a reply from Lauritsen himself. Finally, G&LH’s editor, Andy Armitage, explains and defends his decision to publish the article.

A Classic of Misinformation

John Lauritsen’s centre-spread feature in the Winter 2003 issue of G&LH was a classic of misinformation. He and his fellow “AIDS dissidents” totally reject the well-established scientific evidence that the chief vector in the spread of AIDS is a retro-virus transmitted by unprotected sex and blood products. He highlights the role of drugs and unhealthy gay lifestyles – which probably have an influence in relation to susceptibility to opportunistic infections – but clearly regards the existence of an infective viral agent – HIV – as a “myth”. Likewise, he regards all anti-AIDS drugs as “toxic and worthless”.

How, then, does he explain (1) the huge spread in sub-Saharan Africa of AIDS among predominately heterosexual persons and (2) the enormous reduction of mortality among North American and European gay men diagnosed as HIV-positive who have been treated with an increasingly sophisticated cocktail of antiviral drugs?

Lauritsen recommends works by fellow AIDS dissidents, like Peter Duesberg, but quite fails to mention the highly cogent critique of their views by reputable scientists. Those interested in such critiques could do worse than start with Chapter 7 of Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt’s Higher Superstition (2nd edition, 1998), pp. 180-96.

Dan O’Hara
Saltburn, Cleveland

New Kids on the Block

We are all used to evolution deniers, holocaust deniers and moon-landing deniers. The last are so barmy and easy to refute they can simply be laughed at. The second group are sick and offensive but, again, not difficult to discredit. The first are different. Whilst what they say is bollocks, they have developed the art of lying to near perfection. The scientific degrees that many possess give them an apparent credibility as they go about being selective with data, fabricate data, misrepresent their opponents, construct straw men, redefine evolutionary concepts to suit themselves, quote eminent academics out of context, etc. Consequently, it can take considerable specialist knowledge to dismantle some of their more sophisticated arguments.

Now there are new kids on the block and they look set to replace the creationists as the new masters of deceit. AIDS deniers employ all the same tactics as creationists but the subject matter can be so technical that the ordinary layman must feel overwhelmed by it all. At least the basic concepts of geology and biology are not too hard to grasp and an understanding of them should be enough to immunise the average person against the more common creationist arguments. But how many people know the biochemistry behind protease inhibitors? How many know how to carry out HIV tests, or even the history of their development? How many understand the technical difficulties in isolating a delicate virus, or detecting it in the bloodstream when it spends most of its time hiding inside cells?

AIDS deniers have exploited public ignorance to bamboozle people into buying their bullshit, and bullshit it is. All of John Lauritsen’s article, and the websites he refers us to, are full of falsehoods, half-truths and nonsense. HIV does pass Koch’s first postulate (and the second, and the third), it has been isolated (Koch’s 2nd postulate), infection has been demonstrated and the HIV tests currently used are more than 98% accurate.

Whether Kaposi’s sarcoma is a cancer or not is irrelevant – cases jumped from a handful per annum to thousands in the 1980s with practically all of them HIV+ patients. The rampant pandemic in Africa is disproportionately hitting the middle classes, so cannot be dismissed as the result of poverty. The AIDS drugs that Lauritsen dismisses as “toxic and worthless” are spectacularly effective at slowing the progress of the disease, there have even been cases of people getting up from their death beds, regaining their lost weight and returning to work. Odd if the virus they are designed to specifically target does not cause their disease.

I could go on for pages, as the evidence is enough to fill a library. Rather than use up more limited space I will refer your readers to two websites that give all the detailed argumentation, with references to primary sources, needed to totally destroy the pernicious nonsense of the AIDS deniers. These are at and

Finally, rather than waste time engaging with these cranks, why not subject them to a simple challenge instead? Either, they are right and HIV is harmless (or even non-existent), or they are malicious liars endangering people’s lives with misinformation. I challenge Lauritsen, (indeed all AIDS deniers), to inject himself with the blood of an HIV-positive person and to then refuse to take the “toxic and worthless” drugs he denounces. If he is right, he has nothing to fear, and no reason to refuse. If he is a liar, he will look for excuses to avoid it. Go on Lauritsen, I dare you!

Stephen Moreton
Warrington, Cheshire

Challenging the Mainstream

I found the John Lauritsen article quite good even though I feel incompetent to judge his views on AIDS and HIV. Still, I support the expression of thoughtful views that challenge the mainstream.

Your excellent magazine should be commended for publishing such criticisms. You and your colleagues deserve the strongest praise for contributing such a quality publication. I am a proud subscriber!

James McGregor
Las Vegas, Nevada

An Increasingly Bizarre Idea

We applaud the excellence of much of the material published in the Gay & Lesbian Humanist. The magazine plays a vital role and it is with reluctance that we raise a critical note. However, we wish to draw attention to a number of disturbing inaccuracies in John Lauritsen’s article on AIDS published in the last issue.

The article advanced the dissident thesis that AIDS is not linked to the presence of the HIV virus and that antiviral combination therapies are, “without exception, toxic and worthless”, to use Lauritsen’s words. It is a view not shared by the vast majority of scientists working in the field, some 5,000 of whom signed the Durban Declaration debunking it. In view of the success of therapies based upon the orthodox hypothesis the idea is increasingly bizarre and not, as the editorial claims, “controversial”. Are, for example, telepathy and astrology “controversial”, or even Holocaust denial, to which the dissidents’ views have been likened.

Lauritsen claims that the real cause of AIDS is a combination of “drugs, alcoholism, venereal diseases and powerful psychological factors”. The millions dying of AIDS in the Third World would be delighted to hear that and it would be cruel nonsense to abstemious victims in developed countries, many of them children. What he asserts to be the cause of the illness has always been with us, so how does he explain the sudden onset of AIDS in the 1980s? Many readers of G&LH will know from their own experience that he is profoundly and dangerously misguided. If he were right, how is it that with the newer drugs our friends and relatives make spectacular improvement in their condition and are restored to relative health? Despite what he says, proper trials have been conducted on the newer combination therapies and they undoubtedly show huge beneficial effects.

Having given the Lauritsen view the undeserved dignity of space in the magazine, the editor suggests that his readers might be moved to “rethink” their ideas. This is in the context of an editorial in which the religious are described (fortunately!) as “nuts”, “nutty” or “barmy”. One might infer that he thinks Lauritsen is not “crazy” or a “twat” [This word was not used. – Ed.] and that he may even have his endorsement. He emphatically does not have ours, but we avoid such terminology. There was perhaps in the early days scope for widely divergent views on AIDS, but hardly now. We note that explicit additions to the list of dissident scientists on the “virusmyth” website stop in 1993, suggesting that the proof of the pudding is overwhelming.

We are left wondering what aims of the magazine are being served by the publication of the article. Presumably the editor and the Pink Triangle Trust wish to promote along with humanism and secularism the principle of rationalism and the value of evidence-based argument. We should welcome some reassurance.

John Allen
Bosham, Sussex
Malcolm Trahearn
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Creating a Sensation

I was angry and disappointed to see you giving space to the duplicitous writings of John Lauritsen. From the very start in the early 1980s the so-called AIDS dissidents have been more interested in creating a sensation than they are in seeking the facts. The anti-HIV bandwagon is a nice little earner for unscrupulous hack journalists, and now that there is so much proof against their case, they resort to more and more desperate attacks on the integrity of the medical profession. By spreading this gospel, they are putting themselves in league with the vicious Vatican and Christian fundamentalists in subtly trying to get people to ignore the safer sex message.

Lauritsen’s article is full of spurious statistics with no actual scientific references or backup. For instance, he states, “It has been publicly admitted by health officials that the CD4 test is worthless” – but by which health officials? This is bad, tacky journalism. The truth is that the CD4 count is regarded by all doctors and health officials as a reasonably good indicator. It is used as a marker of disease progression. What is acknowledged is that it does not tell the whole story, which is why CD8 counts viral loads (now much more accurate, with the ultra-sensitive test.)

To say that “the various AIDS drugs are without exception toxic and worthless” is another bald, stupid generalisation. That many of them have toxic side-effects is not to be argued, but to call them all worthless is utterly irresponsible. The proof is there for all to see: combination therapies have brought down the rate of AIDS deaths dramatically. We rarely see anyone getting sick, let alone dying now, yet back in the eighties to mid-nineties we were going to funerals of our friends every month. The statistics speak for themselves.

Stark proof of the existence of the HIV virus and its effects comes in the study of mutations and resistance. Strains of HIV tend to become resistant to some of the drugs, and then are often passed on – these are now quite easily detectable in tests. People with resistant strains are not responding to the normal combinations on offer, and are becoming sick as a result. This is direct proof of the relationship between the HIV virus and AIDS. There is also absolutely no doubt that AZT stops transmission of the virus and of AIDS from mother to child.

I, like so many others, have lived with this for years, and know the difference the combination drugs make. We are not idiots gulled by some kind of placebo effect. The improvements in health are dramatic and unquestionable. In the same space of time while I survive in good health I have seen several AIDS dissidents sicken and die through their obstinacy and folly.

The evils of the multinational drug corporations are a separate issue, a question of overpricing and profiteering, but not one of foisting useless drugs onto a benighted medical profession – Lauritsen insults millions of intelligent, dedicated doctors by suggesting this.

Bill Wilcox

Challenging the Establishment

I have now got around to reading “the article”, which I found interesting, very plausible and well written. I personally liked its challenge to the “establishment”. It is just this kind of article which will broaden the magazine’s readership, regardless of whether or not people agree with its content.

Cherry Bennet

Find out the Facts and Think for Yourselves

Since my first AIDS article was published nineteen years ago, I’ve taken a lot of flak. The letters attacking me in this issue contain nothing new in the way of invective or argument. Open debate is supposed to be an essential part of the scientific approach. Not in the AIDS arena. Dr Mark Wainberg, president of the International AIDS Society, has called for jailing “HIV deniers”, and has made an explicit analogy to “Holocaust deniers”. Obviously Wainberg’s term has caught on, as one of my critics here has called me an “AIDS denier”, whatever that is. It takes a bit of effort to keep in mind that the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is only a hypothesis, and that criticism of hypotheses is expected and desirable.

As expressed by a senior British virologist, “It will surely lead to a scientifically healthier society if the burden of proof for HIV as a deadly pathogen is returned to where it belongs – to those who maintain that HIV causes AIDS – and others are allowed to pursue alternative approaches in the battle for eradication of the disease” (Dr Beverly Griffin, director and professor of virology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London).

One AIDS dissident, Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing the polymerase chain reaction, was asked to state which argument most strongly convinced him that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. Mullis replied, “The fact that there’s no evidence for it.” Amazingly, there is no peer-reviewed scientific paper which marshals arguments in favour of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis and which replies to arguments made by AIDS critics. The best the AIDS establishment can come with is an anonymous document created by a United States government agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): “The Evidence That HIV Causes AIDS”.

The full text of this shady document, along with cogent rebuttals of its key assertions, appears on the HEAL Toronto website. There is also a manifesto known as “The Durban Declaration”, which was signed by 5,000 “scientists”. This should be seen for what it is: a publicity stunt devised by the public relations firms of the AIDS Industry. It was intended to stifle dissent – specifically, to ensure that AIDS critics would not be given a hearing at the International AIDS conference held in South Africa.

“The Durban Declaration” is thoroughly rebutted on the HEAL Toronto website. I intended my article to introduce AIDS criticism, by analysing the basic AIDS assumptions in plain English. I hoped and assumed that anyone whose interest was whetted by my article would follow up by visiting the two Internet websites I mentioned: VirusMyth and HEAL Toronto.

I urge those who have questions to do some research on their own. Go to the VirusMyth website and click on “FIND”. This brings up a page with two columns: “Topics” on the left and “Authors” on the right. Have AIDS drugs really shown “huge beneficial effects”? Click on “AZT” or “Protease Inhibitors” to find out how toxic these drugs are, and how phoney their alleged benefits. (If you have a strong stomach, look at the pictures, which show “Crix bellies” and “buffalo humps” caused by the protease inhibitors.) Other important topics to be explored are: “Poppers”, “HIV Tests”, “HIV Isolation”, “Voodoo”, and “Surviving”. Click on “Bibliographies” and then my name for a list of my own AIDS articles, the most important of which are online. Click on “Book Section” for the leading books of AIDS criticism. For those interested in the psychological warfare being waged against gay men, the HEAL Toronto website has a provocative section put together by Ian Young, “The AIDS Cult”.

I do not believe that free and open discussion is ever “dangerous”. Readers of Gay & Lesbian Humanist should have the courage to ask questions, find out the facts and think for themselves.

John Lauritsen
Dorchester, Massachusetts

Why I Decided to Publish

John Lauritsen’s article AIDS: A Death Cult caused something of a furore after it had appeared in the last issue of G&LH. This was to be expected: his view is a controversial one that is not shared by many non-specialists and laypeople, and is held by a minority of professionals.

Arguments for and against his analysis caused a flurry of postings – some of them hostile and insulting, perhaps (let us be charitable) written in haste – on the GALHA discussion list on the Internet. Those that have been sent to us specifically for publication are on these pages. That most do not support Lauritsen’s view should not be taken to indicate that his assertions are necessarily wrong: just that there are by and large more people (as is usual with controversy) from the “anti” side than from the “pro” side who are willing to put pen to paper.

Because it is such a hot topic and caused the reaction it did on the discussion list, we have decided to make a “letters special” out of the responses we have received for publication; and, because we are making a special feature out of it, we have allowed John Lauritsen to respond here and now, rather than at a future date.

My reason for stepping into this debate here is that I feel forced to defend my decision to publish the article. I am not arguing – indeed, am not qualified to argue – for or against Lauritsen’s views. However, the decision to publish was, I believe, the right one, because ideas that are never challenged can so soon become desiccated, and their proponents soon become infallible in the eyes of those who never question. There is also the view – as any reader of J. S. Mill will testify – that censored opinions that might contain even a partial truth will never be allowed to carry that partial truth out into the light.

It’s perhaps worth quoting Mill directly on the subject: “However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth” (from On Liberty).

Obviously, there are people who do not want to expose their own views to further challenge, and this is what our nineteenth-century friend had to say about that: “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation” (ibid., my italics).

So whichever theory is true, or even if it’s something in between, there are clearly some people who do not want this magazine to explore the possibilities. By all means argue with the article itself, but to argue with my decision to publish it is clearly running scared of hearing that maybe there’s something we haven’t been told, something that will give our rigidly held opinions a knock. Critical challenge can actually strengthen a theory that’s sound, don’t forget. If it’s not sound, then you don’t want it.

Lauritsen’s views – whether he will be proved right or wrong – were clearly not flat-earthism or akin to spiritualism, as some fatuously asserted on the GALHA discussion list. These snipes were merely bizarre and desperate attempts at argument from analogy.

Some disputed my decision to publish the article at all, and others thought that a concurrent counterargument should have had equal showing as of some kind of right. However, the orthodox position is to be found almost daily in every newspaper in the land, and in many issues of G&LH. It is there by default, because HIV and AIDS are mentioned in the same phrase by commentators with no reservation or qualification. The juxtaposing of the two is always treated as a given. Therefore, no opposing article needed to be printed. After all, when we have printed articles that our readers broadly agree with, we have never been asked to source an opposing view. A recent piece on homeopathy is a case in point, yet it – along with some of the so-called complementary therapies – is still a problematical subject.

If we did not publish articles that challenge the established thinking, we would never move forward. Having been encouraged to rethink their position on an issue, readers are free either to accept the heterodox view (or a version or modification of it) or to maintain their existing stance. They will at least have questioned, and their eventual conclusions will be the stronger for it. This is what a magazine is about, not massaging its readers’ own firmly established opinions. If it did only that, it might as well not exist. It would be a futile exercise and a waste of resources.

Some – thankfully not all – of the discussion on the list I write of smacked of the worst kind of so-called humanism: the undiluted fundamentalist type that betrays small minds that want “rational” argument as long as it accords with their own entrenched views. That is not rationalism.

Andy Armitage

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Created : Sunday, 2004-05-23 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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