San Francisco Examiner January 26, 2001

Activists deny HIV link to AIDS —– By Fred Dodsworth

Michael Bellefountaine and David Pasquarelli have lived with HIV for years. They caused ACT UP San Francisco to split when they advocated that HIV does not, as is commonly believed, cause AIDS. They were interviewed by Examiner Staff Writer Fred Dodsworth for Friday’s Q&A. (Their statistics may already be outdated: on Wednesday the University of California, San Francisco released a report that estimates that 2.2 percent of the city’s gay men — or 748 gay men in San Francisco will contract HIV, up from 1.04 percent in 1997.)

Fred Dodsworth: Tell me about ACT UP-San Francisco.

Michael Bellefountaine: I’ve been involved in ACT UP since 1989. ACT UP defines itself as a diverse collective of individuals united in anger, determined to ending AIDS through militant direct action. From the beginning we believed we needed to look at the AIDS epidemic in view of its social context. AIDS is what it is because of society’s racism, sexism, homophobia and class biases. ACT UP San Francisco leads the way in addressing the social issues in addition to attacking the virus.

Q: Does HIV cause AIDS?

David Pasquarelli: HIV has never been scientifically proven to cause AIDS.

MB: I think something more people could agree to is that testing positive for HIV doesn’t necessarily lead to the 29 diseases we call AIDS, or to death.

DP: That’s the important point, AIDS is not a disease, it’s a new definition of old diseases coupled with a positive test result on the antibody test. HIV, if it exists at all, is a harmless retrovirus, like all otAAAAretroviruses, incapable of killing cells, incapable of causing disease.

Q: So what’s killing people?

DP: Basically long-term drug consumption. An HIV positive antibody test result leads to experimental, poisonous drugs. It’s the fear of a terminal diagnosis, that you will die, that the drugs will only stave off the inevitable for so long, that everyone — your friends, family, physicians, treat you as though you are dead.

MB: Six years ago I would have never questioned that HIV is the cause of AIDS. That was as determined as the sky being blue. One of the things that got me here is I realized that all of the diseases that exist in AIDS also exist in people that don’t have HIV. If there are people who have these diseases but don’t have HIV, then clearly HIV cannot be the sole and sufficient cause of those diseases. There have to be other factors. That’s just common sense.

The other thing that made me start questioning this whole thing is chronic fatigue syndrome. I worked with a woman who had chronic fatigue, and we had the same symptoms. We had chronic diarrhea, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes — she was told her disease didn’t exist, I was told to take 50 pills and I was going to die.

In fact we were suffering from the same thing, so it seemed logical to me to not focus on killing the virus, but focus on boosting the immune system. Embracing those two concepts got me to question whether it was the disease or drug toxicity. That got me to question everything I was taught to believe about HIV.

Q: When were you diagnosed positive?

MB: I was diagnosed with AIDS six years ago, primarily because of blood counts. At the time, I believed I was going to die. I adamantly believed I was infectious to the people I loved and I was going to die a terrible death.

I had a military haircut and I decided before I went into chemotherapy I was going to let my hair grow out. I had no concept of how hair grew. I thought I’d grow it out in three months, be a hippy for a month or two and be ready for chemo within six months.

In the year and a half it took for my hair to grow out, I decided I didn’t need chemo. I was feeling good, I was healthy, and if my body was going to decline, I was going to let it do so naturally, because I seemed to be doing OK. But even that decision wasn’t allowed. We tell people we don’t take the drugs and they say, “What? You have a death wish? What are you going to do, nothing?!”

DP: I was diagnosed April Fool’s Day, 1995. (Laughter.) I was told I had three years to live, that I should not quit my job because I needed insurance to pay for AZT, and I was told to enroll in a clinical trial of protease inhibitors. I refused all of that. I quit my job, I refused protease inhibitors and AZT and I’m doing better than ever before. I haven’t been sick, whereas friends of mine that take took the drugs are suffering or dead now.

Q: Neither of you are on, or have ever have been on, the drug regimen?

MB, DP both: No. Never.

MB: There is this belief out there that we have one virus called HIV that causes one disease called AIDS that must be treated by these new drugs. Everyone that I know believes that nice package. HIV might not cause AIDS. The drugs are toxic. And the people that are living are not taking the drugs.

DP: The real story is the test is flawed, the drugs are poison, and there is no epidemic. The American government, by proclaiming in 1984 that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS, made the biggest medical mistake of all time.

Q: So what’s killing people?

MB: We did a research project and I was shocked to find out that by 1983 there were only 75 deaths in San Francisco of AIDS. One of the reasons we looked was someone said, “There were three pages of obits in the Bay Area Reporter in 1980. What did those people die of when the drugs were on the market?” No, 73 people died from 1979 to 1983, nd t7re talking about 1,600 cases nationally, three years into the “epidemic.” It never took off until AZT got on the market. The 70-odd people that died in that early period were diagnosed with skin cancer, with KS, and they were given systemic chemotherapy every week, or they had pneumonia where they were given antibiotics, double-strength three times a week, for life. That doesn’t make sense. When your doctor presumes you’re going to die, they do not care about the side effects because you’re going to die.

DP: What was killing people up until 1987 was a combination of recreational drugs and two symptoms — pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma, that were treated with two very toxic regimens of drugs — chemotherapy and Bactrim. That wiped out an entire generation of gay men. After 1987 we’ve had toxic drugs like AZT, protease inhibitors, medical experiments for vaccines and every conceivable chemical. It’s killed a lot of people.

MB: When we take the drugs and we get sick, it’s AIDS.

DP: The lie or the scandal called AIDS goes far deeper. The billions of dollars that are being spent to ostensibly help people have killed 400,000 in the last 20 years — all under the guise of a sexually transmissible, 100 percent lethal virus.

MB: The problem lies in this antibody test. There are 60 other factors that can cause a false positive, that create the antibodies. One of them is pregnancy.

Whether you believe HIV causes AIDS or not, there are enough problems with what’s going on that there needs to be an investigation. That test is unreliable, people should know that before they take it as a life or death sentence.

DP: From day one, AIDS has relied on society’s fear of homosexuals. It’s been a propaganda and semantic game. For instance, calling AIDS an epidemic. AIDS has never been an epidemic like the flu epidemic of 1918. It’s using words like “epidemic” to frighten the population. The fact is, AIDS diagnoses, HIV cases, are all declining in all groups, men or women, black or white, gay or straight. Everything is reaching its lowest point ever.

MB: According to the Centers for Disease Control, not us.

DP: It’s very, very deceptive the way our Department of Public Health, our mayor, puts forward that AIDS is increasing in the African-American community. It is simply not true.

MB: I think most people are astonished to find out that annual new HIV infections in San Francisco, a city of almost 800,000, numbers 500 or below, since 1987. We’re talking 13, 14 years now. This is not the sign of an epidemic. If we’re the epicenter and we can barely break 500 cases a year than AIDS is over.

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