BACK ON BERLIN
By John Lauritsen
HEAL (New York) Newsletter Fall/Winter 1993
In June 1993
I attended the International AIDS conference in Berlin as a working
journalist. There I observed what happened and did not happen.
These had little resemblance to what was reported in the media,
where almost everything newsworthy was blacked out. At some point-whether
in the self-censoring heads of reporters or in home-office editorial
rooms-widely observed events became non-events, if they were displeasing
to the AIDS Establishment. For the record, I'll describe what
happened, and then pose the question: what do AIDS conferences
6,000 presentations, nothing useful came out of the IXth International
Conference on AIDS (Berlin: 7-11 June 1993). The prevailing mood
was one of despair and confusion. Initially hopes had been aroused
by an experimental vaccine developed by Jonas Salk, to be given
to those already "infected" with HIV. These hopes were
shattered when Salk gave an unimpressive presentation, which showed
that the vaccine did nothing.
was provided by Wellcome Pharmaceutical's frenetic efforts at "damage
control", in the aftermath of the Concorde Trial. The top researchers
of the Anglo-French Concorde study adamantly stood by their findings,
that AZT had no benefits for asymptomatic, HIV-positive individuals:
AZT neither delayed the onset of AIDS nor prolonged their lives.
Wellcome sponsored satellite symposia, gave free lunches, and published
advertisements designed to disparage and downplay the Concorde findings,
but to no avail. The media were unsympathetic, and share prices
continued to fall.
one respect Berlin was a breakthrough. For the first time at an
international AIDS conference, alternative voices could be heard,
attacking the HIV-hypothesis, antiviral therapy, and other AIDS
dogmas. The AIDS Establishment, which had previously relied upon
censorship, was forced to respond with a series of slander campaigns
and even violence directed against AIDS-critics.
came to Berlin from North and South America, Africa, India, and
most European countries. Many of us had not met, or even known about
each other before. During the entire week of the conference, the
English language version of Fritz Poppenberg's documentary film,
"The AIDS Rebels", was shown in a Berlin cinema. AIDS-critics
stood outside the conference center (ICC), with signs and leaflets
denouncing the "AIDS lie" and the "rat poison, AZT",
and calling for a boycott of Wellcome. On Berlin's Open Channel
Television, a total of 9 hours of AIDS-critical programs were shown,
produced by Peter Schmidt and Kawi Schneider. For one day, before
the conference organizers retaliated, AIDS-critics had a table inside
the ICC itself (about which more below). And, not least important,
some mainstream journalists began to criticize AIDS-orthodoxies,
and to demand a hearing for alternative views.
At the first
press conference (6 June), several journalists asked conference
organizer Karl-Otto Habermehl why no alternative viewpoints were
represented. Why had not an invitation been issued to the foremost
AIDS-critic, Peter Duesberg? Habermehl said that Duesberg had not
submitted an abstract, and that alternative voices had not
been excluded: they were represented at the conference by Act Up.
Journalists were not satisfied with his answer, and pointed out
that the conference had issued special invitations to members of
Act Up and Project Inform, as well as to the discredited American
AIDS expert, Robert Gallo. Habermehl angrily refused to respond,
and the moderator said that no more such questions could be allowed.
Later on the
6th, Act Up held a press conference, attended by only
a handful of media people. Most of the 300 Act Up members had the
950 DM entrance fee waived by the organizers. Many of them had travelled
to Berlin, staying in luxurious hotels with swimming pools, with
all expenses paid by Wellcome Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer
of AZT. In response to a journalist's question, the Act Up representative
from London admitted that his group had taken 50,000 pounds from
Wellcome, adding: "But that was only to bring us to the conference!"
Representatives from TAG (New York) and several other Act Up groups
admitted that they also had taken money from Wellcome.
The same day
a Berlin television program attacked AIDS-critics. Christian Joswig,
Peter Schmidt, Kawi Schneider and others were shown passing out
leaflets entitled, "12 Years of the AIDS-Lie are enough!"
In rebuttal, Matthias Wienold -- head of Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, Germany's
leading AIDS organization- declared that the AIDS-critics were wrong,
and nobody should listen to them. He displayed an elaborately produced
pamphlet of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, "Everything a Lie? Arguments
Against AIDS-Criticism". To conclude the program, the woman
narrator referred to AIDS-critics as "rotten eggs", after
which the camera showed a close-up of a splattering egg. Thus was
At a press
conference on the 7th, representatives of the World Health
Organization and the World Bank discussed vast amounts of money
that are being allotted to "AIDS prevention". For example,
$250 million has been lent to Brazil, so that the population can
be informed about condoms and "safe" needles. Of course,
if the HIV-hypothesis is wrong, and all of the "prevention"
efforts are based on it, billions of dollars will be going down
the drain, and the Brazilians will be misinformed as to the real
risks for developing AIDS.
At an intense
press conference on the 8th, Joan Shenton of Meditel
Productions of London, asked: Was it not time to re-appraise the
basic AIDS orthodoxies, including alleged heterosexual spread? This
perfectly reasonable statement so incensed Martin Delaney of Project
Inform, that he rushed up, seized her wrist, and began shaking it./1/
Robert Laarhoven, a representative of the Dutch Foundation for Alternative
AIDS Research (S.A.A.O.) and a journalist for the Dutch magazine,
CARE, asked Habermehl whether the invitation to Robert Gallo was
issued before or after he had been found guilty of "scientific
misconduct". Habermehl evaded the question; Gallo became angry,
and later yelled at a reporter, "Don't bother me!"
noon on Wednesday the 9th, Robert Laarhoven set up a
literature table on the "bridge", which leads from the
ICC's main conference area to the exhibition area. He put out reprints
of "Rethinking AIDS", the publication of the Group for
the Scientific Re-Evaluation of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis (which consists
of a rapidly growing number of scientists and others, including
Nobel laureates)./2/ All afternoon the table was a gathering point
for AIDS-critics. I had expected a certain amount of hostility,
but it was just the opposite-many dozens of people came up to talk
to us, keenly interested in hearing our ideas.
On the 9th,
Peter Schmidt was denied a press pass under the express orders of
Habermehl, although he had credentials as a well-known television
journalist. Later he was admitted as my guest, and was in the conference
for several hours, until he was spotted by Habermehl. Led by press
chief, Justin Westhof, conference officials removed his guest pass
and expelled him from the ICC. Westhof refused to give any reason
for this action, and threatened to take away my own press pass if
I asked any more questions.
the 10th the AIDS Empire struck back. Robert Laarhoven
was approached by conference officials, police, and a member of
the border control. His press pass was confiscated and he was threatened
with deportation from Germany for having committed "criminal
trespass" -- by placing copies of "Rethinking AIDS"
on an unauthorized table! Many other groups had put their literature
on tables in the same area, but the conference officials were not
concerned about them. Earlier in the week, the S.A.A.O. had applied
for permission to put copies of "Rethinking AIDS" in the
press release area; their request was denied.
About the same
time on the 10th, Peter Schmidt and Christian Joswig,
who were handing out leaflets in front of the ICC, were violently
attacked by several dozen members of Act Up, who destroyed signs,
burned leaflets, and attempted to destroy camera equipment. These
acts were witnessed by conference officials, who did nothing to
stop the violence. Police, acting under orders of the conference
officials, forced Peter Schmidt to go into the ICC, where they took
the cassette from his video recorder and deleted it. They then ordered
the peaceful demonstrators, whose only offense had been to challenge
AIDS dogmas, to stay at least 100 meters from the ICC. No action
was taken against the attackers from Act Up.
Also on the
10th, about 100 Act Up members destroyed an official
booth in the exhibition area, belonging to AIDS-Information Switzerland
(AIS). They chanted obscenities, smashed panels, destroyed displays
and chairs, and tore up all of the group's literature, before covering
the remains of the booth with 30 rolls of toilet paper. The Swiss
group had criticized the promotion of condoms, which at an AIDS
conference is equivalent to defiling the "Sacred Host"
during a Catholic mass.
the president of AIS and a physician who treats AIDS patients, said
that Act Up had not only destroyed his group's stand, but distorted
their positions. AIDS-Information Switzerland believes in voluntary,
not mandatory testing, to protect the population, and believes that
there is a real, if small risk to using condoms.
At the final
press conference on Friday the 11th, a dozen AIDS-critics
passed out a press release, "Offenses Against Free Speech".
I asked conference organizer Habermehl if he would apologize for
those offenses against free speech for which he personally was responsible,
and if he would rebuke Act Up for their violent attacks on the rights
of others. He indignantly declined to do so. The moderator refused
to allow other known AIDS-critics, like Joan Shenton, to speak.
And that was
the IXth International Conference on AIDS.
Many of us
were shocked by the brutal disregard which was shown for the principle
of free enquiry. But at least the true nature of such conferences
became clear: They are trade shows. Their entire purpose is to promote
the commodities of the AIDS Industry. They are about buying and
selling. If Science is present at all at AIDS conferences, it is
in the role of a handmaiden, or perhaps I should say whore, for
the pharmaceutical companies. Least of all are AIDS conferences
concerned with the welfare of people with AIDS, who are seen entirely
in marketing terms.
For years now
"AIDS activists" have been clamoring for a "cure".
The image in their head is always that of a new, powerful, high-tech
drug that will destroy whatever the cause of AIDS is. Hoping against
hope, they look to every AIDS conference for an announcement that
the cure has been found.
I see things
very differently. "AIDS" is not a single, coherent disease
entity, and therefore the notion of a cure is fallacious. However,
recovery is entirely possible, and is happening here and
now. In reality, people who have received AIDS diagnoses are sick
in different ways and for different reasons. There are real and
specific reasons why they became sick, and there are real and specific
steps that can be taken so they will get better.
For this may
be the best-kept secret of the epidemic: people really are recovering
from "AIDS". Some of them individually, some of them as
members of such health-oriented groups as HEAL (New York), Positively
Healthy (London), Cure Now (Los Angeles), Continuum (London), and
the Moveable Feast study group (Houston) - - people with "AIDS"
are returning to health./3/
Inform is a California group that is funded by Wellcome and other
pharmaceutical interests. Delaney was a featured conference speaker,
although he has no scientific credentials whatever; his prominence
as an AIDS activist began with his activities as a smuggler of illegal
drugs from Mexico into the United States. (See the laudatory account
of Delaney's career in ACCEPTABLE RISKS by Jonathan Kwitny [New
2. The name
has been changed to The Group for the Scientific
of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis, and the address is: 7514 Girard Ave,
#1-331, La Jolla, CA 92037; fax: 619 272 1621.
3. A central
chapter in THE AIDS WAR by John Lauritsen (New York 1993) puts forward
a comprehensive program of "Recovery From AIDS".