As the winter solstice approaches, I am aware of what a noteworthy month this December is for me, in ways that have nothing to do with the holidays. Fifteen years ago this month I was informed that I was “HIV-positive”. Five years ago, I started this blog, primarily to share my experiences with both the diagnosis, as well as previous and new health issues. I will be sharing some exciting news about changes that will be happening to resistance is fruitful a bit later in this post.
When I realized in the Spring of 2000 that the AIDS drug cocktail being prescribed to me was making me so ill that I’d rather take my chances with a lethal virus, I felt alone and isolated. I knew of no one else personally who shared my experience or feelings, and I had not yet heard of AIDS dissidence. I never expected then that I would be able to stay off of the drugs for long, but as each year passed without them, my acceptance of the mainstream view about HIV and AIDS continued to fracture. I researched alternatives and options for what I then still considered to be a sexually transmitted viral infection, and at some point that path intersected with the world of AIDS dissidence.
Specifically, I discovered the AIDS Myth Exposed forums (now the forums at Questioning AIDS), where I found a community of people who were sharing perspectives and information I had never seen before. I lurked for some time before I started contributing to the discussion (my original username there was muzew) in late 2007. The first book I read was What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?, by Christine Maggiore, followed by Inventing the AIDS Virus, by Peter Duesberg.
Before long I was delving into the many websites, devouring books and watching documentaries that have been questioning the official versions of “HIV” and “AIDS” for decades now. I am hard pressed to understand how I can still meet anyone—especially another gay man—who has not at least heard of AIDS dissidence, and then I remember how serendipitous my own path has been. I’m certainly not as famous as Christine Maggiore or Peter Duesberg, but I have gotten to know and interact with a lot of AIDS questioners the last few years. Several have become good friends, even if we have never met in person, though really, the number of people whom I consider to be peers are a small minority of that community.
Apart from these nuggets of gold, I have found the community that is called AIDS dissidence lacking overall.
Moving beyond AIDS dissidence
When I started this blog, I pledged to tell my story with as much forthrightness as I can muster. What I have encountered and witnessed from inside the so-called AIDS dissident community leaves me exasperated. Six years after rejecting the hypothesis that an incredibly sneaky retrovirus that has never been properly isolated as the sole and sufficient cause of AIDS, these days I am disillusioned by what passes for an “AIDS dissident movement”.
It is past time for me to move on, even it means feeling alone and isolated once again for awhile. I am not heading back into the circled wagons of the AIDS mainstream. I am seeking a middle path. A third way, if you will. Unfortunately, my conscience will not allow me to remain silent any longer.
There are too many of us who are Affected with a positive test result who have seriously damaged immune systems to ignore that correlation, even if that is not proof of causation. If someone was able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt tomorrow that HIV does not exist, or that HIV does not cause AIDS, or that AIDS is just construct, a syndrome of old diseases… none of that news would help me and other Affecteds regain or maintain our immune health. If the laws that unjustly target HIV-positive people for having sex are overturned, that admirable accomplishment will have no effect on my goal to achieve better health.
The AIDS dissident movement is, for North Americans at least, represented by three primary players… a triumvirate: Rethinking AIDS (RA), Office of Medical and Scientific Justice (OMSJ) and The Perth Group (TPG), along with TPG’s affiliate Treatment Information Group (TIG). Get used to the acronyms, as I will be using them a lot. I have spent many hours writing thousands of words about these organizations that have not yet been published. For the purposes of this post, a summary will have to suffice.
For starters, there is no representation of Affecteds on the RA board. When I’ve raised this issue with the group’s president David Crowe, I was told that RA is a “scientific” organization, yet a short time later Joan Shenton, a journalist activist from the UK, was appointed to the board.
Few AIDS dissidents, especially Affecteds, realize that arguably the largest and most prominent AIDS dissident organization has frittered away more than half a million dollars since 2000, based on figures from their IRS forms 990, available at Guidestar, and there is a summary available here. In the five years from 2007-11 (there is no report available for 2006), most of RA’s total $207K income was from one source: Robert Leppo, who donated $138.5K. Small donations from people like me have not been accounted for at all. In their last filing (2012), RA spent more on tax preparation than it raised for the entire year.
Not one single research document has been published or publicized by RA, despite funding a small number of so-called “research projects”. Nearly $10,000 was given to Joe and Karri Stokely to research “experimental regimes” and “end of life”. The third “research grant” was for $5K, given to Chris Tex in 2009 for a research paper to be produced and presented at a conference that never took place and published on RA’s website.
RA seems to have drifted away from its stated purpose of being a scientific organization to becoming a Facebook group dominated by denialists who urge newly diagnosed people to ignore all medical test results as “meaningless”. A new litmus test is being applied that excludes anyone who resorts to ARVs in any way for any length of time for any reason. Anyone challenging this head-in-the sand attitude is quickly drummed out of the group, leaving an echo chamber that can fairly be described as cultish.
The newest poster boy and perceived savior of the AIDS dissident movement—Clark Baker’s Office of Medical and Scientific Justice—has apparently helped advance the AIDS dissident cause in the legal arena, though fighting the criminalization of being HIV-positive is also on the agenda of groups on the orthodox side of the fence. Baker himself comes across not only as a bully and a thug,
which fits the profile of a former LAPD cop and marine,* which is only enhanced by his experience as a former LAPD cop and marine—one with more than a whiff of racial- and homo-antagonism.
The organization Baker created replaces the former Semmelweis Society, which is also now under Baker’s control. While RA’s fortunes were declining, due to the withdrawal of support from Leppo, coincidentally OMSJ’s have been rapidly rising. The organization reported revenues of over a quarter million dollars from 2009-11, the last year a 990 was filed, according to Guidestar (summary here). OMSJ is a U.S. based tax-exempt corporation of one—a private investigator—with no independent auditing or other oversight.
OMSJ markets its activities aggressively to the AIDS dissident community, often taking credit for single-handedly “winning cases” in court cases and military tribunals of men accused of knowingly transmitting “HIV”. At the same time, Baker has targeted precious and limited financial resources to sue a small-time blogger for daring to question OMSJ’s claims, despite having already lost an arbitration case against J Todd DeShong. Baker once told me “I completely ignore JTD and recommend to others that they do the same.” Baker accuses DeShong of being on the payroll of “Big Pharma”, solely to harass AIDS dissidents; a claim that he has never substantiated and that DeShong vehemently denies.
These are not unlike the distasteful tactics AIDS dissidents claim are used to attempt to discredit them, and I cannot fathom how such an action will be successful, let alone beneficial to the cause. It reeks of a personal vendetta being carried out in the name of an entire community.
When I read OMSJ headlines, like: NATURE Bends Over for Pharma-funded Activists, I can’t help but shudder, while RA president Crowe quips: “You forgot, they pulled their pants down first.”
What is it about the dominant straight male leadership of AIDS dissidence being fixated so negatively on anal sex?
Finally, the third leg of the AIDS dissident triumvirate is actually two codependent groups: TPG from Australia and their public relations tag team at TIG, a South Africa-based website operated by the bellicose Anthony Brink. I can find no financial accounting for either group, though TPG has been trying to raise funds for their own research for years.
Now, I am a fan of the incredible scientific work of TPG, as are a majority of AIDS dissidents I know. Unfortunately, science no longer operates in a vacuum, and successful ideas and theories require some promotion and support to get traction, especially if one is the underdog. This may be unfortunate, but I believe it is true, and on this measure, TPG has failed miserably. Despite their assertions of being rational, independent and strictly interested in “science”, TPG spends much of their time and energy within the AIDS dissident community presenting a public persona of victimhood. They have asserted to me that everyone else in the AIDS dissident world (other than TIG) is out to damage and/or destroy them and their work. This is simply not true.
TIG serves as TPG’s primary advocacy organization, with their blessing. Unfortunately, Anthony Brink and others associated with TIG are so hostile and abusive that no one outside of their small group can stand them, let alone work with them. It is bizarre that some of TPG’s published work can be found only on the TIG website, and not on TPG’s.
What Affecteds need is information that we can share with our health care providers to implement treatment strategies that address oxidative stress, for example, which is what TPG argues convincingly is the true cause of AIDS. If TPG would bury the hatchet and move forward, rather than looking back at harms—actual or perceived—done to them in the past, we could all benefit greatly.
AIDS dissidence challenges for newbies and veterans
In an attempt to be succinct here, I am not doing justice to the much larger story of the state of AIDS dissidence in North America.
Good luck to the newly diagnosed gay man who ventures out into the virtual world, seeking alternatives to the orthodox point of view concerning HIV, AIDS and antiretroviral therapy. Today, they are most likely to stumble into RA’s Facebook group, where they will be welcome to join…. provided they agree to stick their head in the sand and/or stick their fingers in their ears and chant “la la la la la”. Further forays into the world of AIDS dissidence will reveal dysfunctional egos, arrogance and dogmatic thinking as entrenched as anything seen in the AIDS mainstream.
What these very visible and active AIDS dissident groups and individuals have in common when they are not bickering with each other is a goal to discredit the so-called “AIDS orthodoxy.” What defines AIDS dissidence is the opinion that HIV cannot possibly be the sole and sufficient cause of “AIDS”, and for some that HIV does not exist at all and that AIDS is merely a construct (whatever that really means). As one friend recently wrote to me:
My favorite Serge Lang quote was “How do you argue with a madman?” In so many ways, AIDS dissidents are doing just that. In “proving” HIV doesn’t equal AIDS, you’re put in the impossible position of proving a negative (which always leads to the questions “Why did X person actually experience Y effects?”). Moreover, why would the orthodoxy EVER give AIDS dissidents any credence whatsoever? No one voluntarily admits their life work was a total sham.
What regular people want are verifiable answers and cures. Unlike us, they don’t sit at home and constantly think about retrovirology and the standards of isolation/purification. They want to forget about it and have actionable steps. And if we actually posited real cures, you’d better believe everyone would be joining us!
Only with great effort and time does one get a sense that anyone is doing any kind of applied research into options for Affecteds who are interested in pursuing non-pharmaceutical treatment.
Those distant bright lights—at least as far as I can tell at this point—are mostly in Africa, Europe and South America. Specifically, work with Dr. Heinrich Kremer’s research into mitochondrial damage and the immune system’s Th1/Th2 switch. Don’t worry if that doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s complicated work, but it is being done. In Peru and Mexico, an organization called Monarcas is exploring the effects of alternative care, such as homeopathy, orthomolecular, nutritional medicine and other forms of alternative healing. The rest of us are on our own.
Questioning AIDS: the path less traveled
I have not included the Questioning AIDS (QA) website, because it is not so much an organization as a gathering space, but QA has proved to be disappointing as well. There is very little to report about financials, as the only money raised and spent has been a few hundred dollars for web hosting and forum software that was purchased, but has never been fully implemented. I take full responsibility for that.
QA has long been the top-rated AIDS dissident website, in terms of traffic and impact, but new posts and discussions there have dropped to a fraction of the site’s activity a couple of years ago. There are at least a few possible explanations. First and foremost, social media sites—Facebook in particular—now have greater appeal for users who might have been forum participants, though QA’s problems cannot be blamed on that alone.
The team that led QA experienced losses when some of the moderators, including myself, started taking ARVs again, a cardinal sin for many AIDS dissidents that has become a litmus test for dissidence in general. Another important team member, Gos Blank, died earlier this year. That loss served as a sort of stun to QA, while it passed with barely a mention on the RA Facebook crowd, where Gos also served as a moderator.
Some AIDS dissidents want nothing to do with any site that does not vehemently deny any correlation between HIV antibody status, or surrogate laboratory markers of t-cells or so-called viral load and illness. That the site’s first name is “Questioning” no longer appeals to those who think they have found the answer(s).
While I have resigned as an active moderator at QA, I have continued to perform administrative tasks there.
Resistance is Fruitful becomes reAIDS
Finally, the big news for readers of this blog. While I’ll always love what the phrase “resistance is futile” has meant to me the last five years, it has become a tether. Resistance is neither futile, nor fruitful; it is exhausting, and I became burned out. Again. That is a pattern I’ve seen over and over again in my life.
Keeping only the first two letters from the old, I will be changing the name of my blog to reAIDS in the next week or two. The prefix re means “back”, or “again”. In my case, this means retreating from AIDS dissidence, while not returning to the fold of the AIDS orthodoxy. It is a way of referring to the path I—and I believe many other Affecteds—find ourselves on. A path that is not well travelled and in need of clearing. A path that does not show up on any maps, let alone GPS.
The name could also be thought of as re:AIDS, as in with regard to AIDS.
The last month or two has been a time of fatigue, withdrawal and even depression for me, and perhaps for good reason. Besides just sleeping, I have been spending a considerable amount of time writing, contemplating and pondering where to go next. That is one of the few beneficial effects of depression for me.
Thanks to the Internet and Skype, I am in contact with Affected gay men across the globe—in Canada, Italy, Germany, England and Australia, for starters—who, like me, are investigating and conducting experiments in alternative dosing and administration of antiretroviral drugs, with the goal of utilizing them when all else has failed, but doing so in ways that minimize the adverse effects of toxicity.
We are the new outliers, who find ourselves in a no-man’s-land between the AIDS orthodoxy and AIDS dissidence, both of which have failed to adequately research, identify, document and implement alternate strategies for restoring and maintaining health once our immune systems have been damaged. I’m claiming the label of “questioner” for myself, to distinguish and describe this small group.
This is the landscape I find myself in today, and this is the world I will be exploring further for the next five years. I have no choice but to add my name to a growing list of people who have dissociated from AIDS dissidence, as well as the AIDS orthodoxy. We are a tiny, tiny group of people, with no base camp for organizing. I’d like to see that change, but my own time and energy for organizing is a fraction of what it once was.
Vision for the future
The last five years of blogging have not gone unnoticed by Google, Alexa and other mega-movers of the Internet. According to several ranking services, resistanceisfruitful.com and questioningaids.com are now neck-to-neck as the top ranked AIDS dissident sites, so far and away ahead of any of the Triumvirate groups mentioned at the beginning of this post that they aren’t even visible in the rear view mirror. These sites are highly ranked, not only in terms of website traffic, but also on other key parameters, such as load speed; time spent on site; pageviews; bounce and trust. Rebranding and renaming this website with a shorter and more easily understood URL will hopefully also help continue to improve these scores. I plan to write more about all of this next year.
I have some other ideas for ways to expand reAIDS beyond being more than just one person’s blog. I am open to suggestions and inquiries. Perhaps others have something they want to share, but don’t want to go to the trouble of starting their own blog. The platform I use can support additional writers and even new blogs.
Others have told me that they want the sense of community that a forum like QA offers, but that they don’t want to share in a public space, so I am researching and considering adding a closed and private forum to host such discussions.
A system for tracking and documenting the many different alternative options that others are experimenting with is a major need. The mainstream research community is not likely to move beyond the heavy hand and the fat wallets of the pharmaceutical industry, and AIDS dissident organizations have shown little interest in developing it either. This would be a huge undertaking; one I cannot take on by myself, but am willing to support. There are murmurs that one resourceful person is working on something, but the details are quite vague for now.
Websites with essential information that have lost their domains and are no longer easily accessible on the web need to be archived somewhere. Notably aliveandwellsf.org, which is perhaps the best repository of information about Heinrich Kremer’s theory on AIDS and cancer, and fearoftheinvisible.com, which contains a lot of Janine Robert’s research that was published in the book Fear of the Invisible are gone from public view. I hope to restore these sites as subdirectories on reAIDS.com after the first of the year.
As you can tell, I am finding ways to break through some of the darkness that has been holding me down and holding me back this year. I am so ready for the new year to begin. Thanks for keeping company with me. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
* Editorial note: I have lightly edited the wording of this sentence for clarity. I did not mean to imply in the original version that all—or even most—law enforcement or military personnel are thugs or bullies, nor that all thugs and bullies are cops or marines. However, if someone is a thug or a bully, such training surely ensures they will be even more thuggish, or a bigger bully than those who have not endured the rigor of military and combat training. I apologize to those law enforcement and military members and supporters who found the statement offensive. -Jonathan