We believe legitimate questions have been raised about the causes and cure of AIDS, but you wouldn't know that by the cries of outrage from the mainstream AIDS community and media. An article by Laurie Garrett in last Wednesday's Newsday bore the title "Added Foe in AIDS War: Skeptics." "Officials are concerned that American fringe elements that dispute the very existence of AIDS have gained Mbeki's ear," Garrett wrote. Meanwhile, Mark Schoofs, in his ongoing series of reports on AIDS in Africa for the Voice, has skirted very near racist stereotyping, implicitly portraying President Mbeki as an ignorant black African leader who's been hornswoggled by the "pseudoscience" of snake-oil salesmen from the West.
"Dr. Helene Gayle, who heads up AIDS programs for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...denounced the skeptics and said that 'there is no merit in questioning conventional wisdom' about HIV," Garrett reported. In what has become a leading cliche of the genre, she quoted "Dr. Seth Berkley, head of the New York-based International AIDS Vaccine Initiative," as likening questioning the consensus wisdom to Holocaust denial.
In the Canadian magazine Maclean's, ABC medical reporter Nicholas Regush (interviewed in our March 8-14 cover story, "AIDS Heretics") was called "the equivalent of a murderer" by a Montreal AIDS researcher. And most incredible of all was this comment in Garrett's article: "AIDS vaccine researcher John Moore of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in Manhattan goes further, saying that 'a charge of genocide would not be inappropriate...'"
It wouldn't? Followed by an appearance before the Inquisition and burning at the stake, perhaps?
Dr. Roberto A. Giraldo, president of Rethinking AIDS: The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis (shrugged off in Garrett's article as a "contingent of AIDS skeptics" that "has claimed to have 600 members"), has sent Newsday a lengthy, detailed response?footnoted with 45 references?in which he notes:
"No matter what happens, truth will out. If HIV is the real cause of AIDS, it will prevail. However, if it is not, it will not. We should not be afraid of finding the truth even if it shatters our beliefs. A rigorous open debate regarding the different issues about AIDS can, in the long run, only support the well-being of all human kind. Besides, it is well documented that scientific knowledge grows faster and on far more solid ground when contradictory and antagonistic ideas are confronted, not simply cast aside by a premature consensus excluding the dissident factions."
History teaches us that when the supposed radicals sound like the voice of reason, while those defending the status quo resort to censorship and extremist hate speech, whatever's going on deserves further examination.
Read this sentence from Garrett: "Prominent San Francisco AIDS activist Jeff Getty recently circulated an Internet alert warning that San Francisco's chapter of ACT UP was a militant skeptics group, 'a cult...'" Note that the mainstream activist is "prominent," the dissenting group a "militant...cult."
ACT UP San Francisco has just been barred from having a booth at the world conference. Conference chairman Jerry Coovadia, a South African AIDS expert, is openly feuding with President Mbeki because he hasn't been appointed to the President's AIDS advisory panel, according to this Sunday's Johannesburg Times. The announced theme of the conference? "Breaking The Silence."