GQ Examines ‘AIDS Deniers’GQ this month examines "AIDS deniers," focusing on a group led by ACT UP/San Francisco that "argues that HIV is harmless, that AIDS is a myth and that unprotected sex is everyone's birthright." ACT UP was "one of the earliest and most radical gatherings of AIDS activists" fighting to "bring attention to the [HIV/AIDS] crisis." However, several years ago the San Francisco branch split into two groups, with ACT UP/Golden Gate continuing to focus on the medical aspect of HIV/AIDS and ACT UP/San Francisco, under the direction of David Pasquarelli and Michael Bellefountaine, taking up the "political crusade until it slowly drifted into the warm shade of an AIDS conspiracy theory." According to Bellefountaine, people die not from HIV but from drugs taken to fight HIV. The AIDS crisis is the result of "bad science," of researchers who "jumped to conclusions," pharmaceutical companies that "smelled money" and a government that "allowed the AIDS myth to spread to stigmatize gay men," the group contends.
Using 'Extreme Measures'
Members of ACT UP/San Francisco now rally against the "AIDS orthodoxy," anyone who raises money for research or awareness or who provides services to people with HIV/AIDS, and they use some "extreme measures" to make their point, GQ says. According to Mike Shriver, AIDS adviser to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, the group's activities have "ripped the fabric of prevention in this city." They have "unsettled the system" and are "one of the real causative agents for the rise in new infections," he added. Their beliefs have also spread. The band the Foo Fighters promotes ACT UP/San Francisco's theory on their Web site, and in the "most bizarre expression of AIDS denial yet," South African President Thabo Mbeki has publicly questioned the causal link between the virus and AIDS. The theory that AIDS is not caused by HIV, based on work by biologist Peter Duesberg, has actually been circulated since the 1980s, but his work has been "so thoroughly repudiated by science that it now resembles more fantasy than hypothesis," GQ reports (Nelson, GQ, September 2001).