Monday, February 25, 2008

AIDS, Sex and the Condomaniacs


Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

The AIDS establishment — the network of researchers, doctors, drug companies and staff members of social-service organizations that have managed near-total control over what we’re allowed to do, say and think about AIDS for nearly a quarter-century — is having a royal hissy-fit over some members in Switzerland who dared to break ranks on one of the fundamental pronouncements of AIDS orthodoxy: that it’s never O.K. to have “unprotected” — i.e., natural — sex with an “HIV-positive” person.

Four of the top “HIV/AIDS” researchers in Switzerland —Pietro Vernazza of the Cantonal Hospital in St. Gallen, president of the Swiss Federal Commission for “HIV/AIDS”; Bernard Hirschel from Geneva University Hospital; Dr. Enos Bernasconi of the Lugano Regional Hospital; and Dr. Markus Flepp, president of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health’s subcommittee on the clinical and therapeutic aspects of “HIV/AIDS” — dared publish a letter in the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine in early February that said it was safe for an “HIV-negative” person to have sex with his or her “HIV-positive” partner if the positive partner were on antiretroviral medications, their “viral load” tests showed “undetectable” levels of virus (less than 40 copies per milliliter of blood) and they had no classic sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s).

You might think the rest of the AIDS establishment would have hailed this as good news. Given the difficulty of keeping so-called “asymptomatic” — i.e., not sick — people on highly toxic drug regimens with potential side effects ranging from wasting, bloating and fat redistribution to potentially fatal kidney and liver failure, one would think the establishment would welcome this big new inducement to stay on the meds: “Keep taking them and you can have normal sex again!” Instead, the establishment — especially the non-medical parts of it that run AIDS service agencies and dispense advice on how people should manage their sexuality in the face of the so-called “HIV epidemic” — is having a sort of collective hissy-fit that anyone with establishment AIDS credentials dared suggest any set of circumstances that might actually let sexually active “HIV-positives” off the condom hook.

“Not only is the Swiss proposal dangerous, it’s misleading and it is not considering the implication of the biological facts involved with HIV transmission,” said Dr. Jay Levy, director of the Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research at the University of California in San Francisco.

“You can never guarantee that somebody will not be infectious,” said Charlie Gilks, director of AIDS treatment and prevention at the World Health Organization (WHO). “We are not going to be changing in any way our very clear recommendations that people on treatment continue to practice safer sex, including protected sex with a condom, in any relationship.”

The critics of the Swiss report do raise some reasonable points. The report was based on four separate studies, all done exclusively with heterosexual couples. Among them was a Spanish study conducted between 1990 and 2003, in which 393 couples with one “HIV-positive” and one “HIV-negative” member were tracked. None of the “negative” partners became “positive” during those 13 years. Another study the Swiss researchers relied on came from Brazil, in which six of 43 negative partners of positive people seroconverted — attributed by the Brazilian researchers to lapses in the positive partners’ adherence to their drug regimens.

The studies on which the Swiss report was based didn’t look at Queer people of either gender, didn’t take into account the potentially higher risk of anal over vaginal sex (a question which divides even researchers who don’t accept HIV as the cause of AIDS), and were based on the assumption that the couples were mutually monogamous. So the applicability of these studies to Gay and Bisexual men, especially those in urban settings in advanced countries with access to a wide range of potential sexual partners, is limited.

But that’s not the point. The point is that in responding to the Swiss report, as in just about everything in which their authority is challenged, the official voices of the AIDS establishment have adopted their usual holier-than-thou attitude in which any dissent from the official line is considered dangerous at best and lethal at worst. The establishment has decreed that no “HIV-positive” person shall ever have sex unless a condom is used, and they have responded to the Swiss researchers the way they’ve responded to “dissident” scientists who questioned the HIV/AIDS link as well as researchers who bought into HIV as the cause of AIDS but questioned the validity of toxic “antiretroviral” chemotherapies that might kill HIV at the cost of potentially lethal collateral damage to the immune system: “We are right, you are wrong, shut your silly little mouths or accept that people will die because of what you’re saying.”

This tone of permanent outraged self-righteousness has dominated the public discourse on AIDS ever since HIV was politically proclaimed to be the syndrome’s cause in 1984. It has channeled the debate over AIDS policy into a narrow range of sexual repression, fear-mongering and a giant corporate-welfare program for Big Pharma. Misled rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof hold telethons and super-rich folk like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett donate huge sums of money to buy anti-AIDS drugs for Africans in countries that really need adequate supplies of food, clean water, sewage systems and simple drugs like quinine and basic antibiotics to treat malaria, cholera, leprosy and the other real diseases that are killing their so-called “AIDS patients.”

And few of the AIDS establishment’s orthodoxies are held or enforced so strongly as the one that seeks to deny any and all possibilities of natural sexual expression between men. We saw that a month before the Swiss report was published, when the U.S. journal Annals of Internal Medicine published a report that “a new variety of staph bacteria, highly resistant to antibiotics and possibly transmitted by sexual contact, is spreading among Gay men in San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles.” Reading the report in the January 14 San Francisco Chronicle, from which the above quote was taken, you had to wait until the third paragraph to find that the so-called “new” bacterium was in fact MRSA, a resistant staph bacterium that’s evolved in response to American medicine’s scandalous overuse of antibiotics — and you had to go through two-thirds of the article to find out the real risk factor.

“Gay men are being infected with the staph germ regardless of whether they are HIV-positive,” conceded the Chronicle reporter, Sabin Russell, two-thirds of the way through the piece. “One factor that could be in play is a medical history of heavy use of antibiotics, which creates conditions for breeding drug-resistant strains. Any patient, HIV-positive or not, who has had high previous exposure to antibiotics might be more susceptible.” Russell then went on to say that preventing the spread of the so-called STD staph might be as simple as taking a shower after sex— and quoted Dr. Chip Chambers, director of infectious diseases at San Francisco General Hospital and a co-author of the study, as saying, “Ordinary soap will do. It dilutes the concentration of bacteria. You don’t need antibacterial soap.” (Indeed, if antibiotic exposure is the risk factor, antibacterial soap could be counterproductive.)

Those of us, both scientists and lay people, who have remained unconvinced that a single virus could possibly be the source of the various and highly distinct phenomena lumped together under the label “AIDS” — a syndrome defined completely differently in Africa and the rest of the Third World than it is in the U.S. and western Europe — have long argued that the real causes of AIDS are long-term factors, both infectious and toxic, that wear down the immune system over time. Among these, quite likely, are repeated infections with genuine STD’s and repeated antibiotic treatments for them. Ironically, if HIV really were the cause of AIDS, condoms wouldn’t do much to prevent it because HIV particles are so small they can pass through condoms. (This is why, in the great herpes scare of the early 1980’s that preceded the great HIV scare, we were solemnly warned that condoms were useless to protect against herpes — which is caused by viruses larger than HIV.)

So if condoms really do protect against AIDS — and it’s not clear whether there’s actual research to support that or whether, like so much of what we think we know about HIV “science,” it’s just been assumed — it’s more likely they do so by doing one of the two things they were designed to do, protecting against sexually-transmitted bacterial infections like syphilis and gonorrhea, and thereby reducing the need for antibiotics to treat them. (The other thing condoms were designed to do is protect against unwanted pregnancies, which for exclusively homosexual men is not a problem.)

There are reasonable grounds for sexual caution — traditionally, the more sex partners you have the more likely you are to encounter an STD — but that’s not the agenda of the AIDS establishment. Their agenda is to keep all homosexually active men in an abject state of fear regarding their own sexuality — which is why they promoted all the scare stories about an allegedly sexually-transmitted antibiotic-resistant staph and why they attacked four good, solid, HIV-believing AIDS researchers in Switzerland for daring to suggest that there might be some circumstances under which “HIV-positive” people could have sex without paying obeisance to the gods of condom-mania.