Document:Provincetown Protease Town
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New York Native
9 December 1996
The "magic of Provincetown" has become a magnet for gay men with diagnoses of "AIDS" or "HIV-positive". For a decade now they have been arriving here – their medical records in hand, their various welfare benefits established, and their life insurance policy (if any) cashed in – to spend their final days in Provincetown.
All over the world are gay men whose happiest memories are of vacations in Provincetown, which for most of the 20th century has been the premier gay resort. During the summer all of Commercial Street, from Town Hall west, is a promenade: drag queans mingling with grizzled old men in leather (even in August), bodybuilders strutting their stuff, local residents walking their mutts, and hundreds of all kinds of very nice guys who can relax and be themselves in the fellowship of their own kind. There are middle-aged and elderly couples who have been coming to Provincetown ever since they were young.
But Provincetown is more than a gay resort. Located at the very tip of Cape Cod and surrounded by water on three sides, it is one of the oldest towns in the United States, founded in 1727. It is here that the Pilgrims first landed in 1620, and wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact. The population is diverse, and includes fishermen, craftsmen, and writers. For over a century Provincetown has been a colony for artists, who consider the light to be unique. Most of the land of the Outer Cape is taken up by the National Seashore, which is off limits to development of any kind. Within the space of a few miles are Provincetown's primevally beautiful sand dunes, salt water marshes, swamps, cranberry bogs, forests, sand beaches, the ocean and bay, and a large and beautiful natural harbor. The atmosphere seems to encourage healthful physical activities, and gay men go in for fishing, sailing, swimming, jogging, cycling, and walking. (There are eleven self-guiding nature walks in the National Seashore, and innumerable unofficial trails.)
And now Provincetown has its AIDS enclave, a full-fledged outpost of the AIDS industry. In addition to two AIDS support groups, the Unitarian Universalist Church has established an AIDS Ministry with its own minister. One private clinic alone has 250 AIDS patients, and for those who need or prefer big city doctors, a van makes regular trips between Provincetown and Boston. Drug manufacturers come to town, offering free dinners along with "treatment information" to those who are "HIV-positive". On the average there is an AIDS obituary every week or two in the local papers.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Barbara Carton, "Life After Death: New AIDS Drug Brings Hope to PROVINCETOWN" (Carton 1996), describes the impact the new class of AIDS drugs, the "protease inhibitors", are having on the diagnosed, their counsellors, and their "service providers". The operative word is "hope", which is also the theme of well-orchestrated advertising campaigns being waged by several pharmaceutical companies. Although Glaxo-Wellcome is still the biggest player in the AIDS market, it is no longer the only one. Its competitors have demanded, and are getting, a piece of the pie.
Hope is portrayed visually in the recent "Be Smart About HIV" ads, sponsored jointly by the National Minority AIDS Council, the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association, and Glaxo-Wellcome. The models in the ad seem radiantly happy, hugging each other. Gone are the hangdog expressions found on the models in Burroughs Wellcome's "Living With HIV" ads of five years ago. The caption on the ad says simply, "See your doctor about new treatment options"; it is clear from the display of teeth in wide-open smiles, that the "treatment options" are good news.
Hope is also the theme of a spate of news stories about AIDS patients near death, who started protease inhibitor therapy, after which they gained weight and energy and began looking forward to a full life expectancy.
Carton's article indicates that this new hope is not without its drawbacks. In one support group there is a joke, "Well, if we're not going to die, do we have to go back to work?" The problem is not trivial:
"People are missing the boat in not designing programs for the long-term survivor with HIV," says Alice Foley, the town's former nurse, who is now retired. "You've got to mainstream them back into a working environment.... A lot of these guys haven't worked in eight or ten years." (Carton 1996)
However, many do not want to return to their previous jobs, which they found "unfulfilling". They refer to themselves as "retired".
How realistic is the present euphoria over protease inhibitor therapy? Not at all. Even if one believes the anecdotal reports, it does not follow that a temporary return to health is a consequence of the treatment. One of the most fundamental mistakes in reasoning is known as the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" (after this therefore because of this) fallacy. The mere observation that event A is followed by event B does not by any means prove that A causes B.
The consensus that the protease inhibitor cocktails are "working" beneficially falls apart as soon as one scrutinizes it. First of all, the anecdotal reports are highly selective. The successes are trumpeted from coast to coast. The failures are blacked out. The situation is piquantly illustrated in Carton's article:
Karin Anderson, who leads a weekly support group in PROVINCETOWN for people taking care of friends or partners with AIDS, says her seven-member group is becoming increasingly polarized. That is because the protease inhibitors are working for half the patients, but the rest are getting much sicker. [emphasis added] The social worker says she may eventually have to split the support group in two. [!] (Carton 1996)
And those who "are getting much sicker" are going down the collective memory hole.
It goes without saying that we should be skeptical of anecdotal reports – and should be aware that not all reports on the protease inhibitors are favorable, for example: "If you think AZT was bad – you wouldn't BELIEVE how bad these protease inhibitors are! I have witnessed two deaths in the last month. One, an ethnic Chinese, turned black – yes black – before succumbing. Jaundice and hepatitis after 4 days of use (Crixivan)! MAC outbreak in 3 days (which means pure immune suppression). Hospitalized in 1 week. Dead in 10 days. Nice stuff!" (Internet posting of 5 July 1996)
Even in those cases where the AIDS patient has gotten better following protease inhibitor therapy, it does not follow that the improvement was due to beneficial effects of the drugs. Among alternative explanations, the most obvious is the placebo effect, which can be powerful.
Patients taking protease inhibitors did so as part of a herd decision, in the context of hope generated by pharmaceutical propaganda. They expected to get better. They encouraged each other to get better, and some of them did. The others were ignored, a form of ostracism.
In other words, benefits from the protease "cocktails" – if any – must be psychological. There is no way that these chemicals could have real health benefits.
The case against protease inhibitors
Most fundamentally, protease inhibitor therapy is based on a false premise, that the retrovirus HIV is the cause of the dubiously defined illness known as "AIDS". At this point in time, debating the merits of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis is like flogging a dead horse. That foolish hypothesis was demolished by Peter Duesberg a decade ago, and anyone who still believes in it is uninformed, lazy, and/or stupid. (Duesberg 1996a, Duesberg 1996b, Duesberg 1996c)
The alleged benefits of protease inhibitors are unproven by scientifically credible research. Developments on the AIDS-drugs front happen so quickly that it is impossible to keep up with everything, but to the best of my knowledge no protease inhibitor has been tested against a placebo (that is, against no drug at all). Claims of benefits are based, not on improvement to the health of human beings, but on results from experimental and highly questionable laboratory measurements, primarily the so-called "viral load" tests, which are an offshoot of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Although being used to evaluate the success of protease inhibitor therapy, the viral load tests have not even been approved for use by the FDA. (Rasnick 1996, Philpott & Johnson 1996)
Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize in Science for inventing the PCR, is thoroughly convinced that HIV is not the cause of "AIDS". With regard to the viral load tests, which attempt to use PCR for counting viruses, Mullis has stated: "Quantitative PCR is an oxymoron." PCR is intended to identify substances qualitatively, but by its very nature is unsuited for estimating numbers. Although there is a common misimpression that the viral load tests actually count the number of viruses in the blood, these tests cannot detect free, infectious viruses at all; they can only detect proteins that are believed, in some cases wrongly, to be unique to HIV. The tests can detect genetic sequences of viruses, but not viruses themselves.
What PCR does is to select a genetic sequence and then amplify it enormously. It can accomplish the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack; it can amplify that needle into a haystack. Like an electronically amplified antenna, PCR greatly amplifies the signal, but it also greatly amplifies the noise. Since the amplification is exponential, the slightest error in measurement, the slightest contamination, can result in errors of many orders of magnitude.
To make an analogy: using the viral load tests to gauge viral activity would be like finding a few fingernail clippings; amplifying the fingernail clippings into a small mountain of fingernail clippings mixed in with other junk; and then having an "expert" come along and interpret the pile as representing a platoon of soldiers, fully armed and ready for battle.
In short, the viral load tests are a scam. When molecular biologists Peter Duesberg and Harvey Bialy analyzed the 1995 Ho and Wei papers (Nature 373) that launched the whole viral load bandwagon, they found that estimates of free virus had been overestimated by several orders of magnitude. In the Wei study, 100,000 so-called "plasma viral RNA" units really amounted to less than 2 infectious viruses per milliliter of plasma. And in the Ho study, 10,000 "plasma virions" corresponded to less than one infectious virus. Duesberg and Bialy concluded, "there is no evidence for infectious virus in Wei et al.'s and Ho et al.'s patients." (Duesberg 1996a)
When Australian mathematician Mark Craddock analyzed the same reports by Ho and Wei, he found gross errors in mathematics and logic, and in exasperation posed the question:
Just what exactly will it take to get the people doing HIV research to turn away from high tech, unproven methods, arcane speculations about molecular interactions etcetera etcetera and ask themselves "Do any of us have the faintest idea what we are doing?(Duesberg 1996a)
Claims have been made that the protease inhibitors act only against HIV's protease, but not against healthy human protease compounds. The point is important, because the body makes and needs its own protease compounds, which play a crucial role in the assimilation of nutrients. This claim of selectivity is highly suspect, and reminiscent of claims made for AZT a decade ago: that AZT acted selectively against viral DNA synthesis rather than human cellular DNA synthesis. The AZT claim, based on research conducted by Burroughs Wellcome, has since been proven false by at least a half dozen independent studies, which found that AZT is 1000 times more toxic to human cells than was claimed when the drug was approved for marketing in 1987. (Duesberg 1996a)
The protease inhibitors were approved for marketing so quickly that their toxicological profiles are far from complete. To my knowledge no reports have been published on animal studies or on such tests as the Cell Transformation Assay, so the carcinogenic potential of the drugs is unknown. There can be no doubt, however, that they have a broad range of serious toxicities, adversely affecting every organ in the body. (Ostrom 1996)
As bad as the protease inhibitor toxicities might be by themselves, the situation is far graver when they are administered as part of drug "cocktails", which include AZT or similar nucleoside analogues. By their very nature the latter class of drugs are lethal to human cells; they are terminators of DNA synthesis, the life process itself. The toxicities of AZT and the other nucleoside analogues are extremely severe, and include anemia; myopathy, or muscle disease (which manifests itself as muscular pain, muscular inflammation, and muscular atrophy); cachexia (wasting); nausea; headache; and damage to the kidneys, liver and nerves. AZT is a known carcinogen: it is highly positive in a standard screening test for carcinogenicity, the Cell Transformation Assay; it causes cancer in rodents; and there is a strong correlation between long-term AZT therapy and cancer of the lymph system. In the words of physician and AIDS researcher Joseph Sonnabend, "AZT is incompatible with life." (Lauritsen 1990, Lauritsen 1993)
In sum, hope based on protease inhibitor cocktails is false hope. The only consequence that can rationally be expected is the eventual decline and death of the patient.
Real hope versus false hope
For over a decade those with diagnoses of "AIDS" or "HIV-positive" have lived under a spell of doom. Now, for the first time they are being offered hope – by pharmaceutical propaganda linking that hope to chemicals which attack the very basis of life. That hope is false hope.
However, it was the AIDS establishment which destroyed hope in the first place: by incessantly disseminating the lie that "AIDS is invariably fatal." The AIDS establishment destroyed hope by claiming falsely that a positive result on the unvalidated, unreliable and inaccurate HIV-antibody tests meant an active viral infection, which would invariably lead to "AIDS", which was invariably fatal. The AIDS establishment destroyed hope with its false equation: HIV = AIDS = DEATH.
In actuality, there is no reason why those with positive results on the HIV-antibody tests should not live to a ripe old age, provided they take care of themselves and keep poisons out of their body. This is real hope.
Those who have been diagnosed as having full-blown "AIDS" (that is, who have been sick with one or more of the 29 "AIDS-indicator diseases") may need medical help, including drugs, to help them recover from those specific diseases, but they most certainly do not need any drugs designed to attack HIV. HIV is not the cause of "AIDS"! Steps should be taken to strengthen the body so that it will have a chance to heal itself. With the wisdom of millions of years of evolution, it probably can. This is real hope.
- Carton, Barbara, 1996. "Life After Death: New AIDS Drug Brings Hope to PROVINCETOWN, But Unexpected Woes". Wall Street Journal, 3 October 1996.
- Duesberg, Peter H. (editor), 1996a. AIDS; Virus or Drug Induced?, Kluwer Academics Press.
- Duesberg, Peter H., 1996b. Infectious AIDS: Have We Been Misled?, North Atlantic Books.
- Duesberg, Peter H., 1996c. Inventing the AIDS Virus, Regnery Publishing, Inc.
- Lauritsen, John, 1990. Poison By Prescription: The AZT Story, Asklepios Press.
- Lauritsen, John, 1993. The AIDS War, Asklepios Press.
- Ostrom, Neenyah, 1996. "Poison Makes A Comeback", New York Native, 15 July 1996.
- Philphott, Paul and Christine Johnson, 1996. "Viral Load of Crap", Reappraising AIDS, October 1996.
- Rasnick, David, 1996. "Inhibitors of HIV Protease Useless Against AIDS", Reappraising AIDS, August 1996.