Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.


Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.

Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Swiss grant rights to plants, so Dr. Gallo, how about humans?

WSJ’s Gautam Naik pens ridicule, but may miss the point

Well treated chickens, veg taste better, and are surely more nutritious

Respect for HIV patients could be health factor, too. Are you listening, Bob? Free Parenzee!

p1300778smaller.JPGHere for readers’ delectation is a picture of Dr Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier getting the Lasker prize together many years ago, at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan (click to enlarge). As you can see, this was before these two great scientists begged to differ over who exactly had priority in finding what was taken to be evidence of a retrovirus in the blood of French AIDS patients, an issue finally resolved this month by the award of a Nobel to Montagnier and his female colleague who actually did the work, whose name no one will ever remember, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi.

Suggested script for the above historical moment: Montagnier to Gallo, “Eesn’t thees vundereful? Zey say ze Lasker ees huff vay to zee Nobel!”

Stop humiliating plants
Meanwhile, today (Oct 10 Fri) the Wall Street Journal justifies its subscription by printing a front page alert that Switzerland has told its scientists to respect plant rights.

In Switzerland’s Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants’ Rights – Who Is to Say Flora Don’t Have Feelings? Figuring Out What Wheat Would Want , the Wall Street Journal’s Gautum Naik dutifully pokes fun at this novel initiative:

ZURICH — For years, Swiss scientists have blithely created genetically modified rice, corn and apples. But did they ever stop to consider just how humiliating such experiments may be to plants?

That’s a question they must now ask. Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant’s dignity.

“Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously,” Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. “It’s one more constraint on doing genetic research.”

Dr. Keller recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn’t “disturb the vital functions or lifestyle” of the plants. He eventually got the green light.

Switzerland’s Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants’ Rights – Who Is to Say Flora Don’t Have Feelings? Figuring Out What Wheat Would Want


ZURICH — For years, Swiss scientists have blithely created genetically modified rice, corn and apples. But did they ever stop to consider just how humiliating such experiments may be to plants?

That’s a question they must now ask. Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant’s dignity.

“Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously,” Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. “It’s one more constraint on doing genetic research.”

Dr. Keller recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn’t “disturb the vital functions or lifestyle” of the plants. He eventually got the green light.

The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora’s dignity.

“We couldn’t start laughing and tell the government we’re not going to do anything about it,” says Markus Schefer, a member of the ethics panel and a professor of law at the University of Basel. “The constitution requires it.”

In April, the team published a 22-page treatise on “the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.” It stated that vegetation has an inherent value and that it is immoral to arbitrarily harm plants by, say, “decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.”

On the question of genetic modification, most of the panel argued that the dignity of plants could be safeguarded “as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured.” In other words: It’s wrong to genetically alter a plant and render it sterile.

Many scientists interpret the dignity rule as applying mainly to field trials like Dr. Keller’s, but some worry it may one day apply to lab studies as well. Another gripe: While Switzerland’s stern laws defend lab animals and now plants from genetic tweaking, similar protections haven’t been granted to snails and drosophila flies, which are commonly used in genetic experiments.

It also begs an obvious, if unrelated question: For a carrot, is there a more mortifying fate than being peeled, chopped and dropped into boiling water?

“Where does it stop?” asks Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the laboratory of plant biotechnology at the University of Lausanne. “Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?”

Seeking clarity, Dr. Poirier recently invited the head of the Swiss ethics panel to his university. In their public discussion, Dr. Poirier said the new rules are flawed because decades of traditional plant breeding had led to widely available sterile fruit, such as seedless grapes. Things took a surreal turn when it was disclosed that some panel members believe plants have feelings, Dr. Poirier says.

Back in the 1990s, the Swiss constitution was amended in order to defend the dignity of all creatures — including the leafy kind — against unwanted consequences of genetic manipulation. When the amendment was turned into a law — known as the Gene Technology Act — it didn’t say anything specific about plants. But earlier this year, the government asked the ethics panel to come up rules for plants as well.

The Swiss debate isn’t just academic twittering. Like other countries in Europe, Switzerland has long kept a tight rein on crop genetics, fearing that a mutant strain might run amok and harm the environment. Swiss geneticists say the dignity rule makes their job even harder.

Crazy Talk?

Several years ago, when Christof Sautter, a botanist at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology, failed to get permission to do a local field trial on transgenic wheat, he moved the experiment to the U.S. He’s too embarrassed to mention the new dignity rule to his American colleagues. “They’ll think Swiss people are crazy,” he says.

Defenders of the law argue that it reflects a broader, progressive effort to protect the sanctity of living things. Last month, Switzerland granted new rights to all “social animals.” Prospective dog owners must take a four-hour course on pet care before they can buy a canine companion, while anglers must learn to catch fish humanely. Fish can’t be kept in aquariums that are transparent on all sides. The fish need some shelter. Nor can goldfish be flushed down a toilet to an inglorious end; they must first be anesthetized with special chemicals, and then killed.

Rhinoceroses can’t be kept in an enclosure smaller than 600 square yards. Failure to comply can lead to a fine of 200 Swiss francs, or about $175. “The rules apply for zoos and private owners,” says Marcel Falk, spokesman for the Federal Veterinary Office in Bern.

Are there pet rhinos in Switzerland? “I hope not,” he says.

New Constitution

In another unusual move, the people of Ecuador last month voted for a new constitution that is the first to recognize ecosystem rights enforceable in a court of law. Thus, the nation’s rivers, forests and air are no longer mere property, but right-bearing entities with “the right to exist, persist and…regenerate.”

Dr. Keller in Zurich has more mundane concerns. He wants to breed wheat that can resist powdery mildew. In lab experiments, Dr. Keller found that by transferring certain genes from barley to wheat, he could make the wheat resistant to disease.

When applying for a larger field trial, he ran into the thorny question of plant dignity. Plants don’t have a nervous system and probably can’t feel pain, but no one knows for sure. So Dr. Keller argued that by protecting wheat from fungus he was actually helping the plant, not violating its dignity — and helping society in the process.

One morning recently, he stood by a field near Zurich where the three-year trial with transgenic wheat is under way. His observations suggest that the transgenic wheat does well in the wild. Yet Dr. Keller’s troubles aren’t over.

In June, about 35 members of a group opposed to the genetic modification of crops, invaded the test field. Clad in white overalls and masks, they scythed and trampled the plants, causing plenty of damage.

“They just cut them,” says Dr. Keller, gesturing to wheat stumps left in the field. “Where’s the dignity in that?”

Write to Gautam Naik at gautam.naik@wsj.com

What this overlooks, of course, is that embodied in the somewhat schizophrenic treatment of animals and plants by humans – first fatten them up or water and fertilize them up, then execute them, cook and eat them – is the fact that the better animals and plants are treated when they are alive, the better they taste when dead and cooked.:

Niman Ranch, which takes in annual sales of $85 million, was founded on the notion that the better an animal is treated, the better the meat will be. His beef was so good that in the early 1980s Alice Waters made it the first proper-noun meat on the menu at her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. His pigs, raised humanely by 600 family farms in Iowa, provide pork for the Chipotle chain’s carnitas. Niman Ranch bacon, hot dogs and sausage fill grocery cases around the country.

October 15, 2008
With Goat, a Rancher Breaks Away From the Herd


BILL NIMAN is not the rancher he once was.

Last year Mr. Niman walked away from the meat company he started in the 1970s with not much more than a handful of cattle and a political philosophy built on self-sufficiency.

Niman Ranch, which takes in annual sales of $85 million, was founded on the notion that the better an animal is treated, the better the meat will be. His beef was so good that in the early 1980s Alice Waters made it the first proper-noun meat on the menu at her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. His pigs, raised humanely by 600 family farms in Iowa, provide pork for the Chipotle chain’s carnitas. Niman Ranch bacon, hot dogs and sausage fill grocery cases around the country.

But Mr. Niman is no longer a part of the company. Angry and discouraged after prolonged battles with a new management team over money and animal protocols, he left in August 2007 with a modest severance check and a small amount of stock.

He can’t use his surname to sell meat, and he had to surrender the small herd of breeding cattle that lived on his ranch here, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The cattle were direct descendants of the ones he tended back in the days of counterculture, not profit margin.

But Mr. Niman, 63, is done licking his wounds. With a herd of goats and a young vegetarian wife he nicknamed Porkchop by his side, he is jumping back into the meat game.

“I think I am returning to my original roots,” said Mr. Niman, who still lives in the little house he built on ranchland that kisses the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Niman was raised in Minnesota, and moved to California to teach poor children. It was better than being drafted. In 1968, he headed north to Bolinas, a refuge for poets and intellectuals, to practice the counterculture movement’s back-to-the-land philosophy.

His initial herd came in a barter with a local ranching family: his first wife, who died in a horseback riding accident in the 1970s, had tutored one of the family’s daughters; the Nimans were paid with six newborn calves.He has never left Bolinas, although now he watches over 1,000 acres instead of 11, and the land was turned over to the Point Reyes National Seashore.

He and Nicolette Hahn Niman, an environmental lawyer, were married five years ago, and now they are raising what they hope will be the best-tasting animals around. They have a handful of premier cattle that fatten only on pasture and a flock of traditional turkey breeds they personally chauffeured from Kansas to Bolinas last spring. Mr. Niman also has an organic pig project going in Iowa.

But he hopes goat will be the cornerstone of his comeback. That’s in part because he has more of them around, and because he sees a wide-open market for pristine, pasture-raised goat meat. The guy is, after all, a businessman.

“I don’t need to get 10 percent of the market anymore,” he said. “I just want to be the best.”

Chefs on both coasts are fast discovering his goat meat, although it is still available only in limited amounts, under the name BN Ranch.

In June, Mr. Niman stopped by Eccolo in Berkeley with a piece of shoulder, a loin, a leg and a rack of ribs. The chef and owner, Christopher Lee, now breaks down one or two of the 30-pound goat carcasses a week.

“It was succulent,” Mr. Lee said. “It was mild. It was just perfect.”

Like other chefs who have begun to cook with goat, Mr. Lee predicts a bright future for the meat.

“We’ve all cooked every part of the lamb a million times and we all know about grass-fed beef and aging beef,” he said. “The goat is the next thing.”

The meat Mr. Niman and a handful of other boutique farmers are producing is more delicate than the older, imported goat that is served at Pakistani curry houses, Jamaican jerk stands and taco trucks all over New York.

At a recent goat tasting in the Blue Hill at Stone Barns kitchen in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., Mr. Niman’s young goat was compared to pan-seared and roasted loin and shoulder cuts from both a small Vermont grower and what the chef Dan Barber called “commodity goat.”

The commodity goat was slightly musty and chewy. The Vermont goat was as tender and mild as lamb. The Niman goat was like lamb, too, but a lamb with a big personality. The meat was sweet and vegetal. The fat, what little of it there was, tasted rich but felt lighter than olive oil.

At Thyme for Goat, a recent collaboration between four goat farms within 25 miles of each other in Maine, goat is taking off, in a small way. People are attracted to the way it is raised and its healthful properties. Goat meat doesn’t have the tallow of lamb, and contains about half the fat of chicken, according to a Department of Agriculture analysis.

“A lot of folks said nobody in Maine is going to buy goat meat,” said Marge Kilkelly, who does marketing for the group. “We’ve found just the opposite.”

The breed of goat is important. Like the Maine collective, Mr. Niman raises some stout, muscular Boer goats. But he is particularly fond of meat from lighter framed Spanish goats, which sometimes mix with the Boer.

“What Bill is so good at is the genetics,” Mr. Barber said. “He’s the master.”

For about half the year, Mr. Niman lets the goats roam his California ranch. In the summer and fall, when the California grass is brown, they move to Oregon. He also works with ranchers raising two other herds to his specifications in California and Oregon.

Goats and cattle work particularly well together in a pasture. Goats don’t like clover or rye grass, which the cattle love, but they make fast work of scotch broom, poison oak and other plants that can take over good grassland.

“Nature is so perfect,” Mr. Niman said.

His longtime followers may be surprised that he is now raising his cattle entirely on pasture, without switching to a diet of grain a few months before slaughter.

He built Niman Ranch on the idea that raising a quality, year-round beef supply was like making dessert. You bake the cake with grass and frost it with grain. The method produces well-marbled meat with that traditional corn-fed flavor most Americans grew up eating. And it provides beef year-round. Animals that feed on pasture are fat enough to be slaughtered only at certain times of year.

But just as Niman Ranch was becoming a big, nationally recognized brand, Mr. Niman fell victim to a move toward meat purity that he and Orville Schell, his former partner, had started. Several chefs and food writers came to believe that a diet of corn was ruinous for cattle’s health and the environment.

Although Mr. Niman’s beef was quite different from conventional corn-fed beef, that he fed his animals with any grain at all was unacceptable to some chefs. Ms. Waters decided to drop it from the menu in 2002 and turn to more seasonal, all-grass options.

“It made me very sad but I just said we are at a moment in time and I just can’t do this anymore,” she said, adding that she “couldn’t be more delighted that he’s come back to his senses.”

Still, Mr. Niman continued to build the company. He took on a parade of investors. A new management team took over in 2006, led by Jeff Swain, who had been at the company that produces Coleman Natural Beef, Mr. Niman’s biggest competitor.

With the new team came changes, many of them made over Mr. Niman’s protests. The company sold its custom butchering plant in Oakland and prepared to sell its high-end feedlot in Idaho. Niman Ranch began to purchase cattle ready for slaughter from feedlots over which the company had little control, a practice that Mr. Niman said was “against my religion.”

Mr. Niman said feed standards dropped and animals were transported distances longer than 500 miles, which he said stresses them too much.

Mr. Swain said feed and care standards for the 400 head of cattle they process a week have not dropped. Contractors follow a list of protocols that are similar to those Mr. Niman developed.

And although some animals are being transported longer than 500 miles for slaughter, he said they are allowed to rest for 24 hours before they are dispatched.

The real issue, Mr. Swain said, is that Mr. Niman was a poor businessman. The cattle portion of the program was a money-loser, unlike the pork business, which processes about 3,200 animals a week. That remains unchanged, Mr. Swain said. “When we got involved, Niman would raise money and go through it and raise money and go through it,” he said. “Any change to Bill’s business model he didn’t like. We needed to make the company financially sustainable.”

The more Mr. Niman complained that the protocols he developed were being eased out, the more marginalized he became. Finally, Mr. Niman walked away, heading back to focus on the ranch where he has lived since the 1970s. Nicolette, 22 years his junior and a devout vegetarian, was there to comfort him. “It was such a dark time for Bill,” she said.

While Mr. Niman fought his battles, his wife learned how to work the ranch. She also finished her book, “Righteous Porkchop” (Collins Living, March). It is part memoir and part exposé, focusing on her work fighting industrial meat companies as a lawyer for the Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s environmental organization.

So how does that vegetarian thing work out? She accepts the role animals play in the human food chain, and he never pressures her to eat meat. She doesn’t cook meat at home, but doesn’t forbid Mr. Niman from throwing some chorizo on a slice of homemade pizza. He tends to go out for steaks, especially when he travels.

The one place they compromised was over a couple of her favorite cattle. She became emotionally attached, so he promised the cow and steer will not die for meat.

“You’ve got the rancher who came back home and the lovely, smart animal welfare girl who is 20 years younger and has really gone to work on him,” said Betty Fussell, who writes about Mr. Niman in her new book, “Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef” (Harcourt, October). “It is the story of the cowboy and the lady, in a way.”

Other people at his stage of life might be planning how to ride off into the beautiful Pacific sunset, satisfied with having made a real change in how people eat. But not Mr. Niman, who acts as if he’s just getting started.

“It’s the first time I’ve had a true partner at my side,” he said of the last five years. “I feel like together, we are pioneering the next generation of animal husbandry.”
In general, we go along with the tree huggers in Switzerland who have cooked up and legislated this novel approach to improving the quality of chicken and broccoli. It is time to respect animals and plants as part of the same glorious life process as humans, and stop abusing them needlessly, before eating them.

As the modern update to Sinclair Lewis’ The Jungle, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, made clear there is nothing more disgusting that the conditions suffered by most animals and plants on the now mostly factory farms of America. One point that the recent excellent documentary King Corn makes is that the corn grown in Iowa under the lure of subsidy by the US government is so nutritionally deficient and tastes so bad accordingly that the farmers and their wives won’t eat it themselves (the life filled kernels are bred to be tiny relative to the rest of the bean, which is thus mostly sugary carbohydrate destined to fill the soft drink bottles (corn syrup) and $1 MacDonalds hamburgers of the Bronx (corn fed beef) where half the population will contract diabetes as a result, many of them losing body parts.

Organic tastes much better

Taste is individually subjective of course but after extended research our own unscientific conclusion is that organic meat and vegetables taste better and are more nourishing.

To those that argue that it is a little inconsistent to mollycoddle pigs and chickens and then eat them we can point out that if the resultant food is more nourishing less of it will have to be eaten to get us through the day.

So going organic and raising the bar to meet the new Swiss standards will save the lives of many animals and quite a few individual plants, assuming that the same number are farmed, which of course is questionable.

How about humans, too?

Moreover, this advance in the ethics of planetary conservation seems to us to fit in very well with the improvement in patient treatment by doctors and scientists we have long called for on this blog.

Surely if doctors and scientists had more respect for the rights of patients in the realm of HIV/AIDS they would be less inclined to feed them unpleasant and sometimes fatal drugs on the pretext that the current scientific paradigm is inviolable, even though it has been thoroughly trashed over two decades by the best mind in the field.

Leave mothers in their wisdom alone

Of course they would have to experience a decline in authority and arrogance but that is precisely what the new ethic dictates – greater respect for Nature and the planet, not to mention other human beings, and less of the widespread but misleading medical practitioners’ conviction that political power confers scientific authority and that widespread social belief confers truth, particularly in medicine and science.

Perhaps then mothers who instinctively refuse to dose themselves or their babies with AZT after they experience the side effects would be allowed their rights:

In the Eye of the Storm: A Mother’s True Story of Confronting AIDS, Fate, and the State – By Kathleen Tyson

September 17, 1998, is a date I will always remember. I was six months pregnant, and at 38 feeling a little old for the rigors of pregnancy, a full-time job, and the care of our ten-year-old daughter. But my husband, David, and I were joyfully anticipating the birth of our son. Then I received a call from my midwife at the Peace Health Birth Center. She told me my test results were in and asked if I could come down immediately and talk. This was worrisome. I located David, and we went to the birth center, where I was led to a private room. There the midwife told me gently that my HIV test had come back positive.

I was incredulous, then devastated. The next day, we consulted a high-risk perinatologist, who told us that his suggested course of treatment would be repeated doses of the drugs AZT and nelfinavir (a protease inhibitor). These, he said, would help to reduce the risk of transmission of the HIV virus to my unborn child. Of course, he added, I also would have to have a cesarean section at birth.

I walked out in a daze. I had been feeling so healthy. Since high school I had been a vegetarian, practiced yoga, studied dance. I ran about ten to 16 miles per week, gardened, played with Faye. I was in the best, most vigorous shape of my life.

But that ended after I started on the prescribed drugs. Every morning, as I arrived at work, the first dosages would hit my bloodstream, and I’d be overcome by incredible exhaustion. The sicker I felt, the more I worried about the safety of the drugs and their effect on my unborn son.

My doctors brushed aside my concerns, telling me that the consequences of transmitting HIV to my son would be much more devastating than any possible side effects from the drugs. He added that children born to mothers who had used AZT were fine, even though he could not give me any studies to prove this.

I remained worried, haunted by thoughts of thalidomide and birth defects. Six weeks into my antiretroviral medication regime, having read everything I could find about AZT and pregnancy – and having found most of it extremely disquieting – I made the wrenching decision to discontinue the drugs.

Then with the support of my midwives, we started formulating a birth plan: vaginal delivery, no AZT during delivery, and no AZT for our newborn son. We felt confident we were doing the right thing, since we had been unable to find any studies showing that AZT, an extremely toxic drug, was safe for newborns.

Finally, after carefully weighing all of the apparent costs and benefits (based on what little research we could find), I decided to breastfeed. The thought of not nursing had been so painful to me. Now, knowing I would nurse, I felt relieved and joyful.

Two weeks before my due date, I went into labor. Ironically, I had an emergency C-section; my son’s umbilical cord was prolapsed. The first thing I saw after I woke from the anesthesia was Faye holding our beautiful newborn, Felix. I held him and nursed him. All was well.

However, the personal trauma and upheaval we had gone through before the birth of Felix was nothing compared to what came after.

Less than 24 hours after Felix’s delivery, an infectious-diseases pediatrician stopped by our room, supposedly to counsel us about treatment for our son. Immediately she launched into a lecture about the importance of AZT. Then she told me I must stop breastfeeding at once. We listened politely, then told her we felt well informed on the issues and, because of that, were declining drug treatment for Felix and would continue breastfeeding.

The pediatrician became hostile and argumentative, telling us we were relying on biased information and were endangering our son. Later that evening she returned, ostensibly to see if we had changed our minds. I was alone, David having gone home briefly. Feeling weak, vulnerable, and exhausted, I was in tears by the time she left, warning me, as she walked out the door, that she would now be going to the Ethics Board of the hospital and their corporate lawyer.

Within an hour, a petitioner from Juvenile Court, escorted by an armed police officer, came to my room. I was issued a summons to appear in court two days hence at 8:30 a.m.

Dumbstruck, I stared at the paper. On it, the state was charging us with “Intent to Harm” and threatening to take custody of our baby.

What I then found – and still find – the most horrible aspect of this moment was that I could not imagine anything more harmful than shooting my son full of dangerous, toxic drugs, while also denying him the known immune-supporting effects of breastmilk. And what of the incredible nurturing effects of nursing? I simply could not conceive of denying my son that.

But at that moment, I also felt powerless and profoundly afraid. I did not want to lose custody of my newborn son. With the child-welfare petitioner still in the room, I called the nurses to bring formula and bottles. Felix had his first taste of formula that day, as I cried.

Several days afterward, we went to court. There, based on testimony from one doctor, I was ordered to stop breastfeeding completely and to begin administering AZT to Felix every six hours around the clock for six weeks.

I was heartbroken. But we also decided to fight on.

Today, we’re still in the middle of that fight. As our case has gotten national attention, we have received, in turn, an astonishing outpouring of support from people everywhere.

Soon after the first hearing, the local child-welfare agency offered us a deal: If I would agree not to breastfeed, the child endangerment case against us would be dropped, and we would be allowed to go on with our lives.

I refused. I did not want to be a martyr. And God knows, I don’t want to lose custody of my son. But the issue of how to treat Felix and the broader issue of whether the state can mandate medical treatment for anyone’s child are simply too important to ignore. I sincerely believe that light needs to be shed on this topic, and that the practice of ignoring the well-considered and deeply reasoned plans parents have for the care of their children has to stop.

My experience is not unique. I wish it were. I would not wish for any other parent to be in my situation. It’s a terrible thing to have to make life and death decisions about the welfare of your child. But I’m the one who should make those decisions. No one else ever will love or worry about my child as I do. And with that knowledge to buoy us, I hope – and firmly believe – that we will prevail.

Kathleen Tyson was scheduled to have another hearing before the Eugene, Oregon Juvenile Court in April. For additional information about the results of that hearing and other aspects of the case, you can log on to the Web site www.televar.com/~tysn


That url is defunct now, but continuing commentary can be found at HIV-positive Women: Birthing Outside the System – Susan Gerhard on how grave injustices for many HIV-positive moms and their families into hiding.:

HIV-positive Women
Birthing Outside the System
Susan Gerhard on how grave injustices for many HIV-positive moms and their families into hiding.
side bars:
MOMM’s Advice
Is Breast Still Best?

Mothering Magazine
September/October 2001
Special Report:
HIV, Families & Medical Justice.
By Susan Gerhard

If Dana had conceived her child just one month earlier, she might have had the birth experience she had always imagined. Instead, she found herself in a cramped hospital office being informed by the Chief of Pediatric Immunology that if she decided to breastfeed her two-day-old daughter, Nia, or did not follow any other of her doctor’s recommendations — he wanted to immediately give Nia a potent cell-killer, AZT — Dana would be reported for neglect, and her daughter could be taken away. Dana, a single mother, asked if she could call her family and get their advice, but the doctor told her that she had no time; she had to concede immediately or be turned over to the authorities. Three other doctors stood in the doorway in suits and lab coats as Dana, dressed only in her pajamas, was given the ultimatum. She had not slept for three and a half days.

One month earlier, New York State had begun implementing a new requirement in its mandatory newborn HIV testing laws. Results of the tests would have to come back within 48 hours so that the child could be treated, and the mother “advised,” before they even left the hospital. Dana (not her real name) got caught in the dragnet. Nine years earlier she had tested positive for HIV. Doctors initially told her she had too many T cells to medicate, however, and she wondered whether her HIV result might have been an error. Dana had Epstein-Barr virus, which is known to create false positives on certain HIV tests.(1) She had remained healthy without medication, and she felt the HIV she supposedly carried might never actually make her sick. So she hadn’t planned to reveal her HIV status to her doctors. But when she received a letter from the hospital informing her of changes in the law, she realized she would be one of its first targets.

Faced with the choice of either following instructions she felt would cause immediate harm to her baby or losing her child altogether, Dana did what many HIV-positive mothers feel they must do: she faked it. She agreed to follow the doctors’ instructions. But when she walked down the hallway to her room, she was greeted by a lactation consultant, who apparently hadn’t gotten word of Dana’s predicament and was there to assist her with breastfeeding Nia. Dana didn’t see any reason why she shouldn’t. She just pulled the curtain around the bed and went with it.

When treating pregnant women who test positive for HIV, most physicians follow US Public Health Service guidelines, which include aggressive combinations of anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy and AZT administered intravenously during labor, followed by formula feeding and six weeks of AZT for newborns, whether or not they test positive.(2) But many doctors, like Dana’s add their own codicil — a call to Child Protective Services if the parent doesn’t comply.

The only way to avoid such Orwellian scenarios, many HIV-positive parents feel, is to go underground. They decline tests in 48 states where that is still allowable, look for the rare midwife knowledgeable about the reasons why a person would test HIV-positive but still be healthy, buy the AZT their doctors prescribe and flush it down the toilet, and stock formula and bottles in their cabinets while breastfeeding on he sly. They want to avoid the fate of the defiant mothers whose stories haunt the internet and talk-show circuits — Sophie Brassard in Montreal, whose two sons were taken away when she refused to treat them with AIDS drugs; Kathleen Tyson in Eugene, Oregon, who was court-ordered not to breastfeed her new son; and the Camden, UK, family who decided to flee the country to avoid having their child tested for HIV.(3)

Dana found out that she didn’t have to get tested (although Nia did) by talking to a lawyer from the HIV Law Project in Manhattan, which joins patient-advocate groups in opposing mandatory testing. She was therefore able to avoid the routine AZT drip during delivery. To avoid raising suspicion, she allowed Nia to be given three doses of AZT in the hospital, but she didn’t give her any medications at home. Instead of breastfeeding, which would create breastfeeding behaviors in her baby, such as reaching for the nipple or under the shirt in public, she pumped her milk and fed Nia through a bottle. She never changed her baby’s diaper in a doctor’s office, where the breastfeeding tell-all, the milky orange poop, would be noticed. And she didn’t let on what she had been doing when, two weeks later, her pediatrician reluctantly gave her the good news: Nia had no detectable HIV virus. The doctor admitted he hadn’t wanted to tell her, because he was worried she would stop giving Nia the prescribed AZT. She did not inform him that she had already done so.

If she were to have another child, Dana says, she would not give birth in a hospital. “When the pediatrician first came in to talk to me about my test results,” she remembers, “I was in a room with three other women, and he was just discussing it in front of them.” Later, the hospital ended up keeping Nia an extra day after Dana herself went home. “They said it was because of jaundice,” Dana says. But she believes it was to ensure the child got her AZT dose. “If I had to do it again, I would want the baby in my physical control rather than theirs.”

* * *

Safety in Numbers?

Just how sound is the advice these doctors are giving? Health professionals may not volunteer the information, but studies show that AZT, the drug that was pushed on two-day-old Nia, can be extremely damaging. AZT has been shown to cause cancer and fetal deformities in animals, and the FDA states that it should not be used unless the potential benefit to the fetus outweighs the potential risk.(4)

Studies of hundreds of children who received AZT find them in worse health than their HIV-positive but less-medicated counterparts. According to one study, children born to mothers who received AZT during pregnancy showed a much higher probability of getting sick and dying by age three than children born to mothers who did not take AZT.(5) Another study found that HIV-positive children who took AZT were three times more likely to develop AIDS or die by 18 months than those who did not.(6) And a 1999 Columbia University observational study that adjusted for the health of the mother found children receiving AZT 1.8 times more likely to get an AIDS-defining illness or die in their first year than their counterparts who did not get the drug.(7) Researchers have speculated that these results might depend on whether a child’s “infection” occurred in utero or during delivery, but so far they have not come to an agreement.(8)

Even in the 1994 benchmark study that opened the floodgates for AZT use among pregnant women and their newborns showed that with no drug treatment at all, only 25 percent of the women passed HIV along to their babies.(9) Because the study, sponsored by AZT’s manufacturer, showed that the drug reduced transmission from 25 percent to 8 percent, the drug has become standard treatment.(10) But what those numbers really mean is that only 17 out of 100 children are theoretically helped by AZT. That leaves 83 percent needlessly medicated, during the most fragile moments of their lives, with a drug whose “side effects” are so debilitating it’s been rejected by members of every other treatment group.(11)

The consequences of breastfeeding, a taboo for HIV-positive mothers in the industrialized world, are no clearer. A study of 551 HIV-positive pregnant women presented last year at the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, showed that, at six months, infants who were exclusively breastfed for three months or more were no more likely to get HIV from their mothers than those who were not given any mother’s milk at all.(12) (See sidebar “Is Breast Still Best?”)

Dana’s daughter, Nia, is now two years old. She drank breastmilk for four months but is now weaned and healthy, and tests for the virus still come back “undetectable.” Would she have been better off if she had been taken from her mother on the second day of her life and placed on a diet of formula and AZT with foster parents? As one researcher stated, “Put simply, from a fetal viewpoint, the risk of intervention needs to be less than the risk of…transmission.”(13) Despite the dire predictions of the past 20 years, not every pregnant woman who is HIV-positive passes HIV along to her child, and not everyone with HIV goes on to get AIDS.(14)

In February 2001 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued new treatment guidelines for adults and adolescents, the gist of which was not “hit hard, hit early” but rather, wait.(15) NIH was worried about the toxicities of the new combination therapies, which were not curing patients as expected.(16) NIH did not, however, revise its thinking on pregnant women or newborns taking these same toxic meds. In January 2001 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a special warning to pregnant women taking nucleoside analogues ddI and d4T after three women died.(17) The same month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the popular HIV-pregnancy drug nevirapine can produce liver damage severe enough to require liver transplants. CDC recommends against the use of nevirapine for health professionals who get accidental needle sticks, but still continues to recommend it for fetuses.(18)

There seem to be plenty of legitimate reasons to question whatever today’s “promising new therapy” is. Yet when parents are the ones asking the questions, doctors have threatened to have their children taken away. The CDC maintains that HIV testing should be voluntary, treatment decisions should be made with fully-informed consent, and a woman’s decision to refuse treatment should not result in punitive actions or denial of care.(19) There are some parents who have had to go to court to win such basic rights, however.

It was the Maine Supreme Court that upheld Valerie Emerson’s right to refuse to give AZT to her second child. Emerson’s first child had died after using the medication, and both she and the judge felt that the research was conflicting enough that her second should be offered the chance to survive without it. Three years later, Emerson’s unmedicated, HIV-positive son is healthy and has recovered from a learning disability once attributed to his HIV.(20)

Mandated to follow up on every accusation of potential child abuse or neglect, social service agencies don’t fight those medical authorities who are determined to oppose all skeptics. All it takes, HIV-positive parents note with fear, is one anonymous phone call to transform their lives into a bureaucratic nightmare.

Christine Maggiore is the outspoken nucleus of a movement to help HIV-positive mothers who question medication. Author of the book “What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?” (published by the American Foundation for AIDS Alternatives), Maggiore runs the group Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives from her suburban Los Angeles home. She also founded a service called Mothers Opposing Mandatory Medicine (MOMM) to help guide other HIV-positive mothers through some of the major minefields.

But even Maggiore, armed with all the right information and contacts, received a phone call from a social worker that still chills her to the bone when she recounts it. An anonymous informant had told social services that Maggiore’s son Charlie’s life was in danger — that he was malnourished and being exclusively breastfed past the age of two by his HIV-positive mother. Knowing she would need legal advice to counter the charges, Maggiore asked when the investigators would be coming by. The answer was, “Now.” Maggiore managed to call a lawyer as well as her mother in the intervening minutes. She also had a backup plan involving a friend, car keys, a backyard fence, and some liquid assets, but was fortunate enough not to have to use it.

When the social worker arrived, recalls Maggiore, “I saw in her face that she was probably one of those people who goes into this kind of work for all the right reasons.” The woman observed that Charlie was a happy, rosy-cheeked, active, and well-nourished boy, and she conscientiously followed up with Maggiore’s pediatrician to find out that not only was Charlie eating solid foods, he had actually never even been sick in his two-plus years. Maggiore never heard from the agency again and assumes the episode is over. But she spent two weeks in hell worrying about it.

“We didn’t know if we were going to stay in the country,” she says. “Every time someone knocked on the door, it was like I had taken a diuretic.” One day, some people with clipboards came to the house. Still in a general state of panic, Maggiore ran to get her son’s shoes so they could leave if necessary, before realizing that the people at the door were her own volunteers coming to help with some paperwork.

The idyllic family portrait that Maggiore presented isn’t an option for every woman. Maggiore knows she is lucky, particularly because she has helped so many women who aren’t. (See sidebar “MOMM’s Advice.”) A New York woman lost her child for months simply because she sought a second opinion about whether to give drugs to the boy, who had alternately tested HIV-positive, -negative, and -indeterminate. Police took the boy and his HIV-negative sister away in squad cars, while health officials demanded that the mother, a registered nurse, get a psychiatric evaluation as well as an HIV test; long before the results came back, they recommended that she write up a will. Her family was reunited when attorneys were able to prove that indeed she was not crazy.(21)

Medical authorities do not even need an HIV test in hand to complicate children’s lives. Pam Anderson, an Indiana woman, got caught up in one hospital’s hysteria when she innocently took her son to the emergency room after he stepped on a nail. Asked by the doctor what happened, the five year old mistakenly said he’d stepped on a “needle,” later explaining that it was “the kind you hammer in a board.” But it was already too late. Child Protective Services (CPS) was called in, and the doctor, without even giving the boy a tetanus shot or knowing the results of his HIV test, began administering AZT. When the mother questioned the logic of all this, both in the hospital and during a follow-up appointment, squad cars with police dogs showed up at her home to take the child away. Anderson and her son were lucky enough to be away from home at that particular moment.

With legal help from the International Coalition for Medical Justice (ICMJ, an advocacy group that lost its funding last year), CPS backed down. But they warned that if Anderson’s child tested positive for HIV within the next year, they would charge her with a felony: criminal intent to harm her child. Anderson told me she still does not know why the hospital jumped to such wild conclusions in the first place. But she wonders, “Is it because I’m black?” Says Anderson, whose method of payment at the hospital was Medicaid, and who herself tests negative, “I thought I was doing the right thing by taking him to get a tetanus shot.”(22)

* * *

Policing the Breast

“The minute social services takes custody of a child,” warns Deane Collie, former executive director of ICMJ, “it becomes impossible in court. The longer the due process, the harder it is to get the child back.”(23) Collie noted that in some cases doctors have ordered psychological competency tests for parents who questioned treatment guidelines. If the parent is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, the authorities take over health decisions for the child.

Drastic measures are becoming more common, however. For those who helped pass New York’s “Baby AIDS Law” five years ago, August 1, 1999 was supposed to mark another major victory. That was the date the state adjusted its mandatory newborn testing program so that all women entering hospitals in labor who hadn’t previously been tested for HIV would be offered a quick and easy “rapid” HIV test. Results would have to be made available to all mothers and babies before they even left the hospital; that way, no children of HIV-positive mothers would fall through the cracks.

As it turned out, there was little to celebrate. In the first three months of the program, the period when Dana and her daughter Nia became involved, 24 percent of the positive rapid “Single-Use Diagnostic System” (SUDS) HIV tests collected by the state health department turned out to be false on second check.(24) Thirteen of the 17 newborns who received those inaccurate results needlessly started on toxic treatments of AZT and were not permitted to breastfeed while they waited days or weeks for HIV confirmation. One New York study showed a 67 percent false positive rate with the SUDS test.(25)

Even routine voluntary testing creates problems for non-risk groups. On the frightening end of the spectrum, researchers estimated in 1987 that an HIV test that was supposed to have a specificity of 99.8 percent and a sensitivity of 98.3 percent would come up with a whopping 85 percent false positive rate if applied to low-risk groups in premarital HIV screening.(26) Pregnancy itself can create false positive results on some tests.(27)

Kathleen Tyson is one woman whose life became bizarrely complicated by routine HIV testing. The Eugene, Oregon, resident does not know why she tested HIV-positive while she was pregnant with her second child in 1997. She doesn’t even know why she allowed herself to be tested in the first place. She had absolutely no reason to worry about getting a sexually transmitted disease. She had been in a monogamous relationship with her husband for a decade. They had a nine-year-old daughter together, and two teenage stepdaughters. Tyson felt healthy; her hobbies included running, organic gardening, and hiking. But she was 38 when she became pregnant with Felix, and her midwives, who were affiliated with a hospital where the Tysons’ insurance could cover the birth, convinced Tyson that, because of her age, she should take a variety of genetic and other tests. The HIV test just happened to be one of them.

Two weeks later, Tyson learned her child was fine but that she had tested positive for HIV. Her doctor told her that her viral load was so tiny that if she weren’t pregnant, he wouldn’t recommend any treatment at all. But since she was pregnant, it was deemed appropriate that she immediately begin taking a combination of drugs — the safety of which in human pregnancy has not been determined — so that she wouldn’t transmit the virus to her baby. Many pregnant women have been afraid to pop so much as an aspirin since the thalidomide and DES tragedies. But Tyson immediately began taking her prescription of Combivir, whose components AZT and 3TC have caused fetal deformities and cancers in laboratory animals, and she was given the protease inhibitor nelfinavir, whose effects in human pregnancy have yet to be fully understood.(28)

Tyson took the drugs for six weeks until she was too sick and too disillusioned with her doctor to go on. She told her midwives of her decision to stop, and the hospital staff also went along with her birth plan — no AZT during delivery and no AZT for the child afterward. No one gave her trouble over breastfeeding, until a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases walked into the room and spotted a book, Peter Duesberg’s “Inventing the AIDS Virus,” and threatened to talk to the hospital’s lawyers. Soon armed guards were standing in the hospital hallways as a police officer and petitioner from juvenile court delivered a summons. Tyson was being charged with threatening to harm her child. After the hearing, the boy would be legally turned over to the state. He would be allowed to stay with his family, but only under strict conditions: A social worker would visit weekly to watch Felix get his AZT and make sure no breastfeeding was happening on the premises.

It didn’t matter that Tyson’s husband tested negative, or that their daughter, whom Kathleen had nursed for three years, tested negative.(29) It didn’t matter that Tyson’s breastmilk tested negative, or even that Felix himself tested negative time after time. The judge was not aware of the South African study showing that exclusively breastfed children were no more likely to get HIV than their formula-fed counterparts.(30) He had decided that Tyson’s breastfeeding would endanger her son’s life.(31)

CNN and every other news outlet descended on the formerly quiet Tyson household. Kathleen’s husband was an electrician; she had worked in a coffee house; now they were being turned into unwilling celebrities. Many people told them if they had had a religious rather than philosophical objection to AZT, they would not have had such a problem. In retrospect, Tyson says, “I would have engaged an independent midwife, had a home birth, and avoided the medical establishment like the plague. I would have done anything to avoid the conflict.” The Tysons continued to argue in court for their right to question their doctors, but the straightforward approach didn’t work out too well for them in the end. A full year after her son became a ward of the state, Tyson won full legal custody but was ordered to continue to follow doctors’ orders.

* * *

Mandatory Medicine

Counterintuitive as it may be to generations raised on free speech and patients’ rights, avoidance is actually the best way to dodge trouble with medical authorities over questions about children and HIV medication. When it’s the state vs. the parent, you’re not looking at a battle of equals. The state has the power to take custody of children; even when parents succeed in getting their children back, they end up paying legal fees and a huge emotional toll.

Mandated medicine is not limited to HIV, of course. In New York alone, three recent cases point to alarming directions in the law. Amika Phifer was put in foster care when her mother, Tina (who homeschooled the girl), sought a second opinion about treatment of her daughter’s ulcerative colitis.(32) Parents of middle-school children who didn’t want to vaccinate for hepatitis B were threatened with neglect charges by their local child welfare agency.(33) One judge actually ordered a boy’s parents to give the child the controversial psychoactive drug Ritalin.(34)

Legal standards for removing a child vary from state to state, according to Hilary Billings, who’s helped HIV-positive clients successfully contest doctors’ orders. In Maine, where Valerie Emerson won the right not to medicate her child, Billings says the standard is whether or not the parent is neglectful. In Oregon, where Kathleen Tyson fought the law and lost, the standard is, roughly, “what is in the best interest of the child” — meaning it just doesn’t matter how much the parent knows or cares. Billings, who represented both women in court, says simply, “Don’t take the tests. Just don’t take them.” He advises women to be specific when refusing to authorize HIV testing, so that nothing falls through the cracks.(35)

Currently only New York and Connecticut require tests, but more “Baby AIDS” laws are in the works, cautions Andrea Williams, public policy coordinator of the HIV Law Project. Williams notes that Alabama passed a bill last year allowing the state to test newborns for “sexually transmitted diseases,” and Indiana allows HIV testing within 48 hours of birth if the physician feels a newborn is at risk and the mother’s status is unknown.(36) Of course, doctors in any state can, without the consent of the parents, order a test on a newborn if they feel it is medically necessary.

Maggiore’s Mothers Opposing Mandatory Medicine aims to help women avoid finding themselves in a position in which medical procedures are conducted on a child without the mother’s consent. Her basic principles are discretion and circumvention. She counsels women to withdraw from conflicts with doctors, family, or even spouses over the issue of HIV while they look for sympathetic, alternative caretakers.

Southern schoolteacher Stacy (who does not want to use her real name) was lucky enough to hear from Maggiore in the first week after she got her HIV test results. Before the results came back, her obstetrician, whom she’d been seeing for the past eight years, told her that she had done everything “right,” establishing her career and being married for several years before thinking of having a baby. “If every one of my patients did that,” he told her, “this world would be a better place. All the children would be happy.” But when Stacy tested positive for HIV, her doctor formed a completely different opinion of her and her decisions. Suddenly, she was “in denial.”

“Of course,” Stacy remembers, “I did the normal freaking out. I considered suicide. I considered abortion. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Then I started manifesting symptoms. I had sore lymph nodes within two days.” She was scheduled to begin AZT treatment within a matter of weeks. Finally, however, she began questioning the test and found some literature that seconded her gut feeling. She got in touch with Michael Ellner of Health Education AIDS Liaison (HEAL), New York, who got her in touch with Christine Maggiore. Maggiore’s advice would prove to be vital.

Stacy found an open-minded midwife. As it turned out, however, she wasn’t able to deliver in the privacy of her home. Her child turned breech, with one foot, not two, pressed against her cervix. She would have to be delivered C-section, by a doctor, in the place she feared the most, a hospital. She had been nonconfrontational with her former doctor as she switched over to midwife care, telling him she was opting to use a medical professional more experienced with women in her situation. And she followed through in this second round of birth-plan changes with the same polite tactics. She didn’t alert her new hospital’s doctor to her HIV test, and they didn’t question her. When they offered to test for HIV, she declined, and told the truth — she’d already been tested. Her baby, the doctor declared when it was born, was the healthiest she had seen in a long time.

Stacy now uses a holistic MD and doesn’t talk about that HIV test except with the closest of friends. Both her original doctor and the infectious disease specialist she was sent to have written to her and even called her husband at work to check up; they have been told everyone is doing just fine.

Maggiore advises women to avoid emergency rooms unless they have an actual emergency, because ER staffers are quick to involve social services in cases involving HIV. She reminds women that if they accept public benefits, government agencies can easily intervene if doctors’ orders are not followed.

Colleen, who doesn’t want to use her real name because she still fears the authorities, found this last piece of advice extremely difficult to follow. She’d been in abusive relationships, worked at low-paying jobs, and was planning on paying with Medicaid at the beginning of her pregnancy. But when the nurses at the hospital wanted her to get on medication before she even saw a doctor, she began doubting their advice. She felt healthy. By the time she started talking to a social worker about her situation, she said, she “felt like a bunny walking into a trap, with the door about to close up on me.” She slid out of the system by telling her doctor she was moving to another town to be near her aunt and uncle. Colleen ended up having a safe homebirth and, though it was emotionally challenging, decided to live with her parents until she could get on her feet again financially, instead of relying on the federal government’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for help.

Just the first step, finding that sympathetic physician or midwife, can be a soul-sapping experience for HIV-positive women. “I would get off the phone and cry,” recalls Christine Maggiore. “I tried calling a naturopathic doctor I know; I called a clinic that helps lesbians artificially inseminate; they didn’t even call me back.” Others told her that they wanted her on treatment — the “if you can’t be responsible, we can’t be responsible for you” model.

“It made me realize the tremendous pressure I was under to have a perfect baby. No matter what happened, if it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was going to be blamed on HIV. If it was the stress of going through this, it would have been blamed on HIV. My midwife ran all the tests and always expected them to come back with something wrong, which was a bummer.” Christine’s baby, now more than three years old, is ahead of his peers in just about every important category that can be measured.

* * *

A Bad Dream

Even HIV-positive women who follow doctors’ orders aren’t necessarily treated well by the healthcare system when it comes to pregnancy. Rebecca Denison is the founder and executive director of Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (WORLD) and speaks frequently on patients’ rights issues. Although she herself has remained healthy for years without taking anti-HIV drugs, she believes the short course of AZT she took late in pregnancy and the single dose of nevirapine before delivery helped her not give HIV to her twins, and she counsels other positives seeking treatment. She finds some doctors are very supportive and understanding of an HIV-positive woman’s desire to get pregnant, but others, she’s heard from women over the years, are not. “When a 41-year-old woman tries to get pregnant, people are concerned about Down Syndrome,” she says, “but they don’t push the woman into the realm of being a monster. Some HIV-positive women who choose to get pregnant get treated as though they’re very unethical.”(37)

Doctors rarely suggest abortion to a woman with the possibility of passing on a hereditary disease to her child, but such advice is not unusual when it comes to HIV. Add to that the stigma conveyed by a medical establishment convinced that women who don’t seek treatment are trying to actually hurt — they might even say “kill” — their children, and you have some deep and lasting scars.

Still living in Eugene, Kathleen Tyson has to face, on a weekly basis, the townspeople who wanted to take her child away. She saw one of the state employees she had dealings with in a grocery store. The doctor who reported her in the first place lives in her neighborhood. She brought her daughter to the hospital where Felix was born for an appendectomy and crossed paths with one of the doctors who testified for the state. Tyson does considerable work to vent her anger in the privacy of her home and knows that her continued good health, and that of Felix (now two and a half years old), will be the final word in those disagreements.

“I believe the interference of the state caused Felix and me some difficulty in the beginning as far as bonding and attachment go,” she says. “But I knew I had to fight that and make an extra effort to allow what should have been a very natural process to occur.”

Dana, in contrast, filed a complaint against the doctor who tried to force AZT on her daughter. The response she got over the phone was that it was unfortunate she had been treated so harshly, but that such treatment is sometimes necessary in order to get parents to comply with treatment recommendations. Says Dana, “Someone should tell the department of health what ‘recommendation’ means.”

Dana’s daughter, Nia, had three “viral load” tests that came back undetectable, but that was not enough for her doctors. The hospital social worker would not leave Dana alone, calling her at work and sending a certified letter demanding that she bring her daughter in for follow-ups, even when Nia was under the care of another doctor. It was hospital policy to test nine times (at birth, two weeks, and one, two, three, six, nine, 12, and 18 months), though New York law only mandates newborn testing twice: once at birth and once before the age of six months, according to Andrea Williams. “It’s funny,” Dana says. “Now that it looks like I am done with all of this, I have more nightmares than when it was happening.”

Other women who, like Sophie Brassard, have come up against the medical establishment and lost, might love to be able to have that nightmare, if they could wake up in the company of their children. Christine Maggiore says, “I don’t know how the women I’ve known who have lost the custody of their children have lived through it. I don’t know what part of yourself you have to shut down in order to live for the day when you’ll get them back — and I don’t ever want to find out.”

* * *

Susan Gerhard is a San Francisco-based mother, writer, and editor whose work has appeared in Salon.com, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, POZ, MAMM, and other media.

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1. G. Ozanne and M. Fauvel, “Performance and Reliability of Five Commercial Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbant Assay Kits in Screening for Anti-Human Immunodeficiency Virus Antibody in High-Risk Subjects,” Journal of Clinical Microbiology 26 (1988): 1496.

2. CDC (Centers for Disease Control), “Public Health Service Task Force Recommendations for Use of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant HIV-1-Infected Women for Maternal Health and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV-1 Transmission in the United States,” (January 24, 2001): 15.

3. AP, “Judge Orders HIV Test for Baby,” (September 3, 1999); Alyson Mead, “Sophie’s Choice,” Salon.com (December 8, 1999); CNN San Francisco reporter Don Knapp, “Oregon Mom Forced to Treat Baby for HIV,” (February 18, 1999).

4. See Note 2, 3-5.

5. Centres of the Italian register for HIV Infection in Children, “Rapid Disease Progression in HIV-1 Perinatally Infected Children Born to Mothers Receiving Zidovudine Monotherapy During Pregnancy,” AIDS 13 (1999): 927-933.

6. Ricardo S. De Souza, “Effect of Prenatal Zidovudine on Disease Progression in Perinatally HIV-1-Infected Infants.” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 24 (2000): 154-161.

7. Louise Kuhn et al., “Disease Progression and Early Viral Dynamics in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Children Exposed to Zidovudine during Prenatal and Perinatal Periods,” Journal of Infectious Diseases 182 (2000): 104-111.

8. Ibid.

9. Edward M. Connor et al., “Reduction of Maternal-Infant Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 with Zidovudine Treatment,” New England Journal of Medicine 331, no. 18 (1994): 1173-1180.

10. See Note 2.

11. Note: AZT monotherapy is not the standard of care for infants over six weeks: US Public Health Service, “Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infections,” (January 7, 2000): 13-14. See also Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society, “AZT: Unsafe at Any Dose?,” www.aras.ab.ca/azt.html.

12. Anna Coutsoudis et al., “Method of Feeding and Transmission of HIV-1 from Mothers to Children by 15 Months of Age: Prospective Cohort Study from Durban, South Africa,” AIDS 15 (2001): 379-387. The study was first published in The Lancet (August 7, 1999).

13. R. Kumar et al., “Zidovudine Use in Pregnancy: A Report on 104 Cases and the Occurrence of Birth Defects,” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 7 (1994): 1034-1039.

14. Lawrence K. Altman, “AIDS: Long-Term Survivors,” New York Times (January 24, 1995); Ellen McGarrahan, “The Living Daylights,” San Francisco Weekly (April 24, 1996); Christine Maggiore, “What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?” revised (Studio City, CA: The American Foundation for AIDS Alternatives, 1999), 94-126.

15. Jay Levy, “The Big Question Now in Anti-HIV Therapy — When?,” San Francisco Chronicle (February 23, 2001): A25.

16. Ibid.

17. AP, “Combination of AIDS Drugs Deadly,” (January 9, 2001).

18. New York Times wire service, “US Warns Doctors to Limit Use of Anti-AIDS Drug,” San Francisco Chronicle (January 5, 2001): A8.

19. CDC, “US Public Health Service Recommendations for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Counseling and Voluntary Testing for Pregnant Women,” (1995): 10. See also Note 2.

20. Patrick Rogers, Tom Duffy, and Mark Dagostino, “A Mother’s Instinct,” People (October 5, 1998). Personal follow-up interview by phone.

21. “Police Take Baby from Mother ‘In Denial,'” www.aliveandwell.org.

22. Personal interview.

23. Personal interview.

24. Jamie Talan, “Newborns and AIDS: To Test or Not to test,” Newsday (January 20, 2000).

25. Mayris P. Webber et al., “Pilot Study of Expedited HIV-1 Testing of Women in Labor at an Inner-City Hospital in New York City,” American Journal of Perinatology 18, no. 1 (2001): 49-56.

26. P. D. Cleary et al., “Compulsory Premarital Screening for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus,” Journal of the American Medical Association 258, no. 13 (1987): 1757-1762.

27. Max R. Proffitt and Belinda Yen-Lieberman, “Laboratory Diagnosis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection,” Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 7, no. 2 (June 1993): 203-219.

28. See Note 2.

29. Conversation with Kathleen Tyson; the evidence was not admitted in court. See also “In the Eye of the Storm,” Mothering (May-June 1999): 68.

30. See Note 12.

31. George Kent, “Tested in Court: The Right to Breastfeed,” “SCN News” (newsletter of the UN’s Subcommittee on Nutrition) no. 18 (July 1999): 89-90.

32. Conversation with Tina Phifer.

33. Brian Doherty, “Doctor’s Orders,” Reason (February 2001).

34. Ibid.

35. Personal interview.

36. Personal interview.

37. Personal interview.

Jailed for love, needs rescue by Gallo

Of course, the predicament of those arrested for making love to others without telling them they have been tested and found “HIV positive” is even worse, a grotesquerie of misguided zeal.

We wonder what happened to the unfortunate Australian Andre Chad Parenzee whose fate was decided by the absurd Australian court judgment last year that critics of the current HIV/AIDS paradigm were uninformed and deserved no respect compared to Dr Robert “I admit I didn’t find HIV first, sorry!” Gallo.

Perhaps Bob would care to rescue Parenzee now from languishing in jail for at least three more years on the basis of his (Gallo’s) scientific fairy tale for which Luc Montagnier has now been awarded the Nobel.

(The case is described briefly by a Wiki entry at Andre Chad Parenzee which reports the judge’s reasonable conclusion that HIV exists and has been isolated, but unfortunately also carries his misleading finding that HIV causes AIDS by causing the “depletion of the T cells” for which there is no good evidence or scientific argument yet in the scientific literature after 24 years and counting. The court’s premise that HIV is highly transmissible is also roundly contradicted by the research of Nancy Padian, who for some reason was not called to give evidence).

Perhaps Bob and the army of scientists and legions of doctors he has misled would care finally to accord with the principle laid down by the Swiss, which could be paraphrased as follows:

Respect the life of other organic beings.

82 Responses to “Swiss grant rights to plants, so Dr. Gallo, how about humans?”

  1. MacDonald Says:

    Ah yes, the immediate refuge of gay bimbos – even more so than straight bimbos: their own sexuality. On close behavioural observation I have concluded that in many cases this vulgar adolescent fixation on their sexual orientation really is the only issue filling the void of an otherwise empty existence.

    It is futile to seek to convey to these individuals that they are the only ones who find the topic of their sexuality endlessly fascinating. They will devote all their time to fantasies about the limitless powers of shock and awe conferred by their dark libidinous energies; they will paint themselves, put on silly clothes and prance about imagining they are anything from Madonna to vampires to the Australian Frilled Lizard. To wit the charmingly vulgar (as opposed to DeFjong who is just vulgar) Priscilla Queen of the Desert, whose drawn-out climax, incomprehensible to anyone who is not gay or a preteen girl, is a costume show, where the otherwise talented actors dress like lizards and lip sync to ABBA songs.

    I remember an episode in an Aberdonian pub during my student days, where a couple of these vapid creatures in Gothic outfit and paint apparently decided to get jealous because my drinking buddy happened to be more attracted to their almost as vapid girl friend. One of the Gothsrepeatedly came up to us and stuck his tongue in our faces so that we would have opportunity to observe it was pierced.

    After a few puzzled moments it dawned on us that this was meant as a ritualistic display of kinkiness designed to intimidate. But our uproarious laughter and good-humoured assurances that we were already mightily impressed, so he should just declare himself the victor and go play Dracula and Frilled Lizard with his friend somewhere else, did not seem to satisfy these people’s peculiar sexually rooted delusions.

    In the end they got quite physical, pulling hard on our clothes, so I had to pop both of them in the eye to drive home the difference between fantasy and reality. This was a remarkably undramatic procedure and it worked wonders. We got to finish our pints as the freaks retreated to the toilet to asses the damage done to their hair and make-up; and I think they decided that the mascara effecticvely hid any bruising or swelling, since I saw them leaving the place in relatively high spirits about an hour later.

    Likewise, I am afraid the decaying rat of DeDong’s sexual self-fixations will continue to emit its stench here long after we’re all bored to death.

  2. Cathyvm Says:

    I think our swollen-footed, ophthalmologically-sharp implement-challenged De Normanbates is trying to convince us he has an active sex life when in fact his “dark libidinous fantasies” all begin and end in mummy’s bloomers.

  3. jtdeshong Says:

    In a “Jack Nicholson voice”
    Honey, I’m HOME!!!!
    Hey Cat, do you mind if I call you Cat? You have soooooo many VERY CLEVER little monikers for me. You know what I mean, those little variations of my last name? Actually, from all the posts I’ve done, you are the only one to do that….well, MacD, seems to be copy catting, but you Cat, are the true original. ONE of the plays on my name, was brilliant, can you figure out which one?
    Now, what is truly funny to me, is that the “host” and again, I ask you, TS, is this your site?
    I find it funny that TS (and MacD and Cat too, point out my sexuality and my “fascination” with it), but the hypocritical part is, TS actually had to point out that he is straight. AS IF I were serious.!! hehehehehee Don’t flatter yourself, because what I find truly sexy about a man is there ability to admit when they are wrong!!
    Now, Cat, how did you know my mom wears bloomers? Have you been doing a little “Toddy’s Mommy Muff Diving”?????? AWWWW, that’s sweet!!
    Now, can anyone truly get back to the evidence I presented waaaaayyyyyy above that proves you are all full of poopoo?
    Also, I would like to post here, what Dr. Bauer, at his post will not. It is a MAJOR problem with Dr. Bauers post that the math model used in the S. African story in which he helped KILL 365,000 South Africans, was in error. Here is what he refuses to let thru: BTW, TS, if this is your site, I truly applaud the fact that you, like me at my blog, http://www.dissidents4dumbees.blogspot.com
    allow all posts thru without moderation. I genuinely applaud you for that!!! Thank you!!
    anyway, below is my post to Dr. Bauer:
    Dr. Bauer,
    I came to this link because Christine Maggiore asked you to send it to my personal email. I was under the impression this article was about the mathematical model used and how it was incorrect, or even insufficient. Where did you even give direct evidence of the “rather elaborate computerized models replete with hordes of assumptions, and they deliver outputs that not only differ with one another…” You are the one assuming the computer models are “rather elaborate” And then you go on to infuse your own thoughts saying they are “replete with hordes of assumptions” What? You do not say what assumptions are made. Then you compare this report, with other “reports” that this South African report does not even mention. Here is a quote directly from the NY Times Article:
    “Epidemiologists and biostatisticians who reviewed the study for The New York Times said the researchers had based their estimates on conservative assumptions and used a sound methodology.”
    And also:
    “They have truly used conservative estimates for their calculations, and I would consider their numbers quite reasonable,” James Chin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said in an e-mail message.
    Where is the proof of the shoddy math model?
    J. Todd DeShong
    Please tell me why you think Dr. Bauer is AFRAID to post my reply. Say all you want about me, but please be serious about the Dr. Bauer “math model”
    Thanks for the fun,

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    Finished, then, DeShong, are you, with this attempt at below the waist wit? Hope so. The reason this site bans potty humor is that readers who take words and the issue at issue seriously feel nauseous at low level interference with this otherwise elegant site, which proudly offers the only intelligent but also accessible discussion of this tormented topic on the Web, as one just vouchsafed (that they were nauseous). The topic of gays and their unfortunate self immolation in HIV/AIDS is revolting enough to deal with for the average citizen that we don’t want to give said citizen reader further excuse to ignore the challenge to the paradigm and the attempt to rescue its victims from their fate. Illness, disease, venality and stupidity among scientists, doctors and other health professionals are not subjects that most people find attractive at first encounter, let alone the ways in which they are contracted in some cases. But perhaps that is your purpose, to put people off listening to all this? If so we deplore it. We especially deplore it as heterosexuals whose romantic dealings with the opposite sex have for a quarter century been marred and aesthetically vulgarized by the success of this scientific nonsense, and if that or any statement of ours implies we are enthusiastically heterosexual and proud of it, that’s fine, just as fine as anybody being proud of the way God made them, which is the sane boast of many gays these days, in case you hadn’t noticed. Not that we are believers in God in any version except metaphorical, of course.

    As far as your discussion of some flaw in Bauer’s discussion of the South African reality, if you are discussing whether Max Essex is a good guide to that reality and claiming that he and his group are, then your position is prima facie absurd. But owing to preoccupation with technical problems at the moment we have not followed this effort of yours, whatever it is, and will not until you give up and retract the unsuccessful impolitesse above, since it is impossible to respect the author of such sallies if he doesn’t feel shame at putting such things on the record.

  5. Dr. Hope Says:

    TS, someone was already quite helpful to your friend JTD right on his very own site and in the thread regarding the “365,000”, in pointing out in clear and plain english exactly why the credibility of Max Essex is lacking, and exactly why the study model was flawed. As such, there is no reason to tell him again. To do so would be casting pearls before swine.

    What was posted on Todd’s site, and I quote, from a gentleman named “Michael”, is exactly as follows:

    By the way, Todd,

    the study that you have presented here, showing how 365,000 lives could have been saved, was done by none other than Max Essex himself.

    And who was Max Essex?

    Max was a veterinarian, who later became a retrovirologist who claimed he discovered FIV, and claimed that it was the cause of illness in cats.

    At that time, the “War On Cancer” was in full swing, and the NIH was full of virologists who were looking for the viral cause of cancer. As none was found, and as much corruption was leaking out to congress about misused funds, patients being experimented on without being informed, and many other charges, congress was about to drop their funding when the whole “gay disease” thing came along.

    Max Essex, by the way, is the one who told Robert Gallo to pursue retroviruses as the cause of illness in gays, because Essex was convinced that a retrovirus was the cause of illness in cats.

    (by the way, such feline aids is nearly completely restricted to feral cats that are malnourished, or were severely malnourished when they were kittens)

    Max is also the one who claimed that he had discovered HIV-2, which was later proven to be a false claim and that it was again the French who described this first, and 2nd of all, HIV-2 turned out to have a full 60 percent difference from what is called hiv-1, so it could not possibly have been even remotely related. But that is a whole other issue.

    Max was also very threatened by Peter Duesberg, whose research led him to conclude that retrovirus was harmless.

    And this, Todd, is where the now 21 year long vendetta by Max Essex against Peter Duesberg had begun.

    The vendetta still continues, as is plainly obvious by reading the study you point out, that again, for Max Essex’s millionth time, claims Peter is so wrong.

    This paper was not about science, J. Todd.

    It was about a long standing vendetta. And in fully reading the study, those in the aware can again see quite clearly how Max Essex et al mislead by basing his “modeling” on statistics that have been slip sliding in all directions and fully leave out factors such as being based on highly flawed elisa tests given out at pregnancy clinics, when it is well proven that pregnancy often causes false positives.

    The study also fails to mention what kind of poverty, malnutrition, stress, or other factors that were obviously the prime causes of death in so many of those who died in the toxic slums and ghettos of Africa.

    What amazes me Todd, is that you seem to be such a bright guy, but yet are unquestioningly accepting whatever you are told by the mainstream.

    Since when is the mainstream majority so in love and caring and benevolent toward us gays, Todd? Since when Todd? Hell, we still can’t even admit we are gay and join the military!

    And of course, JTD immediately posted the following, and assured the gentleman who wrote the above that JTD would look into it, but of course, and predictably, JTD was not a man of his word, and fully failed to do what he said he would do, and prefers to simply spout more nonsense that he himself has not personally investigated whatsoever:

    Thank you,
    I will look into what you have said here. I really will. The main reason that I am accepting of what the mainstream says, is that I am HIV+ for 14 years, and I have seen several of my very best friends die in the prime of their lives. All in the early to late 30’s range. None of these men were drug addicts nor were they poppers addicts. They were all wonderful people in the prime of their lives who had so much to live for. They all had wonderful attitudes and took great care of themselves. It is for these reasons and more that I have such duplicitous questioning of the denialiasts theory. I am a scientist who has education and experience with this disease. I will, however, look into your suggestions and get back to you with the utmost sensitivity and objectification that I can manage as a scientist who really wants the world to know the truth.
    J. Todd DeShong

  6. Cathyvm Says:

    De Boingboing Bouncy you can call me what you like – you think I might give a rat’s flatulence what you say? Oh, yes, sorry, forgot about that whole narcissism kick you are on. You are nothing but an insignificant pimple on the fat scabby butt of HIV-AIDS pseudoscience that you claim to represent.
    You have yet to present those “facts” you keep harping on about. Your malignant narcissism may cloud your ability to comprehend that what you post is merely smears and lies. But I and others, on reading your offensive, sophist nonsense, can see your “efforts” are just a big girly, girl’s blouse shrieking from the gutter. With any luck the effluent in which you revel will eventually wash you down the drain, and along with it, the stench.

  7. Dr. Hope Says:

    By the way, TS, have you read that laughable study by Essex? There are more obvious holes in his “study model” than there are in a loaf of swiss cheese.


    Yes, it is difficult to stay in one’s chair without falling over in laughter at such wisdom of mutual fools as:

    “Epidemiologists and biostatisticians who reviewed the study for The New York Times said the researchers had based their estimates on conservative assumptions and used a sound methodology.”
    And also:
    “They have truly used conservative estimates for their calculations, and I would consider their numbers quite reasonable,” James Chin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said in an e-mail message.
    Where is the proof of the shoddy math model?

    Such brilliance shines through on these statisticians!

    Three statisticians went out hunting, and came across a large deer. The first statistician fired, but missed, by a meter to the left. The second statistician fired, but also missed, by a meter to the right. The third statistician didn’t fire, but shouted in triumph, “On the average we got it!”

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Attributed by Mark Twain to Benjamin Disraeli

    Logic is a systematic method for getting the wrong conclusion with confidence.
    Statistics is a systematic method for getting the wrong conclusion with 95% confidence.

    A statistics major was completely hung over the day of his final exam. It was a True/False test, so he decided to flip a coin for the answers. The stats professor watched the student the entire two hours as he was flipping the coin…writing the answer…flipping the coin…writing the answer. At the end of the two hours, everyone else had left the final except for the one student. The professor walks up to his desk and interrupts the student, saying:
    “Listen, I have seen that you did not study for this statistics test, you didn’t even open the exam. If you are just flipping a coin for your answer, what is taking you so long?”
    The student replies bitterly, as he is still flipping the coin: “Shhh! I am checking my answers!”

    There was this statistics student who, when driving his car, would always accelerate hard before coming to any junction, whizz straight over it , then slow down again once he’d got over it. One day, he took a passenger, who was understandably unnerved by his driving style, and asked him why he went so fast over junctions. The statistics student replied, “Well, statistically speaking, you are far more likely to have an accident at a junction, so I just make sure that I spend less time there.”

  8. Truthseeker Says:

    Cathym we regret that respected commentators on this blog who support the establishing of truth in this field are equally requested not to lower themselves from the supremely high standard of gracefully intelligent and civil public discussion for which this site is well known.

    He he good ones, those two last stories. Yes Dr Hope we have a post ready on Max Essex and his bogus “study” and we were going to add Michael Geiger’s informative diatribe, but have been prevented from posting it in timely fashion since we have been unable to get to the “study” to see if it is as “scientific” as Essex’s cat virus, or even worse. As a propaganda tool it is worth noting as yet another piece of evidence of the funding panic that is setting in in this otherwise inert field, in its timing as well as its presumably specious content.

    Will post any moment now that Steve Jobs’s attempt to destroy our data has been outmaneuvered.

  9. Dr. Hope Says:

    Forget Africa, even in the USA the government reporting offices historically could NOT EVER and still cannot agree on valid modeling statistics for determining how many AIDS deaths or cases would be in the US even two short years later:


    In its 1989 report, the General Accounting Office identified thirteen national forecasts of the cumulative number of AIDS cases through the end of 1991. In examining these studies, the GAO team found “some problems with the comprehensive-
    ness, empirical basis, or assumptions of each forecasting model.” It uncovered a range of forecasts from a lower bound of fewer than 100,000 cases by 1991 to an upper bound of 750,000.

    Hmmmmm, which of the 13 “properly modeled” and “conservatively modeled” statistics to go by??? Should they have gone with the lower one that showed there would be 100,000 cases or the higher one that showed there would be 750,000 cases???

    Naturally, as the “researchers” and advocates wanted lots more money, they, and the media, all claimed the 750,000 model was the correct one! Were any of them even close? Not a one. Did any of the studies model death from AZT that was reported as “complications of aids”? Not a one.

    Statistics? Modeling? Let alone statistics from Africa??? What a joke.

    Max Essex may fool the likes of DeShong who seems quite pleased to keep his diagnosis and drugs. The “modeling” by Max may thrill the paid off researchers who DeShong banks on. Max will also fool the general masses and unknowledgeable public.

    Fortunately, however, not all of us are quite that scientifically gullible, ignorant, unknowledgeable, or foolish.

  10. Cathyvm Says:

    Terribly sorry TS – I don’t know what came over me. One of my greatest faults is that I am too much of an empath. I find myself walking a mile in other’s shoes and almost “become” them as it were. No excuse mind, just explanation.
    So Max “we find TB and leprosy, and people who don’t have active TB or leprosy, but associate with people who have TB and leprosy, or possibly a vendor selling a bag of onions to a sufferer of TB or leprosy, can return a “false-positive” HIV test but what the heck, let’s use it anyway to condemn lotsa Africans to death” Essex, using “conservative estimates”, has determined that the dirty dissidents have caused almost 400,000 deaths with their stubborn refusal to remain silent. Eerily similar to the “400,000 lives lost annually due to obesity” that is regularly screeched from the bowels of the CDC by the likes of David B Allison, Eric (I was unjustly found guilty of reversing statistics and my mate DB Allison believes me) Poehlman and Julie Gerberding via “mathematical modelling” – in one paper they felt it necessary to state that “and this is just a conservative estimate” about 7 times.
    In fact, whenever you hear an “expert”, be it SARS, avian flu, obesity, HIV-AIDS or any other discipline say “and that is just a conservative estimate”, take it as code that “we made it up on our X-boxes”.

  11. MacDonald Says:

    Please tell me why you think Dr. Bauer is AFRAID to post my reply. Say all you want about me, but please be serious about the Dr. Bauer “math model”

    Why, Mr. DeShong, I thought it would be obvious to you; Prof. Bauer is afraid of your sexuality, including tatoos and piercings. He is no doubt dismayed at your grammar, punctuation and general incoherence as well, but I believe that’s a secondary point.

    Although it’s very sweet of you to express concern, please don’t worry, we are all very serious about Prof. Bauer’s math model.

  12. Dr. Hope Says:

    J. Todd DeShong said, and with a straight face no less:

    “I am a scientist who has education and experience with this disease. I will, however, look into your suggestions and get back to you with the utmost sensitivity and objectification that I can manage as a scientist who really wants the world to know the truth”.

    Certainly there is no doubt in my mind that the highly educated DeShong is an ‘udder’ly brilliant hiv aids researcher and scientist, and every bit the equivalent to the entire herd of hiv researchers, and fully equivalent to the likes of Essex, Gallo, Bennett, Moore.

    What can I say, but birds of a feather cluck together.

    Perhaps DeShong should be put in charge of NIAIDS when Tony Fauci retires to spend full time counting his pharma stocks. DeShong certainly would not do any worse than Fauci has.

  13. jtdeshong Says:

    It is obvious to me, that you people do not really want to discuss the facts. You just want to think you are smarter than everyone else. I love how you are all smarter than the people who did the Harvard Study, as well as The NY Times who researched it, found it was in error, but due to a complete lack of integrity, printed it anyway. Can you not see it is Duesberg et al who have no integrity?
    I also find it quite telling that you all want to take up so badly for the people who are RESPONSIBLE for 365,000 lives (or hell, even 365 lives) it does not matter. They thought they were so much smarter than the rest of the world, that they took it upon themselves to convince Mbeki to withhold potentially live saving medications from his own people. Now that the world is looking at the situation, instead of taking SOME RESPONSIBILITY, they want to say that the “math models were faulty”! Again, who cares about the math models? Even one life is worth saving. Although even Christine Maggiore letting her own daughter die, and then screaming how it was an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, (over a 3 week period). If she will not even take a modicum of responsibility for her own child, then how can I expect any of you to tell your own pathetic liars, er, I mean leaders, that maybe they should take just a teeny, tiny look at what they helped to do in South Africa. Say what you want about me, I do not care, but I and most of the world see you all for what you are. Keep lying to yourselves and others.
    J. Todd DeShong

  14. Cathyvm Says:

    DeShong you claim to be the arbiter of “facts” and yet you provide none. You accuse any dissenter of slavishly following people like Prof. Duesberg or TPG without considering how many of us came to our positions.
    Personally, I wasn’t even aware there was a dissident position until I personally dredged through the literature (Medline) for the proof that HIV causes AIDS – after writing about HAART for an international medical publisher.
    I have been in healthcare since 1983 (yes, I’m the same age as you) and I have, bit by bit, discovered that much of what passes for “healthcare” is a complete con – cholesterol theory, heart attack theory, osteoporosis, HIV-AIDS, diabetes, you name it, for the last 30 years or so medicine has been based on drug development in search of a disease and profits, not prevention or cure. I really didn’t seek to convince myself that much of my life as a health professional was based on lies and propaganda but that’s what happened anyway. And it was not easy facing up to that fact – especially not to my own role in it.
    You can call us liars, deluded, whatever. The fact remains that for most, if not all of us, the real pain was the discovery of the little, wizened man behind the curtain – not the arrows you blowhard types throw in our direction.

  15. jtdeshong Says:

    First of all, Truthseeker, are you Greg Szymanski? If so, as Kathy Griffin would say about the Scientologists, “I’m OUT!!” WHOA! Please say that ain’t you. Because I will definitely do with religion what you should do with me about science, relinquish the floor!!
    Now Cathyvm, you don’t really say what you did with the healthcare industry, besides “write about HAART” Were you a journalist, like that vessel of integrity Liam Scheff? Are you a nurse? Any type of science that would render you capable of discussing diseases? Do you not see, that when you say ANY disease as you did with the “you name it” phrase, are all a healthcare con, just how ridiculous that is? Do you think that the millions of people in all walks of healthcare are in on some conspiracy? Whatever. Man, you are crazier than I would have ever imagined. Do you think that Dr. Hulda Clark can “zap” away diseases? OR like Leonard Horowitz, can tune them away with a “tuning fork”? You have less than zero credibility now! At least before I gave you some “benefit of reasonable doubt” but now…..
    I am OUT…..WAY OUT!! And I mean out of conversations with you certifiably crazy lunatics!!

  16. Cathyvm Says:

    No DeShong – my “scientific background” precluded me from doing anything on Medline other than looking at the pictures! My background is none of your business. It wouldn’t matter if I had a PhD in virology because you’d still accuse me of “being crazy”. I’ve said before, I could care less what your opinion is. You and your opinion are utterly meaningless because you have nothing substantive to say.
    The way medicine has gone into the toilet is not a conspiracy for the good people working in healthcare that are trying to make a difference. The whole system is wrong from top to bottom. It started a long time ago when medicine aligned itself with capitalism rather than with the human condition. Everything now is completely pharmacentric, there’s “a pill for every ill”, and diseases are designed around drug development. Restless legs syndrome? Body dysmorphic disorder? Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder? A jihadist, invisible “virus” that hides out in undetectable sleeper cells for 10+ years, before running amok and horribly killing its host, and then undoubtedly goes to heaven to reside among 71 virgins?
    Good doctors used to be taught to “treat the patient and not the tests”. One of my biggest bugbears has always been that increasingly, the patient sitting before them is largely irrelevant, but the “tests” have become the Holy Grail of treatment decisions. I’ve seen a previously fit and healthy 50-year-old woman die of an AMI because her ECG was considered “normal”. BP, cholesterol levels, CD4 cell counts, “viral load”, – you only ever hear about tests that are associated with drugs that can manipulate such soft endpoints – haven’t you ever wondered why or who has driven this? CRP has long been associated with adverse cardiac events but MSM only mentioned it very recently in the trial purporting to reduce such events (by a fraction of a percentage point when you consider ARR) in people with NORMAL cholesterol levels via reduction of CRP. Is CRP the “new cholesterol” now industry has “proven” the statin drugs reduce it? The fact is that calcification of the coronary arteries is a several hundred-fold better predictor than cholesterol, CRP, lipoprotein-a, homocysteine etc. but hasn’t come to general public attention yet because they haven’t yet developed a drug that can reduce arterial calcification (oh, there’s that “altie, woo-woo” chelation therapy, but we trashed that one way back).
    Even long-term insiders like Marcie Angell and Jerome Kassirer have written extensively about what is wrong with modern medicine and pharmacology. If you so desperately need to live in your protective bubble of thinking that everything is tickety-boo in your Alice in Wonderdrugland then you are beyond redemption.

  17. Cathyvm Says:

    You keep claiming you are on your fourth undergraduate degree, the latest being medical imaging technology. I don’t brag about my qualifications but you do. Were the first three in any way related to medicine or do you just enjoy vivisection as a hobby? If your previous 3 degrees were related to the medical field why MIT, which is a poorly paid alternative? Were you so mediocre in those first three that you changed direction completely? Why four undergrad degrees? Normally people go on to do MSc and then PhD rather than scrabbling around the bottom of the undergraduate barrel.
    C’mon DeShong – as you like bragging so much tell us what your degrees are in.

  18. Truthseeker Says:

    Mr DeShong, the only measurable fact in your recent diatribe concerned the death of Christine Maggiore’s daughter from amoxycillin, a cause which was immediately apparent to all sensible people at the time because it happened so swiftly, and that it was not due to HIV was also immediately apparent, since HIV we are informed by its promoters takes 10+/- years to bring down the patient, certainly not a day or two, which you misstate as a “3 week period”:

    Although even Christine Maggiore letting her own daughter die, and then screaming how it was an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, (over a 3 week period). If she will not even take a modicum of responsibility for her own child, then how can I expect any of you to tell your own pathetic liars…

    This statement of yours should be compared with the rather complete post we wrote on this topic, A lay dissenter’s travails and courage – Christine Maggiore, one among several posts on Maggiore easily searched for and found in the post list in the right hand margin of the front page of this blog. That post ends with the following quote from the first post we wrote on this tragedy at the time it happened:

    One can only hope that Ms Maggiore’s tragedy is not compounded by the fiendish ignoramuses of AIDS politics, who are likely to twist this failure of conventional medicine into an accusation that somehow links it with her rejection of conventional diagnosis and treatment of her “HIV positive” status.

    You have evidently joined this crowd of fiendish ignoramuses. But do you really wish to be on that list?

  19. jtdeshong Says:

    Please see my sincere apology to Re-Thinking AIDS at my blog:
    David Crowe sent me a personal email that showed me the error of my ways.

  20. Truthseeker Says:

    Quite entertaining Mr Deshong in its rather grotesque liveliness, your posting there at your oddly named site, but where would be the point of engaging you in any discussion? Given your current modus operandi It is impossible to take you seriously, but thank you for showing us one instance of the Web drawing out of an otherwise normal person (judging by your handsome portrait – is that an animal of some kind you are feeding in your arms? ) the most unexpected diatribe against responsible people engaged in a life or death discussion about an uniquely incredible paradigm, which is causing a great deal of suffering around the world.

    Perhaps you shouldn’t operate on the assumption that this failed hypothesis is correct and vent your scorn in such uninhibited terms, but should undertake to double check your premise first by reading up on why so many disinterested people reject it and continue to reject it with scorn equal to yours, though a good deal more politely phrased. Wouldn’t it be better to use the Web to learn things which may surprise you by adding to your knowledge and understanding of the world, rather than waste your time ranting against people who then won’t bother to reply? Your current course is a dead end.

    But before you disappear, is that a hamster and is it a pet or the subject of some experiment or other? Seems rather strange that you appear in your photograph to be an agreeable person kindly disposed towards animals and yet you like to write these abominable and useless fulminations against people who hold a view you don’t even bother to research, it seems clear.

    Again, wouldn’t it be more fun in the end to have a fruitful discussion about what you assume to be true, rather than insult and disparage your worthy discussants and make them simply disappear? Isn’t it more fun to treat and to be treated with respect? That is the rule on this blog, and it seems to be enjoyable, attracting some very smart cookies.

  21. pat Says:


    It is truely pointless to discuss anything with you. All you are in for is a good bar brawl which only the hot-heads will join and anyone with wit and a modicum of self-respect will not. I read your bloheug! and found it singularily boring but surprisingly revealing nonetheless.

    We learn from your incoherent writing that you are hysterical, bigoted and ignorant of historical facts.

    This is hysterical:

    “DUESCHBAG… …a man who will have a full chapter in the History Books right next to, and bigger and longer than, Hitler himself!!” -self-explanatory

    this is bigoted:

    “I also called Dr. Bauer, the Jew, a “KIKE” and a “PUSSY” -self-explanatory

    This is historically inaccurate:

    “They (DUESCHBAG et al.) thought they were so much smarter than the rest of the world, that they took it upon themselves to convince Mbeki to withhold potentially live saving medications from his own people”

    – they didn’t take it upon themselves but rather traveled down there on Mbeki’s own initiative and invitation. Subtle yet significant.

  22. stevekj Says:

    Mr. Deshong,

    Before you try to proclaim the wonders of modern mainstream medicine, it would be worthwhile to bear in mind the results of the recent Starfield et al. report on all cause mortality in the U.S.A. Their conclusion was that the third leading cause of death in the United States today is – you guessed it – doctors! Why hasn’t the entire medical profession committed suicide yet? If I were them, I would be forced to. I certainly wouldn’t be trumpeting my achievements to all and sundry, because those achievements are utterly shameful. Third leading cause of death! Right after cancer and heart disease! Since the U.S. is so fond of declaring war on anything it doesn’t like, such as cancer, drugs, and terrorism, the next logical step is clearly to declare war on doctors!

    Of course as Cathyvm points out, it isn’t really the individual doctors who are at fault, it is the entire system, and for the most part it isn’t the doctors who created the system – it’s the pharmaceutical companies. So maybe we should be declaring war on them.

  23. Cathyvm Says:

    Stevekj – imagine what Dr Barbara Starfield’s stats would have looked like if they had included the AZT/HAART iatrogenocide numbers.
    “Dirty pharmaceutical drugs are the leading (by miles) cause of death in developed countries!”
    I call the US government to declare a:
    War on Wellcome (GSK)
    Blitzkrieg on Boehringer
    Jihad on Gilead
    Fatwah on Pfizer
    Militant action on Merck
    Jingoism on Janssen
    A roach hunt on Roche.
    I appoint TS as “Drug Czar” in this battle.

  24. jtdeshong Says:

    The quote below is from Truthseeker…a man who HAS posted a rather lengthy diatribe at my blog.
    “…undertake to double check your premise first by reading up on why so many disinterested people reject it and continue to reject it with scorn equal to yours, though a good deal more politely phrased. Wouldn’t it be better to use the Web to learn things which may surprise you by adding to your knowledge and understanding of the world, rather than waste your time ranting against people who then won’t bother to reply? Your current course is a dead end.”
    Now, TS, yes, I have researched this issue for many hours since I discovered you “denialists” still exist some three months ago. In that time, I have found an overwhelming amount of evidence that you guys are just flat wrong. Of course, part of the reason I can make this statement, is because I am a scientist with an actual grasp of the facts. Many of you seem to be of some other career inclination that limits your understanding. Thru my research, I have amassed a rather staggering amount of research that completely discredits your views. It is for that reason, that I have made a conscious choice to be malicious, viscious and do as much name calling as possible. In my judegement and thru my research, I have read countless threads where much smarter people than me have given tons of evidence that HIV does indeed cause AIDS. In these threads, the orthodox have been polite and professional (as I myself started out), but yet you all seem to find endless ways to discount the evidence, in ways that show you do not understand said evidence. Therefore, I have chosen to be as rude, mean and nasty as possible in hopes that maybe someone will realize thru such vehemence, that this is actually a very real, distrubing issue, and not just an exercise in futility.
    J. Todd DeShong

  25. jtdeshong Says:

    Now, for Stevejk,
    If indeed there is such a report that shows the “the third leading cause of death in the United States today is – you guessed it – doctors!”, why did you not provide a link to said article?
    I have a real problem with people spouting “information/evidence” without the link for said evidence. If you check out my very informative blog, http://www.dissidents4dumbees.blogspot.com
    you will see that I always provide links. So Stevey Boy, provide the link, I will read the article, and get back to you.

  26. jtdeshong Says:

    Miss Mommy,
    Yo’ sho’ nuff’ nose some big words!! Now why don’t cha use ’em rite and say somethin’ that makes a lik o’ scents!!!
    Also, if you would tell us a bit about your education, we might (we, means, me!!) have a bit more respect for your hi’ falutin’ talk!!) I know, I know, you do not want to reveal too much about yourself, for fear that someone like Clark Baker will stalk you via email like he did me, and threaten your family and your dog!! But still, you lose el mucho credibility by not at least explaining why we should believe what you say. You see, I have done alot of research on many denialists, and find that they may indeed be Doctors, but actaully have only a PhD in History or Philosophy, and not actually know shit about Science. Oh, like Charles Geshekter, of Re-Thinking AIDS, for instance.

  27. Truthseeker Says:

    The quote below is from Truthseeker…a man who HAS posted a rather lengthy diatribe at my blog.

    Not in fact. DeShong, your comments will be removed if you cannot keep to reality in even the simplest respect.

  28. pat Says:

    I second you TS. Remove his idiocy from your pages and let him write another round of vomit on his blog about how he got expulsed from yet another discussion. His own writing style and blog will be self explanatory to anyone who visits.
    If you do start removing posts though, I suggest you should put them in a garbage bin with a link that people can choose to view so as to understand the nature behind the removal. This guy needs anger management.

  29. pat Says:

    This is the staggering amount of research Deschlong has made:

    On his blog you can read about him asking a cyber-blogger to provide him pictures of electron micrographs of HIV because HE does not have the same access to PubMed as us regular mortals. That is quite the caliber.

    J Todd DeShong said…
    Thanks, Seth, I will definitely check that out.
    Also, I looked at one of your books on line and saw you had two pics of HIV. One was a “TEM” and the other an “SEM”. Are these Electron Micrographs? The reason I ask is because this is one of the things that denialists claim is lacking in the evidence of HIV. I find that hard to believe, but I do not have complete acceess to PUBMED.
    Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon,

    December 12, 2008 6:24 AM

  30. pat Says:

    he is all about “believing”. His mind is boggled.

  31. Truthseeker Says:

    Well, this lovable troll is Exhibit #1`at the moment of how the ignorant rush to support mainstream authority in what appears to be a reflex allied to the lynch mob, or the crowd that watched Giordano Bruno burn in Campo de’ Fiori in Rome in 1600. Presumably their conscience sets in after the initial excitement is over.

  32. Cathyvm Says:

    JTDS for someone who lives at home “with mommy” I find your derogatory mommy comments a little disturbing. Does “mommy” need to lock her door at night?
    And well Todd – that there is your problem. Appeal to authority requires you to need somebody with some “letters” after their name. What “letters” anyone might have is not a measure of intelligence or integrity and I suspect most people that live in the real world realise this. I have said before and will say again that I don’t want/need your approval because you have nothing credible or substantive to add to this discussion. My qualifications are irrelevant and certainly none of your business. You might feel the need to constantly brag about your “four degrees” but some of us are not so ego-driven. And neurotic posturing that “Clark Baker stalked you” isn’t fooling anyone Mr Munchausen.
    While I don’t like being a picky-poo can you please avail yourself of a dictionary and learn how to spell vicious – this is no mere typo because you consistently misspell it. V-I-C-I-O-U-S. I’m surprised that 4 degrees later you still cannot spell such a simple word.
    The Starfield article is not freely available online but the full citation is below – with you being such an experienced “medical scientist” and all I suppose you are capable of searching your university archives. [1]

    1. Starfield, B., Is US health really the best in the world? Jama, 2000. 284(4): p. 483-5.

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