MICHAEL CALLEN, AIDS DISSIDENT
By John Lauritsen
The obituaries of Michael Callen (1956-1993), like those in the New
York Times or the CDC AIDS Daily Summary, have failed to mention that he
was an AIDS-dissident -- someone who for ten years refused to go along
with the "AIDS virus" model of pathogenesis or with the officially
approved AIDS drugs, AZT, ddI, and ddC.
When Michael appeared in the British television documentary, "The
AIDS Catch" (1990), he said with emphasis: "I have never believed
that HIV is the cause of AIDS". With equal bluntness, Michael referred
to AZT as Drano.
I first met Michael in 1983, when we were both members of the New York
Safer Sex Committee -- a small group of physicians, PWAs and others --
which formulated the first comprehensive set of risk-reduction guidelines.
At the time there was speculation about the possible role of various viruses,
both known and yet-to- be-discovered, but the official proclamation had
not been made. Michael, Joseph Sonnabend, Richard Berkowitz, Artie Felson,
and I opposed the notion that a novel infectious agent was responsible
for all of the symptoms comprising the Acquired Immune Deficiency *Syndrome*.
In practical terms, this meant that our risk- reduction guidelines were
multifactorial -- not only concerned with avoiding infection with a hypothetical
microbe, but with avoiding other health risks as well. The brochure we
produced, "Healthy Sex is Great Sex", did lay down the guidelines
for "safer sex", but also warned against the health risks of
drinking too much, drug abuse, poor nutrition, stress, and so on. Our guidelines
came right out and said: "Avoid drugs. Shooting up kills.... Poppers
are also dangerous."
Michael strongly believed in free speech, and was often shocked and
indignant over the types of censorship that were practised by the media,
the Public Health Service, and the mainstream AIDS organizations. In the
several years that he was editor of the PWAC Newsline, he published a wide
range of viewpoints: articles of mine attacking the HIV-AIDS hypothesis
and AZT therapy, but also many more articles advocating these things.
Michael was one of the speakers, along with Peter Duesberg, Harvey Bialy,
Joseph Sonnabend, Nathaniel Lehrman, Frank Buianouckas and myself, at a
conference held at Bronx Community College on 16 December 1988: "What
Really Causes AIDS?". This was the first public forum to challenge
the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
He was one of the keynote speakers at the first international alternative
AIDS conference, "AIDS: A Different View", held in Amsterdam
in May of 1992. At the time he had been diagnosed as having KS of the lungs,
and did not expect to live a great deal longer. Nevertheless, his speech
was delivered with verve and vigor.
Michael's courage -- his wonderful fighting spirit and sense of humor
-- can only be appreciated fully in the context of his opposition to AIDS-orthodoxy.
How contemptuous he was of the herd mentality! He took plenty of abuse
for bucking the crowd, but for an entire decade, against all obstacles,
he stuck to his guns. *