By Frank Green
Cleveland Free Times 5 May 1999
HIV patients find that the current drug treatments arenít necessarily the
Like everyone else ó HIV patients and their families, medical researchers,
doctors, educators, activists and the general public, all fed a steady dose
of glowing reports in the media ó Michael Cooper and Steven Goldring
believed that the drug cocktails introduced in 1996 had ushered in a new era
of AIDS treatment. The cocktails were supposed to transform AIDS from a
fatal disease to a treatable condition. From that point forward, any
progress in survival rates was attributed to the drugs, even though the
number of AIDS deaths had begun to decline three years before they were
The new treatments werenít just called cocktails to make them sound
palatable. Like mixed drinks, they combined several different drugs into one
potent whammy of a weapon that was supposed to knock HIV off its feet. The
combination usually included two nucleoside analogs like AZT, ddI and d4T ó
none of which had proven to be effective on their own ó and one protease
inhibitor, a new class of drug. This blitzkrieg strategy was called HAART
(highly active antiretroviral therapy).
Not long before, clinics had begun using a new laboratory test to measure
viral load, the amount of HIV in the body. When studies were conducted on
HAART, it was this measurement, known as a surrogate marker, rather than the
presence or absence of symptoms, that determined a patientís progress. The
higher the viral load, the sicker the person was said to be, regardless of
how he actually felt. (Another surrogate marker, T-cell counts, had been
used to measure progress since early in the epidemic.) When drug cocktails
were shown to increase T-cells and lower viral load, they were deemed a
The announcement of the results of the early studies of HAART brought
euphoria to the AIDS community. HIV-positive people like Cooper and
Goldring, who had resisted treatment in the past, or whose treatments had
proven ineffective, flocked to the cocktails like fruit flies to wine.
"There was such hysteria," Cooper recalls. "There were these new tests and
new treatments and everybody was living longer. There was an awful lot of
hype. I mean, nothing good had happened for the last 15 years. AZT was a
nightmare for most people."
Cooper has been HIV-positive for 17 years. He declined AZT treatment when it
was offered early in the epidemic, because he had watched so many people die
while taking it. Heís never progressed to an AIDS diagnosis, a fact he
attributes to a positive attitude.
"Even in the early days," he says, "I didnít believe I was going to die. I
took care of my body. I took vitamins, ate properly, worked out at the gym.
Iím still very healthy. I never even get colds. I get ear infections once in
a while, but it has nothing to do with HIV." Yet when the drug cocktails
were said to eradicate HIV from the body, he decided to take them.
There are many side effects associated with the drugs used in HAART.
Diarrhea, gas, nausea, heartburn and headaches are common. AZT and its
relatives have been implicated in a high incidence of neuropathy (a nerve
disorder that can result in numbness, tingling, abnormal reflexes and even
paralysis), pancreatitis and anemia. People taking protease inhibitors have
been rushed to the emergency room with painful "kidney sludge." Elevated
levels of liver enzymes, cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides are
showing up on lab tests, pointing to more serious problems down the road.
But one side effect overshadows the others because itís so unusual. People
taking protease inhibitors are metamorphosing like silly putty as their
bodies redistribute fat in strange ways. Theyíre losing weight in the legs,
arms and face, while growing paunches in the abdomen, breasts and back
("buffalo hump"). In the May issue of POZ magazine, one patient undergoing
treatment complains that she looks "like a marshmallow on toothpicks." A new
term , lipodystrophy, was coined to describe this condition.
Cooper took the drugs for a while without experiencing side effects, but he
was concerned that levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in his blood were
rising. "After about nine months," he says, "I started to gain weight. But
people said I looked thinner because my face was getting gaunt."
After talking to Christine Maggiore, a healthy, pharmaceutical-free
HIV-positive mother and founder of the alternative AIDS education group
Alive & Well, who informed him about the dangers of HAART, he decided to
quit taking the drugs. "My doctor was annoyed at first," he says, "but
ultimately, he supported my decision. I feel great these days, and I havenít
Steven Goldring, a local writer and performer, has been HIV-positive for 16
years. His monologue piece, And Now, for My Next Life, presented recently at
Dobama Theatre, offered a hopeful perspective on AIDS. Instead of talking
about death and medical dependency, he emphasized survival and
self-determination. "Itís not like I want to second-guess the medical
profession," he says, "but I have to go with what I know in my heart."
In the fall of 1996, Goldring came down with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
(PCP), one of the 40-odd diseases that result in an AIDS diagnosis when a
personís HIV-positive. "I was scared," he says. "This was when the cocktails
first started coming out, so I decided to try them." He also took drugs for
pneumonia. After the PCP cleared up, he continued on the cocktail.
"All my numbers were great," he recalls. "My T-cells were up, and my viral
load was down. But I felt horrible. Here I was, a vegetarian who never even
took aspirin, and all of a sudden Iím on all these powerful drugs. I had to
take pills three or four times a day, some with meals, some without. My
whole life revolved around drugs.
"I felt awful. I was all bloated, and I kept breaking out into rashes. I had
to keep getting up through the night to go to the bathroom, so I was always
exhausted. I had horrible neuropathy in my feet, to the point where I could
"I felt my body falling apart ó not from HIV, but from the drugs. I was
always very aware of my body, and I could feel that I was putting poison
into it. I finally went to my doctors and told them I didnít want to take
the drugs anymore, and they called me a fool. They were very dramatic and
told me it was suicidal to stop." Instead of stopping treatment, his doctors
gave him a different combination of drugs.
"The new combination was even worse. My speech was slurred. I kept losing my
equilibrium, and I fell down the stairs in my house. That was the last
straw. I just stopped taking them. My T-cells went down and my viral load
went up, but I felt healthy again." Today, two years after quitting
treatment, he feels better than ever.
Stories like these arenít unusual. More and more patients are refusing drug
therapy, often against the advice of their doctors. Theyíre beginning to
question the mainstream approach to AIDS because theyíve seen whatís
happened to the other HIV-positive people they know. Many have died while
taking AZT and other AIDS drugs, while many people who have avoided
treatment remain healthy nearly 20 years after an HIV diagnosis.
Dr. Peter Duesberg, a leading virologist who has long been critical of the
medical establishmentís approach to AIDS, points out that even mainstream
researchers and advocates arenít happy with current treatment strategies.
"Look at the latest ads for AMFAR," he says, referring to a national AIDS
research fundraising organization. "They say what I endorse, that nothing
has been achieved in AIDS research. Despite all the talk [about the benefits
of treatment], we havenít cured a single patient."
Dr. David Rasnick, a visiting researcher at the University of California,
Berkeley and founder of a Bay-area biotechnology firm, has been involved in
protease research for nearly 25 years. In the early 1980s, he was looking
for a practical application for his expertise in the biochemistry of
protease and other enzymes.
He remembers one day vividly. "On April 23, 1984, [Dr. Robert] Gallo held a
press conference and revealed to all the world that he had found the
probable cause of AIDS. He dropped the word probable after a couple days,
and AIDS became known as an infectious disease caused by a retrovirus."
Rasnick was involved at the time with a network of Bay area researchers
known as the Peptide Group. The virologists in the group had shown that all
viruses are encoded for at least one protease that was essential for the
virusís maturation. Retroviruses like HIV had a particular variety called an
aspartyl protease. "Within two weeks of Galloís announcement," Rasnick
remembers, "I was designing aspartyl protease inhibitors."
He wasnít alone. Many chemists associated with pharmaceutical companies and
biotechnology firms began working on the same thing. The rush was on to find
a way to prevent proteases from developing, thereby crippling viruses. "It
was a very exciting time for scientists," Rasnick recalls. "HIV was our
But by 1985, he had begun to question whether HIV is really the cause of
AIDS. "Nobody could quantify it," he says. "It was often undetectable in the
body. At first, I thought theyíd found the wrong virus. Scientists ruled out
a hundred viruses before they found the one that causes polio. Our bodies
are full of viruses, though most of them donít do anything. But I soon gave
up the notion that AIDS is contagious. It just doesnít follow the model of
an infectious disease."
Though itís often represented to be an undeniable fact, the theory that AIDS
is caused by HIV is actually unproven. The fact that many people with AIDS
test positive for antibodies to HIV doesnít necessarily mean that HIV causes
AIDS. In science, correlation does not equal causation.
From the beginning of the epidemic, the existence of healthy HIV-positive
people has been a glaring hole in the theory. Mainstream AIDS scientists
postulate a latency period during the which the virus remains inactive,
theorizing that itís only a matter of time before it causes damage. The
length of this period continues to grow as people remain healthy. At first,
it was maintained that HIV-positive people get sick within five years. Now
the latency period is said to be 20 years or more, because people have
remained healthy that long.
Many AIDS researchers now suggest that there may be co-factors involved in
an HIV-positive patientís progression to AIDS. Some maintain that thereís an
additional virus involved, and that a person must be exposed to the other
virus as well as HIV in order to progress to AIDS. Others contend that some
people are genetically equipped to fight off HIV, while most do not have
this protection. One thingís certain: the current focus on HIV as the sole
cause of AIDS in research insures that theories like these will remain
unproven for some time to come.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that there are people with
AIDS conditions who test negative for HIV. As reported by Celia Farber in
Spin magazine, researchers began reporting cases of HIV-negative AIDS as
early as 1992. And this doesnít include cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
an immune deficient condition with symptoms similar to AIDS, though itís not
Most researchers contend that these people do not have AIDS. But thatís
because the definition of HIV/AIDS is circular. There are about 40 different
diseases that result in an AIDS diagnosis when a person is HIV-positive. A
person with the same disease who tests HIV-negative doesnít have AIDS, even
though their symptoms are identical. In other words, AIDS is defined by the
presence of HIV, and HIV is defined as the virus that causes AIDS. Thatís
In 1993, the definition of AIDS was expanded by the Centers for Disease
Control to include HIV-positive people who have no illness or symptoms at
all, but whose T-cell counts fall below a certain level. This change caused
the number of AIDS cases to double overnight, which was useful to
organizations that rely on numbers of cases to raise funds.
Dr. Leonard Calabrese, head of clinical immunology at the Cleveland Clinic,
believes that most people who test HIV-positive will eventually develop AIDS
without treatment. "But itís not black and white," he says. "Like most
infections, HIV does not have the same clinical course in everyone. Some
people do better than others. We think it must have something to do with
their individual immune systems. But people who have stayed healthy for 15
years without treatment are a small percentage of the people who are
Dr. Michael Lederman, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve
University and principal investigator of the AIDS clinical research unit at
University Hospital, is more blunt. "Thereís no doubt," he says, "that AIDS
is caused by exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus."
Despite the position of mainstream specialists like these, some patients,
doctors and scientists question the theory that AIDS is caused by HIV. David
Rasnick now agrees with Peter Duesberg, who has long maintained that
retroviruses like HIV are harmless. In his books Infectious AIDS: Have We
Been Misled? and Inventing the AIDS Virus, Duesberg contends that AIDS
results not from exposure to a virus, but from prolonged exposure to various
environmental and lifestyle factors that compromise the immune system, such
as drug abuse, malnutrition, the blood products used to treat hemophilia and
AIDS treatments themselves.
Rasnickís change in thinking isnít as unusual as it used to be. Ten years
ago, Duesberg was pretty much a lone voice crying in the wilderness. But
thatís no longer the case. The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the
HIV/AIDS Hypothesis, founded by Dr. Charles Thomas of Harvard University,
counts several hundred prominent scientists among its members, including
three Nobel Prize winners.
Rasnickís company eventually pulled out of the race to develop protease
inhibitors for HIV, but he continued to follow the work his colleagues were
doing with interest. "Prior to HIV," he reminds us, "protease research was a
backwater, esoteric field. Even though itís one of the largest classes of
enzymes, involved in almost all physiological functions, you didnít hear
much about it before AIDS.
"In 1993, The Wall Street Journal reported that Merck [a large
pharmaceutical company] was planning to pull out of HIV/protease research
because it wasnít working. Then the company did a 180-degree turnaround and
tooled up a plant in Georgia and went full blast commercializing Crixivan.
They were trying to recoup some of their investment. Theyíd already spent
$500 million developing the drug.
"When the FDA approved protease inhibitors for AIDS treatment in 1996, they
broke the record for speed of approval. The companies had reported data on
surrogate markers, but they never did clinical studies, which is the most
expensive part of drug development. Suddenly, it was unethical to wait for
clinical trial results."
Surrogate markers are measurements like T-cell and viral load counts. Not
everyone agrees that they provide an accurate picture of health. "T-cell
counts are worthless as surrogate markers," Rasnick contends. "Even
mainstream researchers admit that. Thatís why they came up with viral load.
But viral load is even worse. Itís pure Orwellian deception. People think
PCR tests look at whole HIV, but they donít. At best, theyíre looking at two
strands of DNA that make up 3 percent of the genome."
Dr. Kary Mullis, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing
polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, which made viral load testing
possible, insists that the tests are useless as a diagnostic tool in AIDS
treatment. Frustrated with what he believes is a misuse of his invention,
Mullis became an outspoken member of the Group for the Scientific
Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis.
"Doing a PCR test is like counting bumpers in a junkyard," Rasnick explains.
"The real test of whether a car is going to work is to put the key in the
ignition and drive it off the lot. Instead, they just count bumpers and make
a calculation. Twenty cars divided by two bumpers per car means 10 working
cars. Now, that might work in a new car lot, but itís not going to work in a
junkyard." The analogy, of course, is that the bodies of people with AIDS
are like junkyards piled mile-high with various diseases and drugs.
Driving the car off the lot would be analogous to walking away from the
hospital with a clean bill of health. But to this day, not a single protease
inhibitor has been proven to be effective in terms of clinical symptoms. "It
sets a dangerous precedent," Rasnick warns, "not just for AIDS, but for all
diseases. Drug companies no longer have to demonstrate that drugs make
people better to get them approved."
Drug companies now promote a half-dozen different protease inhibitors with
slick ads in gay magazines and alternative newspapers. They are among the
most expensive drugs ever marketed. Agenerase, the latest protease inhibitor
to be approved by the FDA, is being marketed by Glaxo Wellcome, the company
that makes AZT. Agenerase costs $16.80 per day, or $6,132 per year. Protease
inhibitors range in price from $5,000 to $7,500 per year, and nucleoside
analogs are also very expensive. Since the drug cocktails include three or
four different drugs, a patient can pay $20,000 a year for the cocktail
alone. That doesnít include the price of doctorís visits, laboratory tests
or drugs used to treat the side effects brought on by the cocktail.
Most drugs used in modern medicine are prescribed for a short time and are
stopped as soon as symptoms clear up. Thatís not the case with the new AIDS
drugs. HIV-positive people are advised to stay on the drugs for their entire
lives, even if the level of virus in their blood becomes undetectable. The
theory behind this practice is that HIV will return in a new and more
virulent form if treatment is stopped. Like so much else in the science on
which current AIDS strategy is based, the theory remains unproven.
Given the high cost of AIDS drugs, activists have been agitating since the
beginning of the epidemic for price decreases and free "compassionate
access" for the poor. In the early years, before the Concorde study [a large
clinical study of the use of AZT in AIDS treatment published in 1993] proved
that AZT was not only ineffective, but possibly deadly, many activists
clamored for wider access to the drug. Now they want wider access to the
When doctors began to prescribe protease inhibitors along with AZT, the era
of drug cocktails was born. Some AIDS patients who were already sick
improved for awhile on the new combinations, and it wasnít long before drug
companies began promoting early treatment for healthy HIV-positive people.
If the drugs are as ineffective as Rasnick and Duesberg contend, why did
some patients feel better after they started taking them? Dr. Roberto
Giraldo, a Colombian-born infectious disease specialist living in New York,
attributes their progress to the placebo effect. "Patients who believed they
were dying were suddenly given hope," he reminds us. "It was their change in
attitude that impacted their health."
It soon became apparent that the drugs were far from the panacea they were
made out to be. More than half the patients undergoing treatment are now
expected to "fail" on the medications. "After a while," Giraldo says, "the
placebo effect wears off, and the side effects take over."
When people taking the cocktails started to get sick again, AIDS researchers
came up with another unproven theory to account for it. They maintained that
patients develop resistance to the drugs over time, and that the solution is
to keep switching them to different combinations.
"The difference has been dramatic in terms of well-being and survival,"
Calabrese says. "But it comes with a price. People have been locked into
very complex medical regimens. There are a lot of pills and a lot of side
effects. Some patients develop resistance to the drugs. They donít work for
everybody, but many patients have dramatically improved on them."
"When the combination drug regimens came out," Lederman says, "AIDS
mortality rates plummeted by 70 percent. Thereís no doubt that people are
living longer. Weíre not sure yet about the mechanism of some of the side
effects, so we donít know how to treat them. Itís not clear whether fat
distribution, for example, is caused by protease inhibitors or the powerful
antivirals that are used in treatment."
"I donít see why they call them side effects," Duesberg complains. "Since
they have no benefit, these are the main effects of the drugs. Most people
who have been put on DNA terminators in the past 10 years have either died
or continue to suffer." The DNA terminators include AZT and several other
nucleoside analogs commonly used in AIDS cocktails. Originally designed to
treat cancer, a disease of persistently growing cells, they prevent the
formation of new cells by blocking the development of DNA chains.
While destroying cancer and HIV cells, these drugs, which are now called
antivirals, can also destroy healthy blood cells, as well as cells in the
digestive system, central nervous system and muscle tissue. Their
destructive power is the reason they were never approved for cancer
treatment. "Long-term use of DNA terminators," Duesberg believes, "can only
result in death."
Rasnick agrees: "In the Concorde study, there was a 25 percent greater
mortality rate in people who took AZT sooner rather than later. This was
confirmed by a study conducted by the Veterans Administration. As a result,
the AIDS establishment now considers it malpractice to use AZT monotherapy
[AZT without other drugs] in adults. Yet they recommend it for infants. If
that isnít Lewis Carroll through the looking glass, I donít what is.
"Protease inhibitors can be toxic, too. Everything weíre learning about
them, weíre learning in people, because they were rushed to market without
completing animal studies. The list of side effects keeps growing. While
inhibiting aspartyl protease in HIV, they can also inhibit human enzymes.
Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be.
"Ritonavir [a protease inhibitor made by Abbott Laboratories], for example,
inhibits the liver enzymes that detoxify [fat-soluble] drugs. [AIDS
patients] are taking 30 to 50 pills a day, and they add another drug that
plugs up the damn. Concentrations build up to toxic levels in the body, and
it kills people.
"One of the most sinister aspects of this whole thing," Rasnick concludes,
"is that the drug companies are now in league together. The toxic effect of
one companyís drug is used to make another companyís drug more absorbable.
Despite diabetes, neuropathy, buffalo humps and all the other problems
associated with drug cocktails, many patients arenít as quick to stop
treatment as Cooper and Goldring were. They believe that theyíre better off
with the drugs than without them. As one patient put it in POZ magazine, "Ií
d rather be alive with a hump than dead and rotting in my grave." But are
they being given the information they need to make an informed decision?
Steven Goldring says that he wasnít. "They just foisted the drugs on me," he
says, "without explaining what they did or what the side effects were. I don
ít feel like I was given a real choice."
"The key to empowering people is giving them all the information," Cooper
agrees. "Doctors arenít doing that. They only tell one side of the story. Ií
m very skeptical of everything they tell me. I do my own research and make
up my own mind."
Thereís a big push these days from AIDS doctors for early intervention.
HIV-positive people are advised to begin treatment with the drug cocktails a
s soon as theyíre diagnosed, even though theyíre still healthy. This is
based on yet another unproven theory ó that the drugs are more effective at
the early stages of what has become known as "HIV disease."
"People who test positive," Christine Maggiore says, "face so much pressure
to follow doctorís orders and adhere to the drug protocols. Itís hard for
most people to fight, not just on an intellectual level, but emotionally as
well. People who decide to take another path not only lose their
relationship with their doctor, they often lose the support of their friends
Maggiore says that meetings of Alive & Well, her grass-roots nonprofit
organization in Los Angeles that provides alternative information on AIDS
causation and treatment, often function as support groups for HIV-positive
people. "We provide a safe place for people to question. I mean, you can get
thrown out of a doctorís office just for asking questions. If you refuse
drug treatment, some doctors will no longer work with you. Theyíre very
touchy about it."
Part of the problem is that doctors themselves are often unaware of the
controversy surrounding mainstream AIDS theory. "Most of the information
they get after medical school comes from pharmaceutical companies," Maggiore
scoffs, "or from their own incestuous journals, which censor opposing
Pharmaceutical companies are directly or indirectly involved in most AIDS
research, and theyíve also become a force in AIDS education. The free
treatment information magazines provided to HIV-positive people are funded
by drug companies, and advertisements for drugs have become a major source
of revenue for gay publications. Many AIDS service organizations and
advocacy groups accept at least some funding from drug companies.
A new program starting up at the Antioch Baptist Church on Cedar Avenue is a
good example. The Agape Program is designed "to heighten awareness about the
HIV/AIDS pandemic in the African-American Community." HIV testing will be
encouraged so that patients can be referred for early intervention. Major
funders for the program include the Cleveland Clinic and two drug
companies ó Bristol-Myers Squibb and Auguron Pharmaceuticals ó all of which
stand to profit from the referrals.
Even when theyíre aware of opposing views about AIDS causation and
treatment, many AIDS doctors dismiss the arguments of dissident scientists
out of hand. "They donít want us to be right," Giraldo says, "because it
means theyíve been killing their patients."
Doctors also worry about being sued for malpractice, and AIDS educators
worry about losing their jobs. Despite the problems with the theory that
exposure to HIV leads to AIDS, itís generally accepted as an indisputable
fact. Michael Cooper works as a counselor for an AIDS service organization,
and asked that I change his name for this article. "My boss doesnít want me
to talk to you," he told me. "I could lose my job for telling the truth."
Scientists, too, get into trouble for questioning mainstream AIDS doctrine.
"Thereís no incentive for being a whistle blower or iconoclast," Maggiore
says. "This is especially true of AIDS, which is as much a political as a
medical phenomenon. If you question anything about the mainstream approach,
youíre accused of being homophobic and promoting unsafe sex."
Look at Peter Duesberg. Before he began proposing an alternative theory of
AIDS causation, he was one of the top virologists in the country, the head
of a state-of-the-art laboratory bustling with activity. Now he canít get
funding for research and routinely has papers rejected by leading scientific
journals. The graduate students who used to clamor to work with him at the
University of California have drifted away, because theyíre advised that
associating with him is bad for their careers.
"Duesberg is an unconscionable jerk," CWRUís Lederman fumes. "You can quote
me on that. Iím sorry you talked to him."
"Iíve lost everything," Duesberg tells me, "even friends. Iím thinking about
leaving the country. In Europe, scientists have a more open spirit of
inquiry." He believes part of the problem in the United States is that the
government has a stranglehold on research, and heavily promotes its own
biases. "I used to have this romantic conception about science as a search
for truth. After what Iíve experienced, thatís hard to maintain."
"The AIDS establishment is making an example of him," Maggiore asserts. "Heí
s become the focus for those who want to squash the scientific reappraisal
of AIDS. Heís not the lone voice anymore, but he was the first. Itís tough
for a scientist of his stature to be the focal point of ridicule by people
who want to protect their vested interests. Instead of addressing his
assertions, they make fun of him.
"I admire him for sticking to his views. If it wasnít for Peter, I donít
think Iíd be alive and well today. Most of the people I know who followed
the advice of AIDS doctors are either dead or living a life thatís
completely stilted by HIV, taking dozens of pills a day and suffering from
the side effects. He let me know that there was information out there that
would substantiate living a long life without resorting to toxic drugs."
Maggioreís group, Alive & Well, is part of a loose network of alternative
AIDS information organizations around the country. Run by volunteers without
funding from the government or pharmaceutical companies, they provide people
with the information theyíre not getting from doctors or the mainstream
media. Many are chapters of Health Education AIDS Liaison (HEAL), founded by
Michael Ellner in New York in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
These grass-roots groups, many of which are led by healthy HIV-positive
people, emphasize three things. They point out that HIV tests are
non-specific and can cross-react with other viruses and physical conditions,
including pregnancy, so a positive test result doesnít necessarily mean that
a person harbors HIV. They endorse the notion that HIV has not been proven
to cause AIDS. And they question the wisdom of taking AZT, protease
inhibitors and other AIDS drugs, insisting that theyíre not only
unnecessary, but dangerous.
Not all people going off AIDS cocktails hold such radical views. Michael
Cooper, for example, isnít so sure that HIV doesnít lead to AIDS. "Iím not
convinced either way," he tells me. "Maybe there are co-factors, and thatís
why some people get sick and others donít. All I know is that I feel a lot
healthier now that Iím not taking the drugs."
Steven Goldring says that staying on the drug-free path heís chosen can be
difficult. "My numbers arenít wonderful," he confides, referring to
surrogate markers. "Every time I go to the doctor they try to get me to go
on the cocktail again. But I refuse. I see the people taking the drugs. They
look horrible. They have no energy.
"Iím just going on my experience. Iíve looked at both sides, and I think Ií
ve made an informed decision. You have to listen to your body and be honest