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