FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: July 8, 1996
ACT UP SF Demands New Research Direction at
Activists call for a shift to an immune-based AIDS treatment paradigm;
say combination therapy harms body's natural defense mechanism against
Vancouver, B.C. - Chanting "Old Promises; New Drugs; Same AIDS
Scam", hundreds of angry AIDS activists led by ACT UP San Francisco
marched to the opening ceremony of the XI International Conference on AIDS.
Screaming protestors marched behind a banner that read "AIDS Drugs
Kill. Ban Toxic AZT. Sue Glaxo!" and demanded that drug companies,
AIDS organizations and conference organizers stop promoting expensive,
immune suppressive therapies. Demonstrators asserted that research efforts
focusing on suppressing HIV are dangerously flawed and they demanded that
the AIDS research community focus on strengthening cellular immunity; the
body's natural defense against the intracellular infections that kill people
with immune system diseases.
ACT UP members charged that AZT and other AIDS drugs have been approved
on the basis of fraudulent data from short-term clinical trials paid for
and conducted by the products' manufacturers. Furthermore, they say that
AZT and other antiviral drugs, including the new crop of protease inhibitors,
impair the creation and functioning of important immune system cells, especially
cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CD8s). Research has shown that elevated levels
of CD8s is one of the most important characteristics of those who are long
term survivors of AIDS.
To underscore their rage over the promotion of potentially deadly AIDS
treatments at the international conference, ACT UP members demanded that
Glaxo-Wellcome, a U.K.-based pharmaceutical manufacturer, immediately stop
production of its antiviral drug AZT. AZT was the first anti-HIV therapy
approved for use in treating AIDS. The drug is prescribed internationally
to both people with AIDS and asymptomatic HIV-positives despite the growing
body of scientific evidence that long term use of the chemotherapeutic
agent is ineffective at halting disease progression and harmful to cellular
"We have all the hoopla about antiviral drugs, and you get any
virologists aside and they'll say this is not how we're going to win,"
contends retrovirologist Jay Levy of the University of California, San
Francisco in the latest issue of Science. To clear all the virus from the
body, Levy says, "it's high time we look at the immune system."
ACT UP members cited the urgent need for AIDS researchers, when testing
potential AIDS therapies, to measure clinical endpoints such as survival
time and the delay in the onset of opportunistic infections rather than
merely manipulating unreliable surrogate markers like peripheral blood
viral load and CD4 (or T-cell) counts. They also demanded that baseline
and final CD8 counts be reported in all clinical trial data.
"Look, we know that lowering blood viral load to undetectable levels
does not mean that infected individuals have eliminated HIV from their
bodies. They are not cured of AIDS. In fact, lowering blood viral load
with immune suppressive treatments has not been associated with any clinical
benefit including extension of or improvement in quality of life,"
warned ACT UP SF member Michael De Hart.
Continued AIDS activist Medea Lopez, "All the hype surrounding
the importance of blood viral load testing is nothing but the latest marketing
scheme by the pharmaceutical industry to lure frightened people with HIV
into taking their unproven, expensive harmful concoctions. It's nothing
but mass murder on a global scale and we are determined to stop it now!"
Instead of using blood viral load tests to encourage people with AIDS
to initiate lifelong, immunosuppressive combinations of unproven therapies,
activists urged researchers to immediately investigate nontoxic contact
sensitizers like dinitrochlorobenze (DNCB) that strengthen cellular immunity.
DNCB is a photochemical solution that when applied topically to the
skin elicits an immune response in infected patients that is believed to
control HIV replication and delay the onset of opportunistic infections.
Regardless of what treatment options people with AIDS utilize, ACT UP San
Francisco members stated that DNCB should be the foundation of a holistic
therapeutic protocol for all people with syndromes of immune dysfunction.
ACT UP SF members claimed that they are determined to utilize civil
resistance to stop all clinical trials that use combinations of immunosuppressive
drugs. The AIDS dissidents promised to increase their direct action efforts
during the international conference to spread their message about the perils
of heavily promoted antiviral drugs. Activists say they will do everything
within their power to put an end to the dangerous influence of the pharmaceutical
industry that is preventing the emergence of an immune-based AIDS treatment
"It's time to derail the AIDS gravy train and bring this madness
to a crashing halt," announced ACT UP member Michael Bellefountaine.
"We are determined to do whatever it takes to shift the focus of AIDS
research onto strengthening rather than destroying cellular immunity."
CONTACTS: David Pasquarelli in Vancouver: (604) 240-4967 Michael
De Hart in Vancouver: (604) 240-4152 ACT UP SF hotline: (604) 980-4547