DATE: July 11, 1996

Bloodbath in Vancouver ! Activists Asked To Leave Canada After Crashing AIDS Conference Combo Therapy Promo

ACT UP SF members drench panel members Paul Volberding and Margaret Fischl with fake blood to protest promotion of combination antiviral therapies that destroy the immune system

Vancouver, B.C. - Yesterday, nearly ten years after the approval of the first AIDS treatment, AZT, members of the controversial militant AIDS activist group ACT UP San Francisco crashed a panel discussion about the drug's use in combination with other antiviral agents held during the 11th International Conference on AIDS. AIDS activists renounced the "drugs into bodies"credo and demanded that Glaxo-Wellcome, AZT's manufacturer, immediately cease production of the compound and that AIDS researchers shift the focus of anti-HIV treatment from "killing the virus" to strengthening the immune system.

Chanting "Margaret Fischl: You're A Fraud! You Gave AZT The Nod!" and "Volberding: Your Lies Kill! AZT's A Toxic Pill!" twenty irate activists from ACT UP SF stormed into the pharmaceutical industry panel discussion "Guidelines for Antiretroviral Therapy: Bringing The State-Of-The-Art To Clinical Practice." The presentation announced recommendations for the administration of combination antiviral therapy as outlined in the July 10th JAMA article "Antiretroviral Therapy For HIV Infection in 1996: Recommendations of an International Panel."

Over 2,000 stunned conference attendees, packed into two grand ballrooms, looked on in silence as ACT UP members threw red dollar bills labeled "Glaxo Blood Money", unfurled a banner and soaked dazed and speechless panelists with liters of fake blood. AIDS activists charged panel members Margaret Fischl and Paul Volberding with murder for instituting and maintaining a scientifically flawed, yet highly profitable, AIDS treatment approach that urges people with HIV infection to combat the disease with potent regimens of immune suppressive agents.

Kicking over chairs, throwing microphones, smashing glasses and overturning conference tables, protesters demanded an immediate end to the practice of treating AIDS patients with dangerous chemotherapeutic agents. The activists asserted that the therapies hyped during the week-long conference such as AZT, ddI, ddC and protease inhibitors impair the immune system's natural ability to fight HIV and control the opportunistic infections that kill people with AIDS. The symposium was delayed over an hour as panel members frantically attempted to clean up their mess.

Two ACT UP SF demonstrators, David Pasquarelli and Medea Lopez, were arrested and jailed for assault and criminal mischief. The charges were later dropped and Canadian immigration officials demanded that the AIDS activists leave the country by Friday, July 12 at 12:00 a.m.

ACT UP presented evidence that both Fischl and Volberding have accepted pharmaceutical industry pay-offs to conduct experiments testing AZT and other antivirals in humans. In fact, it was on the basis of information from Fischl's 1987 drug trial that AZT was approved; a trial that was years later exposed as unreliable and poorly conducted and whose data was branded as fraudulent by prominent AIDS researchers and statisticians.

The demonstrators harshly criticized both the panel discussion and journal article announced at the presentation as nothing more than an advertisement campaign masquerading as science. The discussion was underwritten by an alliance of drug companies including Glaxo-Wellcome, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Hoffmann-La Roche, Roxanne Laboratories, Chiron Corporation, Agouron, Merck, and Abbott Laboratories.

"This entire AIDS conference was bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry as a way to hype their deadly drugs," commented AIDS dissident Todd Swindell. "These companies concoct expensive products; fund and execute tests of them on humans to generate fraudulent data supporting their supposed efficacy; and buy off mainstream AIDS organizations and conferences to then push these unproven compounds down the throats of people with AIDS. The entire AIDS treatment approach is murderously misdirected and must change now!"

ACT UP San Francisco demanded that:

  • 1) Glaxo-Wellcome immediately stop the production of AZT since the agent was approved on the basis of a faulty clinical trial that yielded fraudulent data.
  • 2) The U.S. Government halt all clinical trials that utilize AZT as part of the treatment protocol
  • 3) The U.S. Government initiate a class action lawsuit against Glaxo to compensate the families of those persons with AIDS whose lives were destroyed by the drug.
  • 4) AIDS researchers sever all financial ties with pharmaceutical companies; including stock options, grants, consultation fees, honoria and reimbursement fees for travel expenses.
  • 5) AIDS researchers replace the current "kill the virus with toxic drugs" treatment paradigm with an immune-based therapeutic strategy that focuses on improving overall health and strengthening the cellular immune response that is deficient in AIDS.
  • ACT UP members stated that their demonstration in Vancouver was only the beginning. They vowed to escalate their direct action tactics to end conflict of interest in AIDS research and confront the promotion of dangerous chemotherapeutic agents as a method of treating an immune deficiency syndrome.

    MEDIA CONTACTS: Michael Bellefoutaine in Vancouver: (604) 240-4967 Todd Swindell in Vancouver: (604) 240-4152 ACT UP SF Vancouver Hotline: (604) 980-4547 ext. 324 ACT UP SF San Francisco Hotline: (415) 522-2907

    Press photos and video footage of the "Vancouver Bloodbath" are available upon request. For more information on this or other ACT UP SF actions contact us at (415) 522-2907. Our mailing address is 1388 Haight Street, #218, San Francisco, CA 94117. Fax: (415) 834-0243; Email: