By Brenda Bouw

The Vancouver Sun 8 July 1996

A confrontation erupted Sunday in front of Terry Fox Plaza between two separate groups within ACT UP. Differing factions of a prominent AIDS activist group stood nose-to-nose in Vancouver Sunday, shouting at each other over their opposing views on how the disease should be treated.

The argument, between two separate groups within the organization ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), broke out in front of Terry Fox Plaza around 2:30 p.m. It happened just after both sides were involved in a peaceful march to support people with AIDS.

One side, ACT UP San Francisco - the smaller of the two factions - believes other groups within the organization are focusing two heavily on treatments for the disease being offered by large drug companies. The other side, which includes ACT UP chapters in California, New York, Philadelphia and Paris, say they give AIDS sufferers information on all sorts of treatments so people can choose.

The confrontation was one of the first of many altercations and demonstrations expected during the 11th International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver this week.

The disease is politically controversial because of differing opinions between doctors, scientists, politicians and people with AIDS about funding, and how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, should be treated.

Sunday's confrontation in front of an assembly of media cameras and microphones, began after members of ACT UP San Francisco started chanting "Lots of chemotherapy, no cure for AIDS!" referring to their belief that drug companies are dominating research efforts to treat the disease.

In reply, ACT UP Golden Gate of California shouted: "We want choices not insane voices," referring to their opponents as a minority part of the organization.

Stephen LeBlanc, of ACT UP Golden Gate, called the San Francisco members crazed fanatics.

"People are going to die needlessly if they listen to ACT UP San Francisco," said LeBlanc, his voice rising over screams and chants.

"We've been about honest information and honest dissemination of the science and letting individuals with HIV make their own choice about treatment."

LeBlanc also said ACT UP San Francisco has only six members and no support among those infected with HIV.

"These are HIV negative individuals who don't know what they are talking about and misrepresent the data," said LeBlanc.

But Michael Bellefountaine of ACT UP San Francisco said his opponents are lobbyists for large drug companies.

And he said ACT UP San Francisco is the only group within the organization that hasn't taken funds from the drug companies.

"We're here to say if you want to take a shot, take it, but make sure you know what you're promoting," he said.

Bellefountaine said he thinks the conference focuses too much on drug companies who appear to be out to make money, not to help people with the disease live longer lives.

"Look at who's promoting it, look at who's putting the money in it and look at the message. If it were me I'd rather carry on on my own than be poisoned to death," said Bellefountaine.

ACT UP literature printed for the conference says that the Golden Gate, New York and Philadelphia chapters are not affiliated with the San Francisco group.

In its literature, ACT UP San Francisco says the conference amounts to "Old promises, new drugs, same scam." *