ACTIVISTS CLASH OVER TREATMENT OF AIDS
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
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
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
"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
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
In its literature, ACT UP San Francisco says the conference amounts
to "Old promises, new drugs, same scam." *