DATE: August 20, 1996

Health Department Invasion (Part 1):

ACT UP SF Crashes Meeting To Protest Poisonous AIDS Prevention Proposal

AIDS activists challenge San Francisco Health Department Director Sandra Hernandez to publicly debate alleged merits of proposed forced antiviral dosing plan.

San Francisco - Twenty protesters from ACT UP San Francisco, outraged by a controversial AIDS prevention proposal that would force San Francisco's HIV-infected to take regimens of unproven AIDS drugs, crashed the monthly meeting of the Health Commission to challenge the city's health director to a public debate on the plan's alleged merits and dangers.

Public Health Director Sandra Hernandez, who is lesbian, announced her novel AIDS prevention proposal immediately after the 11th International Conference on AIDS in a San Francisco Bay Times article by Terry Beswick entitled "Treatment Combinations Herald a New Era: People Living With AIDS Hope, While Officials Worry."

In the optimistic yet scientifically unreferenced article, Hernandez claimed that early and constant medication with potent experimental AIDS chemotherapies like AZT, ddI and protease inhibitors renders people with HIV "less infectious." Furthermore, she encouraged the use of the new compounds as "morning-after pills" by stating that "you can potentially eliminate new infections if you got people started on protease inhibitors plus one or two other drugs" immediately after they engaged in unsafe sex. Most frightening of all, stated ACT UP dissidents, was Hernandez's threat to implement Direct Observational Therapy (DOT) to ensure proper dosing of the AIDS community with these drugs that, activists note, have been on the market for less than a year. It is alleged that virulent strains of HIV can form in patients who fail to consistently take these powerful agents on schedule.

In such a scenario, DOT would mandate by law that all HIV-positive San Franciscans show up at a designated health clinic to consume state-prescribed AIDS drugs in the presence of a public health official. If the patient misses a scheduled dosing or refuses to take the pills, he or she would be jailed and forced to comply. Hernandez admitted in the article that in order for DOT to work "you would have to track everybody and [the patient's HIV status] would have to be reportable as tuberculosis is."

As Tuesday's Health Commission meeting got underway, stealth activists strategically dispersed throughout the audience, leapt to their feet in unison, blew whistles, scattered fake death certificates that accused Hernandez of "mass murder" and chanted "D.O.T.'s A Bitter Pill To Force-Feed Toxic Drugs That Kill!"

Simultaneously, three members of the ACT UP affinity group SPITT (Stop Promoting Immunosuppressive Toxic Treatments) stormed the Health Commission panel, jumped on the conference table and unfurled a banner emblazoned with a skull and crossbones that read "Poisons Don't Prevent AIDS." Activists then presented Hernandez with a statement of demands as others spat in the faces of representatives from the city's AIDS office for remaining silent in the face of what they term a "sinister scheme." Activists escaped before the arrival of authorities; there were no arrests. The Health Commission meeting was delayed approximately 20 minutes.

"As a Latino gay man I am outraged that Dr. Hernandez would propose forcing anyone to take dangerous compounds that cause severe side effects, that harm the immune system and that can kill if mixed with everyday drugs like Seldane," stated HIV-positive activist Ronnie Burk. "We know that these drug pushers don't have a scientific leg to stand on when promoting fascist schemes like D.O.T. It's obvious that health officials, not people with HIV, are San Francisco's real public health menaces."

Activists charged health officials with deliberately misleading the AIDS community into believing that artificially lowering viral load in the blood with expensive drugs reduces viral infectiousness and eliminates HIV throughout the body. They cited numerous scientific studies that cast serious doubt on the predictive value of viral load testing in determining clinical outcome, disease progression or the effectiveness of AIDS treatments on overall health of PWAs.

"The disadvantages of [viral load] assays are fundamental. First, it is unclear whether circulating plasma viral products (RNA, viral protein or intact virions) all give internally consistent results. Second, it is unclear whether plasma viral load is the main measure of HIV disease activity. Third, the quantitative relationship between changes in viral load and drug efficacy is completely unknown. Finally, the relationship between drug efficacy and changes in viral load may differ between different classes of drugs," reported Tim Peto, an expert in the area of surrogate markers, in the May 1996 Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. "At present, there is no convincing evidence that current surrogate markers can be reliably used to predict the clinical efficacy of new treatments."

In addition to a public debate with Hernandez about the alleged value of antiviral drugs and Direct Observational Therapy, ACT UP members demanded that the Public Health Department stop recommending that HIV-positive individuals enroll in clinical trials that test drugs and cease distributing antiviral therapy promotional materials to those who test HIV-positive at city STD clinics.

"Today's action was a mild warning to officials at the Department of Public Health. Stop pushing these dangerous drugs down our community's throat," warned AIDS dissident Antonia Crane. "San Francisco is viewed as a model of how the rest of the nation should respond to AIDS. This intolerable proposal will ruin the lives of PWAs across the country; especially in rural, conservative areas. Make no mistake, today's invasion was just the beginning of our efforts to stop DOT dead in its tracks!"

ACT UP members stated that today's action was the latest in their campaign to challenge the use of chemotherapeutic agents in treating diseases of immune suppression. Activists demand that the focus of AIDS research shift from killing HIV to strengthening the cellular immune response with nontoxic immune boosters like DNCB. ACT UP kicked off its campaign at the XI International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver where they disrupted a major scientific forum on antiviral therapies and demanded that AZT, the first approved AIDS treatment, be immediately pulled from the market. *

MEDIA CONTACTS: Ronnie Burk: (415) 864-0731 Jon Swindell: (415) 826-2715 Michael Bellefountaine: (415) 487-9954

Press photos (digital & paper) of the "Health Department Invasion (Part 1)" are available. 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:

August 19, 1996

Sandra Hernandez Director
Department of Public Health
101 Grove Street, Room 301
San Francisco, CA

This letter is a demand for scientific references to your statements in the July 11, 1996 Bay Times article "Treatment Combinations Herald a New Era". In this article you make three assertions: First, combination antiretroviral treatment with protease inhibitors is an effective treatment against HIV/AIDS because it reduces the infectiousness of HIV. Second, these treatments reduce the level of virus in patients and should be administered to all gay men to prevent HIV infection. Third, People With AIDS (PWAs) who refuse to dose themselves are public health threats and must be forcibly medicated under the auspices of Direct Observational Therapy (DOT). We demand that you supply ACT UP San Francisco with detailed scientific references proving that combination antiretroviral therapy with protease inhibitors reduces the infectiousness of HIV in vitro and is a valid treatment for boosting the deficient cellular immune system that controls the associated infections in AIDS (1).

First, you state that combination antiretroviral therapy with protease inhibitors will reduce the infectiousness and level of HIV within the human body. "I think from a therapeutic perspective...the data we have seen is a phenomenal breakthrough. I think it holds huge promise." We need facts not promises.

HIV is a retrovirus (2). In order to infect a cell (HIV can only reside inside cells), HIV must transcribe itself into first viral then pro viral DNA (3). This is how HIV becomes part of our genetic structure (4). Only by focusing on the pro viral DNA within the infected cell will one achieve an accurate reflection of what viral replication is happening in the body (5). Where it is occurring is also an important question. The blood, which these worthless drugs and tests focus on, contains less than 2% of the bodies' HIV infected lymphocytes (6). This is a tiny sliver in a much bigger picture that includes, among others, the lymphatic system, the lungs and the mucosal tissue- a key area for HIV infection (7). These areas are ignored because the treatments have no effect on them either (8). Reverse transcriptase inhibitors are not specific for HIV (9). They destroy far many more healthy than infected cells (10).

The use of PCR in determining these blood levels is fraudulent and misleading (11). Like CD4 cell counts it is another numbers game, not reflective of one's health but manipulated in order to pressure us into dosing up with deadly drugs (12). Considering Kary Mullis, the man who received a Nobel Prize for creating the PCR test, does not believe HIV causes AIDS, I ask you Sandra, where do you get your information from (13)? Glaxo Wellcome? Roche? Abbot?

Second, your claim that these drugs may have some benefit as a "morning-after pill" for those who have engaged in unsafe sex has moved you from the realm of public health advocate to pharmaceutical guinea pig supplier. "For the individual who may not be practicing safe sex all the time, if they are taking protease inhibitors regularly in combination with other antiretroviral therapy, the presumably, their infectiousness would also be somewhat decreased." Again, ACT UP San Francisco demands that you provide us with scientific references proving HIV to be noninfectious in vitro after the use of protease inhibitors.

Fifteen years and nothing has changed. AIDS=Gay Genocide now more than ever with HIV infection still rising among young gay men (14). As with treatment and research, all of your prevention efforts have failed. Your promotion of toxic poisons to all gay men is unquestionably genocide because you continue to ignore what is at the root of HIV infection: HOMOPHOBIA. San Francisco receives millions every year for HIV prevention resulting in scant condoms and insultingly pointless studies that are demeaning at best and homophobic at worst (15). The money would be better spent funding radical, grassroots queer activism to smash homophobia and end AIDS.

Any prevention effort, from safer sex to vaccines, must focus on boosting the deficient cellular immune system (16). It is this activated arm of the immune system that has kept people uninfected despite numerous unprotected sexual encounters (17). HIV infection occurs not primarily through CD4 cells but macrophages- a key lymphocyte of the cellular immune system (18). Only by activating these cells along with CD8s (the cellular immune system's own anti-HIV cell) will HIV infection be controlled and prevented (19). Again, to treat or prevent HIV infection the cellular immune system must be activated- not suppressed by toxic chemotherapies (20). Non-toxic affordable immune boosters like DNCB should be used prophylactically to prevent HIV infection, along with stress reduction, proper nutrition and health care and a homophobia free society.

Finally, your flagrant promotion of DOT is nothing more than government mandated murder. Despite the fact that most PWAs cannot afford these drugs let alone proper health care, housing or nutrition, they must be dosed daily with toxic chemotherapies that use fraudulent drug company data for support. Your current method of spin control- blame the patient for missing a dose- is Jesse Helm's wet dream come true. Next will come mandatory testing, names reporting and contact tracing. We suppose the camps are already set up for us. We didn't fail the drugs the drugs failed us!

The pharmaceutical promotion of CD4 cell and blood viral load counts with toxic poisons is killing more people than AIDS ever could. PWAs must focus on their CD8 cells and learn about boosting their cellular immune system. The problem is not the virus but the deficient immune system. It is the suppressed cellular immune system that allows for the outbreak of infections that are lumped together and tagged AIDS (21).

ACT UP San Francisco demands the following:

1) Sandra Hernandez's removal from the Department of Public Health (DPH) along with a public retraction for her statements if unable to provide scientific references for her claims during a public debate. ACT UP members will meet any time, any place to challenge the validity of DOT with antiviral drugs.

2) The deletion in all promotional materials of the Department of Public Health the recommendation that asymptomatic HIV positive individuals enroll in government clinical trials that test toxic drugs.

3) The removal of all antiviral promotional materials that are distributed by the DPH to individuals who test antibody positive to HIV in San Francisco STD Clinics.

History will remember that you, Sandra Hernandez, a Latina dyke, chose to use your position of power not to liberate gays and lesbians but to ensure a fresh supply of faggot meat for the pharmaceutical industry pyre. When making such claims in the press Sandra, do not be surprised when PWAs demand science to back it up. Remember, THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!


1) Clerici, M. AIDS 1993, 7 Suppl 1:S135-40.

2) Levy, J. "Viral and Immunologic Factors in HIV infection." Medical Management of AIDS, 3rd edition, Eds. Merle Sande and Paul Volberding. WB Saunders 1992.

3) Ibid.

4) Ibid.

5) Levy, J et al. Science 1996 Feb 2, 271:670-671.

6) Fauci A. NEJM 1993, 328:327-335.

7) Sei S et al. J Infect Dis. 1994, 170:325-33.

8) Levy, J. Lancet 1995 June 24, Vol 345:1619-1621. Barr M. "Attack of the Mutant Monster" POZ 1996 Aug/Sept, Pg.53.

9) Lisignoli G et al. Clin Exp Immunol 1993, 92:455-459. Heagy W et al. J Clin Invest 1991 Jun, 87(6):1916-24. Faraj A et al. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapies 1994 May, 38(5):924-30.

10) Christie Huw. "AZT & Concorde" Continuim Magazine, Vol 2 Issue 2 1994 April/May.

11) Caulfield Charles. "Fauci Says HIV Latency Period 'A Myth'" Anarchist AIDS Medical Formulary North Atlantic Press, 1993.

12) Peto, T. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 1996 May, 37 (Suppl.B):161-170. Seligmann M et al. Lancet 1994 April 9, Vol 343:871-881.

13) Mullis Kary. Preface to Inventing The AIDS Virus, Peter Duesberg. Regenery Press 1996.

14) Business Wire. Bay Area Reporter 1996 July 18, pg.17.

15) Julian Phil. "Prevention: Up Close & Personal" SF Frontiers 1996 July 18, pg.21-22.

16) Clerici M., Shearer G. Immun Lett 1996 Jun, 51:69-73.

17) Ibid.

18) Shatlock R., Griffin G. "Mucosal Transmission of HIV" The Molecular Biology of HIV/AIDS, Ed. A.M.L. Lever. John Wiley and Sons Ltd 1996. Zhu T. et al.Science 27 Aug 1993, Vol 261:1179-1181.

19) Clerici M., Shearer G. Immun Lett 1996 Jun, 51:69-73.

20) Lanzavechia A. Science 1993, 260:937-944.

21) Clerici M. et al. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 20 Jul 1996, 12(11):S135-40