FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: August 20, 1996
Health Department Invasion (Part 1):
ACT UP SF Crashes Meeting To Protest Poisonous AIDS Prevention
AIDS activists challenge San Francisco Health Department Director
Sandra Hernandez to publicly debate alleged merits of proposed forced antiviral
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
"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;
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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