RICK BOOSTS CONTROVERSIAL AIDS GROUP
By Gregg Birnbaum & Robert Hardt, Jr.
New York Post 27 July 2000
Senate candidate Rick Lazio has been aggressively lobbying the federal
government on behalf of a fringe group that claims AIDS isn't caused by the
HIV virus, The Post has learned.
Lazio has written several letters on his congressional stationery since
1998, including one earlier this year, to two federal agencies in an effort
to get funding for the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of HIV/AIDS.
The group is featured on a Web site--www.virusmyth.org--dedicated to
proving that HIV isn't responsible for the AIDS disease.
The San Francisco-based organization's views are considered by most
government and medical authorities on AIDS to be off the wall and
"HIV causes AIDS--that's been proved every way you can possibly prove it,"
said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, an AIDS researcher at Cornell University.
Laurence said he believes the group's claims can endanger public health
because they lead people to think that "if the virus doesn't cause AIDS,
why should you screen the blood supply? Why should you practice safe sex?"
Lazio spokesman Dan McLagan said Lazio believes HIV causes AIDS, but was
trying to help the group because it was seeking additional federal money
for research into "alternative treatments" for those with the disease.
"Rick disagrees with the group's belief in the cause of AIDS," McLagan
said. "But he's tried to help them as constituents and AIDS sufferers."
Gay Men's Health Crisis official Ronald Johnson responded, "Mr. Lazio's
actions--regardless of his intent--only serve to give legitimacy to a group
that is completely out of the mainstream... It undermines our work."
Lazio wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary
Kevin Thurm on Jan. 7 "to request a meeting regarding unanswered questions
about AIDS funding," according to the letter, which was obtained by The
Lazio noted that over the past two years, he wrote several letters on
behalf of the group and an affiliate, the New York Health Coalition.
On April 7, 1999, the Suffolk County Republican also wrote to the head of
the National Institutes of Health on behalf of the group.
"They are concerned that the NIH is too narrowly focused on a specific
avenue of AIDS research," Lazio wrote.
David Rasnick, head of the group, could not be reached.