11 May 2000

We would very much like to thank all our friends and supporters who contacted us regarding our absence from this meeting. We are sorry if you think we have let you down and believe you are entitled to an explanation. In fact, unusual as it may appear, Eleni was keen to attend this conference. There were a combination of factors which led to our non-attendance. For some time prior to the conference we were receiving information that there were some individuals, including some dissidents, who were not in favour of our involvement. The fact that we were not invited along with the majority of the other panelists appeared to support this view. The reason is more than likely because we are regarded as being "too radical". Thus, when the invitation to Eleni arrived (24/4/00) it was totally unexpected. Unfortunately the agenda was not received until 1/5/00 and my invitation arrived on the Wednesday before the conference began.

Several travel agents in Perth found it impossible to book us a flight. A flight was eventually achieved from Johannesburg but left us with only two choices. To fly the day after my invitation via Asia, or fly on Saturday direct. Either way we could not have arrived in South Africa before 5 am Saturday morning and could only have participated in the meeting on Sunday.

This would have severely limited our ability to contribute to the proceedings and in fact may have been counterproductive. Indeed, it may have split the dissident movement even further. This is because, as most of our supporters know, like Peter we believe that the cause of AIDS is not HIV and that drugs may play a role in the development of AIDS in some individuals. In fact, before Peter, Eleni hypothesised that drugs may play a role in AIDS, gave a mechanism and proposed ways to prevent and reverse the effects. To be fair, this idea was put forward even before Eleni by other individuals including John Lauritsen and the late Michael Callen. However, in all other aspects the Perth group is at odds with Peter and this may have become very apparent at the meeting without the time for thorough discussions with everyone else present. Also, there was the not inconsiderable risk that our "radical" but as far as we are concerned, quite fundamental and logical views, may have been gagged. We may have even been put in the invidious and unenviable situation of not being able to sign a dissident communiqué.

Thus I decided it may be better for us not to attend. This was a particularly difficult decision and I regret very much that many of you feel we have let you down. However, the fact that we did not go to South Africa does not mean we are not prepared to work as hard as ever to help solve the problem of AIDS. In this regard we hope you will look to our record in which we have some pride. We remain extremely grateful to President Mbeki, his government and all our friends in South Africa (if there are any left) for their openness and their willingness to consider our views.

Warmest regards,

Val Turner from the Perth group