SAN FRANCISCO AIDS ACTIVISTS UNITE AGAINST "DENIALISTS"
By Andrew Quinn
Reuters 21 Sept. 2000
San Francisco AIDS activists united Thursday to fight a faction of dissident
"denialists" they accuse of physical intimidation and spreading
misinformation claiming that the global AIDS epidemic is a myth.
"We say as a community, in one loud voice, no more," Michael Lauro, a
volunteer at the group Survive AIDS, told a news conference called to
announce a new coalition dedicated to battling the dissidents of ACT UP San
"We're here to say that ACT UP San Francisco is blocking access to
life-saving information, and we're going to hold them accountable."
The struggle over ACT UP San Francisco has taken center stage among AIDS
groups in a city which was an early focus of the epidemic and has seen more
than 18,000 city residents die of the disease since 1981.
ACT UP San Francisco, like other branches of the group around the world, won
national headlines in the 1980s for staging guerrilla theater demonstrations
and pressing vocally for the rights of AIDS patients.
But in San Francisco, opponents of ACT UP now say that the local chapter has
been taken over by extremists who stalk opponents, spread lies and offer
false hope to the seriously ill by claiming that AIDS is a myth and is not
caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The debate over HIV and AIDS is not confined to San Francisco. While an
overwhelming majority of medical experts say the link between HIV and AIDS is
incontrovertible, a handful of dissident scientists have challenged that
view, and have drawn the support of at least one world political leader,
South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Leaders of ACT UP San Francisco say they are fighting for free speech, saying
established AIDS groups are little more than tools for a pharmaceutical
industry that pushes expensive and toxic drugs on people who do not need
"The people who are accusing us of those acts are part of an AIDS industry
that is rotten with corruption," said David Pasquarelli, one of the leaders
of the San Francisco ACT UP group.
"The accusations are untrue, and they are attempting to deflect attention
away from the real story: the deaths caused by the AIDS drugs that they