Those who can make you believe absurdities, will make you commit atrocitie —Voltaire

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Poppers- From Incense To Poison

Three very different articles on Poppers, their use, and their relation to AIDS, including a detailed history of Poppers and how it was marketed exclusively for the gay market through the gay media.

Did you know that the manufactures of Poppers ware the pharmaceutical company named Burroughs Wellcome (now known as Glaxo Smith Kline), and that the same company also produced and sold AZT?

QUEER ADVERTISING by John Lauritsen.

The Rise and Fall and Rise of 'the Gay Drug'
By Ian Young
Steam Volume 2, Issue 4

"AHAH! HEH HEH HEH HEH! So! You won't take warning, eh? All the worse for you... And now, my beauties - some thing with poison in it I think. With poison in it! But attractive to the eye!"

- The Wicked Witch of the West, in The Wizard of Oz

Poppers are back! You may have noticed. After almost dropping from sight in the mid-to-late AIDies, they've risen to the surface again in the Naughty Nineties - this time as an illegal, rather than a legal, drug. I live in Toronto, an a friend who used to work in one of the bathhouses here told me their basement was filled with crates of the stuff until just a little while ago. In the dance clubs, vendors wander around selling brown bottles out of shopping bags, or you can order them from ads in the local gay rag, imported from Quebec, where they're still legal.

They're not just in the big centers, either. When I visited Saskatoon a few years ago, everyone on the dance floor of the gay bar seemed to be snorting them. Of course, in the old days, we could buy them over the counter at the Yonge Street head shops. Now they're banned - which means the dealers will come to you.

Of all the drugs, legal and illegal, that have been funnelled into the gay ghetto over the years, the cheapest and (apart from alcohol and tobacco) most widely available was poppers. What the scientists call 'nitrite inhalants,' poppers got their name because when they were first manufactured, they came in small ampoules that were 'popped' to release fumes. That was when they were only available on prescription, for the occasional use of certain heart patients. Once they became a snort 'em-anytime-fun-drug, having to keep breaking open little ampoules tended to limit one's intake, and since, as every child of the consumer society knows, more is better, enter the familiar little brown screw-top bottle.

In the gay ghettos of the Seventies and early Eighties, poppers were always at the center of the action. On any given night at, say, the Anvil in Manhattan, a large percentage of the men on the dance floor would have poppers in hand, and many of the rest would be helping to pass the bottles around. Some disco clubs would even add to the general euphoria by occasionally spraying the dance floor with poppers fumes.

Michael Rumaker, in his classic book A day and a Night at the Baths, describes the tubs as "permeated with that particularly inert, greasy odor of poppers. Wherever you went, the musky chemical smell of it was constantly in your nostrils." He found himself heading to the single, small window, in order to gasp a few breaths of "something other than the cold, kerosene smell of amyl."

My own most vivid memory of poppers in action goes back to Fire Island, sometime in the Seventies - that legendary time. Yes, children, I was there, I remember it. I was vistiting friends in the Pines, and was spending a couple of hours at the disco one night. Across the room, I noticed an acquaintance of mine, the writer George Whitmore, dancing up a storm and inhaling liberally from a poppers bottle which he kept in the pocket of his jeans. Somehow in the course of the evening, the bottle broke, and the contents spilled all over George's leg, giving him a terrible and very unsightly burn. It made me wonder what kind of damage inhaling the stuff must do.

The original, medicinal form of poppers was amyl nitrate, a 'vascular dilator' used by people with angina. They didn't snort it all night of course. They just took a whiff of it on odd occasions when the old ticker felt funny. Still, the product was worth quite a bit to Burroughs Wellcome, the giant pharmaceutical company that owned the patent and enjoyed a monopoly on sales.

Then, early in the Sixties, another angina medicine came along, better, more convenient, and it didn't give you a headache: nitroglycerin tablets. Suddenly, doctors had something else to prescribe instead of those little tins of amyl. (In my collection, I have an intriguing artefact from the Fifties, a little poppers tin marked Burroughs Wellcome - Amyl Nitrate. It's also marked POISON.) So it seemed amyl would go the way of snuff and smelling salts, and the sales graph at BW started to head towards the floor.

Whoever thought up the next move was certainly brilliant in their cynical inventiveness. It occurred to someone that there must surely be other lucrative markets for amyl nitrate, with its characteristic throbbing 'rush' and short-lived feeling of euphoria. Somewhere along the line, contacts with the US military were sounded out, and before long, poppers had found a new test market in the jungle battlefields of Vietnam.

At the height of the Vietnam War the average GI made his tour of duty a little more tolerable by getting strung out on a variety of mood-alternating substances including grass, opium, heroin, and the smorgasbord of amphetamines. The military in those days had a pretty casual attitude to the drug use and quite a few backline supply sergeants found they could use their Mob contacts from civilian life to transport drugs from Southeast Asia to the US.

From '66 or '67 until the end of the American involvement in the war in the mid-Seventies, drugs circulated between American cities and the war zone, and when the war was lost, overseas operations were transferred to Latin America, with cocaine and crack replacing heroin as the drug of choice on the street. The CIA had its hand in this, but that's another story. For the boys in 'Nam, nitrite inhalants were a welcome addition to the chemical stew. They were legal, they were easy to carry, and they were being shipped in from the States, literally by the cratefull - touted as an antidote to gun fumes!

When the surviving GIs returned home, many of them were eager to keep up their poppers habit, and under heavy pressure from the manufacturers, the Food and Drug Administration made a ruling sanctioning over-the-counter sales. Poppers became available without prescription to the American public. Then about a year later, the first reports of peacetime casualties began to come in. Terrible skin burns, blackout, breathing difficulties and blood anomalies caused poppers to be placed under restriction again.

But once you've let the genie out of the bottle, it's pretty difficult to put him back. The ban on amyl quickly became ineffective when an enterprising gay medical student in California, Clifford Hassing, altered its atomic structure just slightly - it isn't hard to do - and applied for a patent on butyl nitrite. The genie was changing form, as genies will.

Soon, Hassing had been muscled out of his thoughtful little home-lab operation by larger 'entrepreneurs,' nominally-independent operators controlled by organized crime syndicates. They made further chemical changes and came up with butyl and isobutyl nitrite - less pure, more toxic, and even faster-acting than the original amyl. And with the post-Stonewall rise of the urban, drug-based 'gay lifestyle,' gays were seen as the ideal market sector for a new aphrodisiac.

At this point the FDA apparently wanted nothing more than to be done with the whole business, and a modus vivendi was established. The unwritten agreement seems to have been: public distribution of poppers would be permitted - as long as they were labelled 'room odorizer and marketed only to gay men. With this cynical unwritten agreement, poppers became a multi-million dollar business for the Mob.

During the Seventies and early Eighties, much of the gay press, including the most influential glossy publications, came to rely on poppers ads for a huge chunk of its revenue, and poppers became an accepted part of gay sex. There was even a comic strip called Poppers, by Jerry Mills. The unwritten agreement was almost never breached: poppers ads appeared only in gay publications. The few exceptions were women's magazines with a large gay male readership, like Playgirl.

Meanwhile, laboratory research on poppers had been quietly proceeding, and a couple of gay activists had been paying attention. Hank Wilson (on the West Coast) and John Lauritsen (in the East) formed The Committee to Monitor Poppers, collecting scientific data on just what poppers were doing. What they found wasn't good. Apart from causing localized damage to nasal membranes, poppers have been linked to anemia, strokes, heart, lung, and brain damage, arterial constriction, cardiovascular collapse, and, most tellingly, the blood de-oxygenation, thymus atrophy, and chronic depletion of T-cell ratio's associated with severe immune dysfunction.

Before the first official reports of AIDS in 1981, relatively few voices had been raised to question what health problems poppers users might be causing themselves. A few attempts were made to curb sales, but the manufacturers always got around it by changing either the chemical formula or the product name. And the gay press, dependent on revenue from ads, did not care to blow the whistle on its own advertiser. One researcher contacted Robert McQueen, the Advocate's editor, to warn him that poppers "strongly suppresses" the immune system and could contribute to KS and Pneumocystis pneumonia. But McQueen said he wasn't interested. The Advocate ran a series of ads promoting poppers as a 'Blueprint for Health.'

While researchers and gay advocates warned of danger, the FDA stood aside; as long as poppers were marketed as room perfume for fags, they would do nothing. And one popper manufacturer circulated a letter to all the gay papers, reminding them just who was "the largest advertiser in the Gay press." They certainly were that, and their ads were obviously very effective. By 1978, poppers industry profits topped $50 million a year. So just how were poppers promoted in the gay media? A look through back issues of gay papers and magazines reveals some interesting features.

An ad for "heavy duty" Bolt, a brand of "liquid incense," shows a couple of jock-strapped soldiers, buddies in 'Nam perhaps, sharing a smoke beside a loaded machine gun. Military nostalgia? Another as shows a bomb falling on a city, with the caustic caption "It's the Rush Hour!" There are ads for a brand of poppers known as Crypt Tonight - a deadly pun linking the crypt and the rock that can kill even Superman. Another brand was called Satan's Scent, which promised "a devilish aroma." A brand called Cum showed its bottle as a dripping cock and balls.

Going over these ads, it's striking how many of them feature bombs, bullets, weaponry, and other symbols of death and destruction. The most sinister of all is a full-page colour spread for a brand called Hardware. It shows an open bottle of the product, surrounded by and seemingly giving rise to the distinctive, death-seeding mushroom cloud of an atomic (or hydrogen) bomb. In the head of this reddish-gold phallic cloud are two human faces, their eyes closed, their noses appearing to melt or dissolve. Between the faces is another, subliminal image: the head of a snorting white bull. The text below reads: "Intensely Powerful."

Poppers ads often combined appeals to masculinity and potency with this sort of overt or covered death imagery. At the same time, the political right was sending gays messages that they deserved to die, and information on the deathly effects of poppers was being suppressed. The results for the gay community were a disaster. A number of studies of the effects of poppers have strongly suggested a link between poppers use and the appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma in young gay men.

During the first few years of the AIDS epidemic, poppers came under suspicion as a possible contributing factor. But after 1984, when the Reagan administration pronounced a single retrovirus to be the only cause of the growing list of AIDS illnesses, the health hazards of poppers were dismissed. All attention and funding was directed to HIV. Eventually, through the efforts of a few dogged activists and researchers, state legislatures began to get into the act, and finally, most jurisdiction made poppers illegal - in spite of a well-financed campaign by a leading manufacturer, W.J. Freezer, the 'Pope of Poppers.' But even then, information about poppers was still not made widely available.

Now that the official explanation of AIDS has shown itself to have holes big enough to drive a truck through, and has produced neither a vaccine nor a cure, even some in the AIDS establishment are beginning to rethink their 'HIV Does It All' position, and are taking a new look at a range of other factors, including the health risks associated with inhaling large amounts of nitrites.

An article by John Lauritsen in June 13, 1994 issue of the New York Native, 'The poppers-KS Connection,' summarizes the latest developments. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is now investigating a possible poppers-KS link, and even Dr. Robert Gallo, formerly the central pillar of HIV orthodoxy, is quoted as reassessing the role of poppers in KS: "The nitrites," he now says, "could be the primary factor."

A few years ago, I asked an old acquaintance, the Canadian AIDS activist Michael Lynch, to join with me in asking a popular gay paper to stop advertising poppers. No, he said, poppers were great, and as a matter of fact he used them all the time. This in spite of the fact that he was battling serious lung problems! Well, poppers can be highly addictive. Many gay men who use them find they're no longer able to enjoy sex without them. Some can't even jack off without them!

Outlawing liquor during the Prohibition era didn't stop people from drinking, it only caused a lot of grief and help the Mob get rich. The recent artificial raising of cigarette prices in Canada was flop, as cigarettes were smuggled over the border by the truckload. Recent history has shown that outlawing any given drug causes far more problems than it solves, and the banning of poppers is unlikely to prove an exception.

The only thing that can make a difference is AEIOU: attitude, education, information, organization, and understanding. In the meantime, poppers are back. I have a couple of catalogues here, one from New York City, the other from the West Coast, offering who knows what ersatz variety of bottled nitrite inhalants - only they're no longer 'room odorizer' or 'liquid incense' but 'video head cleaner' and 'polish remover.' "Just like the old days!" is the slogan. You bet.

George Whitmore, Jerry Mills, Robert McQueen, W.J. Freezer, and Michael Lynch are no longer with us. They all died of AIDS. Burroughs Wellcome, of course, the original manufacturers of poppers, went on to fame and fortune with its monopoly on another fine product, the highly-toxic 'anti-AIDS' drug AZT. *

Ian is the author of several books of poetry, and editor of The Male Muse and Son of the Male Muse, among others. The above article is adapted from The Stonewall Experiment: A Gay Psychohistory, published by Cassell.


Views / An AIDS activist wonders how a flammable drug become so popular among gay men

story by John Lauritsen
Xtra! Mar 23 2000

It is queer — odd and deplorable in the negative sense — that in the past 30 years much of the advertising in ostensibly gay publications has been for poppers.

Poppers have been and continue to cause health problems for tens or hundreds of thousands of gay men. But there is something about gay culture that will not let them go.

It is curious that almost all gay men, but very few others, even know what poppers are. Poppers in their present form are little bottles containing a liquid mixture of volatile nitrites. When inhaled just before orgasm, poppers seem to prolong the sensation. Poppers facilitate anal intercourse by relaxing the muscles in the rectum and deadening the sense of pain.

From a biochemical standpoint, the volatile or alkyl nitrites (amyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and other nitrites) are powerful oxidizing agents. If spilled on the skin, they cause severe burns.

Since 1989 poppers have been a banned hazardous product in the US, (see elsewhere on this page for their history in Canada) but have remained integrally tied to urban gay male culture in both countries. Gay men have learned to read highly coded advertising in order to buy the drug on the black market — a sign of a marvelous marketing campaign, by any standard.

The original poppers were little glass capsules enclosed in mesh, which were “popped” under the nose and inhaled. Manufactured by Burroughs-Wellcome, they contained pharmaceutical amyl nitrite, and were intended for emergency relief of angina pectoris (heart pain). Amyl nitrite was a controlled substance until 1960, when the prescription requirement was eliminated by the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. From 1961 to 1969, a few gay men, primarily those with sadomasochistic proclivities, began using amyl nitrite as a recreational drug. The prescription requirement was reinstated by the FDA in 1969.

By 1970, a new industry had stepped into the breach, marketing brands of butyl and isobutyl nitrite. A most brilliant advertising campaign commenced. Within only a few years, hundreds of thousands of men were persuaded that poppers were an integral part of their gay identity. The ads conveyed the message that nothing could be butcher or sexier than to inhale these fumes. The ads linked the image of bulging muscles to a drug that had no connection whatsoever to bulging muscles.

At its peak, the poppers industry was the biggest money-maker in the gay business world, grossing upwards of $50 million per year, according to Leonard T Sigell in a 1978 article. Gay publications were delighted with the revenues they received from running full-page, four-colour ads for the various brands of poppers. In a 1983 letter to The Advocate, poppers manufacturer Joseph F Miller, president of Great Lakes Products Inc, boasted he was the “largest advertiser in the gay press.”

For gay men who came out in the ‘70s, poppers appeared to be as much a part of the gay clone lifestyle as mustaches or flannel shirts. Accessories were marketed: for leather queens, there were little metal inhalers on leather thongs. One publication had a comic strip entitled Poppers; its hero, Billy, was a child-like but sexy blond, whose two main loves in life were sex and poppers.

By 1974 the poppers craze was in full swing, and by 1977 poppers were in every corner of gay life. At gay gathering places — bars, baths, leather clubs — the popper miasma was taken for granted. For some gay men, poppers became a sexual crutch, without which they were incapable of having sex, even solitary masturbation.

A number of factors help explain why poppers became a mass phenomenon among gay men:

• Poppers have been either legal or tolerated by the authorities. So long as they were labelled “room odorizers” and marketed only to gay men, the FDA looked the other way

• Poppers were affordable. A bottle could sell for as little as $2.99, a lot less than heroin, cocaine, or alcohol

• Poppers were assumed to be harmless. The name “poppers” sounds amusing, innocuous. There had been little word in the gay press about harmful effects.

But poppers do have harmful effects. They damage the immune system. They can cause severe or fatal anemia. They injure the lungs. Poppers have the potential to cause cancer. Poppers can cause death or brain damage from cardiovascular collapse or stroke.

Some scientists have drawn epidemiological links between the use of poppers and the development of AIDS, especially Kaposi’s sarcoma (or KS), an affliction of the blood vessels. At present, the nitrites-KS hypothesis is as strong as any.

Beginning in 1981, San Francisco activist Hank Wilson, founder of the Committee To Monitor Poppers, regularly sent out packets of medical reports to the gay press. These were ignored. In 1982 a scientist sent a letter to The Advocate, describing research which demonstrated that amyl nitrite strongly suppresses the immune systems of mice. The Advocate’s editor said the magazine weren’t interested.

Still in 1982, the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco ran the longest editorial in its entire history, attacking Wilson for criticizing poppers. In 1983, at the request of a poppers manufacturer, The Advocate ran a series of advertisements (“Blueprint For Health”) which claimed that government studies had exonerated poppers from any connection to AIDS. For most of the gay press, advertising dollars were more important than looking critically at a dubious product.

I began collaborating with Wilson in 1983. We published a series of pamphlets and, in 1986, a little book, Death Rush: Poppers And AIDS. In 1983 I spoke out publicly against poppers for the first time at a meeting of the New York Safer Sex Committee.

I was savagely attacked on the spot by a gay physician, the late Stephen Caiazza, who waved his arms and screamed at me like a maniac.

Now it’s 2000, more than 10 years after poppers were outlawed in the US, and not much has changed. Poppers are no longer advertised in the mainstream gay press. But a new market has sprung up on the Internet; many gay porn sites also sell bottles of nitrite mixes often advertised as leather cleaner. The largest circuit party of all, the Black And Blue, held annually in Montreal, has “Z-Best Leather Cleaner” as a major sponsor. I would not recommend using this product on your leather jacket.

I find this deceitful advertising sleazy. We know perfectly well that poppers are not room odorizers, aromas, video head cleaners or leather cleaners. They are chemicals that provide a quick buzz and have harmful side effects.

Banning poppers isn’t the answer. But their use can be harmful and needs to be separated from the gay cultural identity.

Magazine Article

They 'open you up'-- from blood vessels to asshole-- and give you an orgasm 'like a herd of hippopotami.' But are poppers worth the headache and the risks?

As if having some big muscle stud's cock up my ass wasn't pleasurable enough, there's something that can make it even better. They're called poppers, and one good snort I'm begging to have the living shit pounded out of me.

There's only problem: poppers (depending on the formulation) are an illicit street drug in the US and Canada-- though not many other countries (accounting for a lively black-market and internet trade). As with all drugs, poppers have side-effects. For many years I delighted in using them without hesitation or question, but as I've matured and started getting a little more health-conscious, I wanted to know more about exactly what they were doing to my body.

Along with other substances at the borders of legality, research on poppers is scant, and often incomplete and contradictory. I was able to find answers to some of my questions, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't always like what I heard.

But let's back up for a moment and do a little history. Poppers-- or amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and isobutyl nitrite by their various chemical formulations-- were invented in the mid-1800s and used as a treatment for angina, or chest pain. These nitrites are a yellowish, highly flammable, pungent-smelling liquid. You inhale their vapors as the method of delivery to your system.

By mid-20th century, nitroglycerin tablets mostly supplanted use of nitrite inhalants for angina, and they stopped being a prescription drug in the US in 1960-- though a small medical market remains even today, including for the treatment of cyanide poisoning. Falling into disuse, the US Food and Drug Administration in 1960 abolished the prescription requirement for amyl nitrite. Within a few years, Burroughs Wellcome, then the main manufacturer, reported increasing non-medical use, and in 1964 a New York pharmacist was said to be "deluged" with requests for the drug by "healthy-appearing young persons"-- not your average heart patient.

But using nitrite inhalants for sexual stimulation was already probably decades-old, going back at least to the 1930s. "The earliest use was probably by medical students... who had ready access to the drug and a penchant for experimentation," according to a 1978 report, "Isobutyl Nitrites and Related Compounds," that was privately published and written-- evidently with the cooperation of an inhalant manufacturer-- by professors of medicine at McGill University, Queen's University, and the University of California. (The report, along with much breathless effusing about poppers, is available at

Piggybacking on a craze for incense in the 1960s, manufacturers introduced liquid nitrite "room odorizers." It sounds like a strange use for chemicals that, in high concentrations, most people describe as having the odor of old, damp, ripe socks. But in fact, these aromatic nitrites had long been used by the perfume industry. In the 1970s, "odorizers" became hugely popular, especially among gay men, though they were used mostly as inhalants, not air fresheners-- for which use they have almost no physiological effect. Journalist Leonard Sigell estimated in 1978-- just after their peak-- that some four million bottles of poppers were sold in the US, grossing around $50 million. Couching nitrite inhalants as room odorizers became necessary, because in 1969-- reacting against their widespread use for sexual pleasure-- the FDA returned amyl nitrite to prescription status.

Certainly gay men have been using poppers for a very long time. My 76-year-old friend George Hislop says he was introduced to them for the first time in New York City in 1958 at a party. Someone handed him some and told him to try it. "I inhaled deeply, and then a minute later fell back against the wall," he says. "I was like, 'Holy shit, what the hell are these.'" When he regained his composure, his next question was: "And where can I get them?"

Forty-five years later, he's still a "user." He says they help relax him just as some guy's about to penetrate him. Then he can't get enough. "They make me feel like I have 12 assholes," he says. They also help him relax so he can deep throat big cocks.

He says in the old days you could buy them at the corner drug store. They were legal and available without a prescription. Back then they came in packs of 12 little glass capsules that you broke open and then quickly inhaled the vapors before the liquid evaporated. They made a popping sound when you crushed them, and that how they got the name poppers.

But soon after poppers became a consumer product, the small, colorful glass bottles with twist-off caps became endemic. You could find gay men doing them at every party, in coffee shops, and on the dance floors of the club scene. Teenaged kids got into the act and they were popular in high schools. "For me, an orgasm is like a hippopotamus," a woman friend of Consumer Union drugs researcher E.M Brecher said. "But with amyl nitrite, it's like a whole herd of hippopotami." Yet despite such accolades, poppers never seemed to catch on so much among straight men or women.

Just the facts

I wanted to know more about the scientific research on poppers and thought it would be easy to find out what was known on the subject. Wrong. Almost every expert I contacted on the subject knew next to nothing about them.

First I called the Food and Drug Administration in Washington. They were very nice and politely told me they had never heard of poppers or amyl nitrite and would have to get back to me. A few days later they called to simply say that these nitrites "were not approved drugs" and they had no information on the subject. They recommended I talk to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Again, nice people, but they didn't know anything about poppers.

Next I tried Health Canada in Ottawa. The PR flak tried very hard to help me, but there just wasn't information to be found. She said that poppers were not an approved drug in Canada and they did not have any information on it. She did ask around the office, and someone had heard that you could buy them on the internet and she gave me an internet address where I could order them.

I went to the web address and checked it out. A large picture of a semi-cute leather man popped up along with information on their product. The word "poppers" was never used; they claimed their product was a cleaning product for leather sex toys. "Because of the nature of the leather products the cleaner is intended for, constituents of the cleaner also act as a larvicide capable of eradicating insects and insect eggs attached to leather after intimate use of such leather products," the ad said.

They specifically said the product was not for human consumption and should not be inhaled. They claimed to have been evaluated by Health Canada and had their stamp of approval for the product. I called Health Canada back and asked them about what I saw. "If the product does not make a health claim, and is not promoted for human consumption, we do not regulate it," she told me. But she was quick to add that they had not approved the site and the line about their approval would have to be removed from the site. She could not tell me if poppers were legal as supposed leather cleaner.

Next I made a call to a friend of mine. Dr. Jon-Paul Voroney is a young physician I occasionally work-out with at the gym and sometimes we spend time together in Northern Ontario at a friend's cottage in the summers. Turns out he was the right guy to call. He was able to tell me quite a bit about poppers.

Jon-Paul explained to me that poppers are "a rapid acting, short duration nitrite vasodilator." What that means in English is that it causes blood vessels to expand and increase blood flow, giving you a "rush." They also cause smooth muscle tissue throughout the body to relax. The chemical is rapidly absorbed on inhalation within 30 seconds, and lasts a few minutes. He explained the immediate side-effects can be "headache, tachycardia (or rapid heart beat), and dizziness."

There are few major dangers associated with using poppers. The first is that there have been a few reported cases of acute psychosis among people using poppers. That is, a sudden break from reality with delusions and hallucinations. "We don't know how or why it happens, but it can occur without warning," he says, but does not last.

The second danger is severe hypotension, or a major drop in blood pressure. "In some cases the drop is severe enough to result in coma or sudden death," he says. He says the supply of oxygen is reduced causing diffuse brain injury and possibly death. "It's rare, but it does happen," he says. Sometimes the reduction in oxygen is lower and simply results in the patient turning blue.

Dr. Voroney says that transient dizziness is common, but that actual fainting is rare. He also says that poppers may cause mild transient nausea. Poppers also cause intraocular pressure-increases and he says there was one report of a 15-year-old boy who went blind after heavy use of poppers for four consecutive days.

He says amyl nitrite has been implicated in the development of opportunistic infections with people with AIDS as well as Kaposi's sarcoma. There's evidence in rats that poppers suppress some immune function. But, he says, "Some authorities believe it is the lifestyle of the poppers user that is responsible for the higher risk of immunosuppresion rather than the drug itself." Certainly, the claim that poppers cause AIDS-- touted loudly in the 1980s and 90s by some of those skeptical about HIV-- has proven to be without substantiation.

"But the big thing for gay men to watch out for is not to combine poppers with Viagra," he says. "The results can be fatal." He explained that the mixture of the two drugs causes a major drop in blood pressure which can cause stroke or instant cardiac arrest and death. He also warns not to combine poppers and alcohol. "That also causes a drop in blood pressure which can be dangerous," he says.

He says one of the reasons gay men enjoy using poppers for sex is that they cause a relaxation of smooth muscle tissue, including the muscles in the ass, lending credibility to people who report it makes it easier for anal sex. But with anal sex a risk-factor for HIV transmission, increasing anal blood flow and decreasing pain sensitivity can be mixed blessings. Another undesirable effect of poppers is skin irritation, and irritation of the lining of the lungs.

Pleasure to burn

I've certainly seen and experienced that skin irritation business. I've run into George on occasion and seen him with "popper burns" on the end of his nose. The liquid spills a bit as people put it to their nostrils and it can cause redness and chafing, and feels like a real burn. But I've done worse than popper burns on my nose.

One night I staggered home drunk from the bar, having failed to pick up a trick, and fell into bed. I was jerking off with a bottle of poppers when I fell asleep before I finished with the bottle in my hand. It leaked and I woke up in the middle of the night in horrible pain. I had this large burn on my finger where the poppers had leaked out and soaked into my hand.

I went to the doctor the next day and the news wasn't good. "You've got a third-degree chemical burn," he said to me soberly. He made an urgent referral to a plastic surgeon and told me that if feeling in the area didn't return by the time I saw the surgeon, he would have to remove the affected tissue and do a skin graft. Lucky for me, feeling did return and I didn't need the operation. I can tell you I'm a hell of a lot more careful with poppers since that experience.

The other thing I wanted to know about poppers was were they addictive. I got a hold of a counselor at the Center For Addiction and Mental Health here in Toronto. He counsels gay men who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and says "that about 60 percent of the men I see report using poppers." He says that in his experience, poppers are not physically addictive and are different from other drugs in that his clients don't consider them to be a problem and feel they have control over their use of them.

I have one friend who would disagree. Hal is an old pal of mine. We hang out; we drink, talk politics, and exchange stories of memorable tricks. Hal is 50 now, and started using poppers in 1979, when he moved into a house full of gay men who used them all the time.

He didn't like poppers the first time he tried them-- they gave him a headache. Then one day he was home alone listening to music and he tried them again. He loved them, and soon he using all the time for sex and masturbation. There was a period in the 80s when he was drinking, smoking pot, and doing poppers almost on a daily basis.

It got to the point where he didn't know if he was making out with a man or a bottle of poppers. As he got older, his reasons changed. "It's about the addiction, not the sex," he told me in an interview. He says as he's gotten older he can't always get the guys he wants and poppers ease the pain. "They help me forget I'm not getting my fantasy guy," he says. He says it's also about his insecurities. "Generally speaking, I've always felt inadequate and had self-esteem issues. Poppers help me forget and feel better."

He's tried to get his popper use under control, but it's been tough. "I've talked to therapists and doctors, but they don't seem to think it's a serious problem." He says he's always figured they couldn't be good for him and he's tried scare tactics to try to get him to quit, but even that doesn't work. "I've even had sex with guys who were totally not my type just because they have poppers," he says. I've used that trick myself to get the occasional hot guy. Some men are desperate for them and I'm not proud, I can handle being used.

I also wondered if there was a relationship between poppers and unsafe sex, whether poppers relaxed people's defenses like it relaxed their assholes. My expert on the subject was James Murray of the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

He says whether the use of poppers, like most other drugs, leads to unsafe sex depends on a person's relationship with drugs and unsafe sex. He says some people use drugs as an excuse to let themselves go, but that it's not an automatic thing. "There's a correlation for some people and not others," he says, "it depends on the person."

But he does warn that poppers can increase the risk of AIDS in another way. "They dilate the blood vessels in the rectum and that can increase the blood flow and the risk of HIV transmission," he says. "It's a strictly short-term risk, however." He says there's no conclusive evidence about poppers and complications with AIDS, but one thing is very clear: "HIV causes AIDS, not poppers," he says.

Not a Drug War battlefield

The last thing I wanted to know is whether or not poppers are legal. Once again, not an easy question to get an answer to. I telephoned the Drug Enforcement Agency in the US and put the question to them. They had never heard of poppers and took a while to get back to me to say that, to the best of their knowledge, it was not on their schedule of enforced substances and they did not investigate it. They could not say if that meant they were legal.

I called them back a week later and asked them to look into it again; I just had to have an answer to the question. They called me back a week later and told me that someone at the National Institute for Drug Abuse thought that they were possibly on the banned hazardous substances list and illegal to manufacture, distribute and sell. Maybe wasn't good enough.

I figured if anyone would know it was the cops in the heart of queer America in San Francisco. I was right. A narcotics cop I reached told me they were in fact illegal to sell, but legal to possess in California. He said they should be illegal to sell everywhere in the States, but the legality of possession varies from state to state. He also said that this particular drug was just not on the radar screen for them and that he could only remember one person being charged with selling them in the last five years in the State of California.

It also took a number of calls to the police to get an answer to the same question about the laws in Canada. Turns out, though, that poppers are on the list of Controlled Drugs and Substances and are both illegal to sell and possess.

But poppers aren't a priority here either, unless you piss the cops off.

My friend Peter Bochove is a political activist and the owner of a popular Toronto bathhouse. A few years ago he was the general manager and part owner of another bathhouse in town. When the cops raided one of our bars and made arrests, he was there speaking out.

He gave a speech at a community forum denouncing the cops and making pointed remarks at particular senior police officers. A week later the cops showed up at his spa asking if they sold poppers. They searched behind the counter and in the office and seized about $350 worth of the inhalants.

The manager and clerk were charged with selling a restricted substance. But Peter was not charged. He made a fuss and said he was responsible for what happened at his bathhouse and insisted he be charged as well. He got his wish and they all found themselves in court, accused drug dealers. "Those charges were the direct result of speaking out," he says.

Peter is nobody's fool, and before selling the poppers he wrote to Health Canada and asked if the substance on the label of the bottle, hexylbutyl nitrite, was illegal. They wrote back and said it was not a controlled substance and legal to sell. The police had the poppers analyzed and found they were isobutyl nitrite and illegal. But that letter from Health Canada formed the basis of his defense

In the end, he won his case. He says, "The judge ruled you had to be careful, not perfect. In Canada we believe that what it says on the bottle is actually what it is and acquitted us." But, he says, it cost him $35,000 and 18 months in court. "It just proves that there are political consequences for speaking your mind in this country." No one else has been charged in this town for selling them, and he's never sold poppers at his bathhouse again; but he still speaks his mind when he has reason to.

Like Peter, I won't mess with poppers again. I love them and wish I could use them every day as some hot guy pounded my ass. But they're dangerous, and I love life more than big dicks and a moment's pleasure. Make your own decision.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Top Plays Of The XX Century According To Me

My list of the best plays of the XX Century

"Feeling for humanity, gentlemen, is cut for the purse of an ordinary millionaire; with financial resources like mine you can afford a new world order."

The Visit

The Visit - Freidrich Durrenmatt
The Cherry Orchard - Anton Chekhov
Death Of A Salesman - Arthur Miller
Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams
Spring Awakening - Frank Wedekind
Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov
Life Of Galileo - Bertolt Brecht
An Enemy Of The People - Henrik Ibsen
Six Characters In Search Of An Author - Luigi Pirandello
Saint Joan - G.B. Shaw
Accidental Death Of An Anarchist - Dario Fo
The Homecoming - Harold Pinter
Mother Courage - Bertolt Brecht
A Dolls House - Henrik Ibsen
The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams
Long Day’s Journey into Night - Eugene O’Neill
Juno And The Paycock - Sean O'Cacey
The House Of Bernarda Alba - F.G.Lorca
The Mahabarata - J.C.Carriere/Peter Brook
Salome - Oscar Wilde
Far Away - Caryl Churchill
Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf - Edward Albee
Private Lives - Noel Coward
Happy Days - Samuel Beckett
No Man's Land - Harold Pinter
John Gabriel Borkman - Henrik Ibsen
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard
Saved - Edward Bond
Top Girls - Caryl Churchill
The Balcony - Jean Genet
Translations - Brian Friel
Lear - Edward Bond
Glengarry Glen Ross - David Mamet
Amadeus - Peter Shaffer
Sweeney Todd - Sondheim
Attempts on Her Life - Martin Crimp
Crave - Sarah Kane
A Dream Play - August Strindberg
Statements - Athol Fugard
Oleanna - David Mamet
4.48 Psychosis - Sarah Kane
A Number - Caryl Churchill

A Speech From A Film

What is the crime? And what is the punishment? The answer seems to vary from place to place, and from time to time. What's legal today is suddenly illegal tomorrow 'cause some society says it's so; and what's illegal yesterday all of a sudden gets legal today because everybody's doing it and you can't throw everybody in jail. Well I'm not saying this is right or wrong. It's just the way things are... But I spent the last three and a half years of my life in your prison and I think I paid for my error and if it's your decision today to sentence me to more years, I.....I.... You know my lawyers told me 'be cool Billy- don't get upset, don't get angry, if you're good I can maybe get you a pardon, an amnesty, an appeal, this that and the other thing.' Well that's been going down now for the last three and a half years......and I been cool and I been good and now I'm damn tired of being good 'cause you people gave me the belief that I had 53 days left... You hung those 53 days in front of my eyes and then you took those 53 days away, and Mr. Prosecutor!!, I just wish you could...stand right here where I'm standing and feel what that......feels like, 'cause then you'd know something you don't know -- you'd know what MERCY means, Mr. Prosecutor - and you'd know that the concept of a society is based on the quality of its mercy, it's sense of fair play, it's sense of justice...but I guess that's like asking a bear to shit in a toilet... For a nation of pigs, it's funny you don't eat them. Fuck it, give me the sentence. Jesus forgave the bastards, but I can't. I hate you. I hate your nation. I hate your people. And I fuck your sons and daughters.... 'cause you're all pigs.

Midnight Express
written by Oliver Stone, from the book by Billy Hayes & William Hoffer

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

HIV & AIDS Documantaries

The Other Side Of Aids
by Robin Scovill

OSA - Text Trailer

Añadir a mi perfil | Más Videos
See full documentary here

HIV Fact Or Fraud
by Steven Allen


Full version here

by Gary Null


Full documentary here

Deconstructing The Myth Of AIDS
by Gary Null


Full version here

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Theatre of HIV & AIDS

It is inevitable that I should search through the long list of dramatic literature I have read over the years to find parallels to what is happening in our world and lives. Up until a year ago I would have said that Tony Kushner’s Angeles In America was the only work dealing with the subject that history would adopt as a marker for this HIV and AIDS phenomenon. I saw the play in its first London production in the early 90’s when it opened at the National Theatre and had since then kept it in high regard. Just like everyone else, I also hailed it as a landmark in modern theatre too. It was to the HIV & AIDS question what Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls is to feminism. They share similarities in form and structure as well as the blending of reality and fantasy to bring out the epic dimensions of the content. Both seem to deal with the political side of their respective issues in such a way as to say they are sure of their place, and the stamp of approval they have gained as almost pieces essential in mapping out the human experience in dramatic terms and in relation to history. They both give you a glimpse as to how the past has conditioned the present, and, then show you some possibilities or logical outcomes for the future.

Angles In America was the only piece of dramatic literature that really deals with the AIDS question in America (and subsequently with AIDS in the western world in general as the basic pattern, from the viral hypothesis right down to the political debate were all imported from there). So in London we all related to it in a very direct way as well. I have had the script of the play ever since it was first published, and have read both parts many times. I have used it in drama class with students I even had it on the obligatory reading list along with Top Girls and many other plays. I have used Harper’s last speech about dead souls flying up from earth and patching up the hole in the ozone layer in class even to do group work. I bought the DVD box when it was made into a TV film that swept the Golden Globes, bringing together names like Pacino, Thompson and Streep, it was a must for the library. I even gave it out as a gift to some friends and family. I was horrified when I suddenly had to face the fact that everyone had really died from AZT and not HIV, it made the whole thing seem ridiculous, so my beloved Angeles In America would not after all even qualify to be considered as representative and so fail the official list compiled by time and history on the subject of HIV and AIDS. It had to be reclassified. It found itself on a par with some very clever safe sex adds at best. It became nothing more than another piece of well-crafted deceptive propaganda that sold a big lie.

No Angeles In America by Richard Oxman

So I decided to put together a small list of plays that would hopefully, all together, cover all aspects of this affair. These are the plays that best deal with a range of the issues that arise in relation to HIV and AIDS, though none deal specifically and directly with HIV or AIDS, as all save one; Far Away, were written well before HIV and AIDS appeared. I recommend reading them or seeing them if possible. Maybe they can help us understand a little better how we got into this mess and how to find the way out.

I have linked each title to a page where you can find more information about the play including lists of TV adaptations or film for those that find it hard to follow a dramatic text, with its particular demand on the minds eye to simultaneously see the action, or with its heavy reliance on subtext and in some cases stage directions too.

Life Of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
Man vs Dogma. One man facing power and the irrational abstract belief systems of the Catholic Church.

An Enemy Of The People by Henrik Ibsen
A Doctor discovers the water of the local baths is contaminated. He tells city officials of his discovery. The finding threatens to bankrupt the town as the holiday season in just around the corner. He is declared an “enemy to the people” in a meeting of the town’s people by both the political establishment and the people themselves. He is persecuted and silenced. Finally he seems to want to give up and decides it’s time to take his family and leave the town. Then his house is attacked, and that’s when he decides to stay and fight on.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Classic Arthur Miller. This play is about how mass hysteria can be used for political gain and personal desires and vengeance. I think everyone knows this work.

Far Away by Caryl Churchill

Three short scenes about how collaboration with horror is now our daily exercise. Eventually the play shows how it leads to the total disintegration of the very fabric of life as we know it and its natural order. It is an apocalyptic and horrific play and an exceptionally good bedtime read. It’s short play format gives it added power.

The Visit by Freidrich Durrenmatt
The most unsettling play ever written. It’s about the corruption of an entire town presented as a microcosm of the world. It shows how a town collaborates with a plan to kill one of its citizens in exchange for money. Even the mans wife and children collaborate. The central character is a ninety year-old woman with one arm and a wooden leg, an entourage of crazy types including eunuchs and two blind men, an ex husband now a butler (just like in Sunset Boulevard) and a black panther, who returns to her native town called Gullen (a word meaning shit in Swiss) and offers the town money if they agree to kill her ex-lover who dumped her fifty years earlier and when she was pregnant. The town react in horror and reject her offer. She says she will wait. Suddenly you notice how everyone is wearing new clothes, and buying new things. Even the church has a new bell. Every one is buying on credit. Clara is also buying up the whole town. In very little time she owns everything and everyone. Finally, the whole community in the middle of a festival execute the man, and they all exclaim that he died of… “Joy”! The doctor signs the death certificate and Clara takes his body back to her villa in Capri to bury him there.

HIV & AIDS nearly 25 years on is still a headache for us today, maybe now it is a little clearer to see that it is one of corruption and not scientific error anymore. It has corrupted science and truth perhaps irredeemably. It has turned our dreams into nightmares, and left us all feeling and looking a little like Lady Macbeth, standing in the dark and ringing our hands in a sleepwalking daze, trying desperately to avoid all mirrors so as not to see our own reflections there.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lee Evans

Lee Evans

A new biography, by noted sport's writer Frank Murphy, The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City, contains the only account of that unforgettable olympics Lee vouches for as accurate. Mr. Evans is currently the head track and field coach at The Univesity of South Alabama in Mobile, and one of his recruits, Vincent Rono (from Kenya) captured the gold in the men's 1500 m. final of the NCAA games held in Sacramento in June. Almost nobody knew this because the TV commenters thought the real story was in interviewing the second place finisher from Florida. Even though he lost, his team (the favorite) still took first, and the TV people wanted to make sure he did not feel really badly about being beaten by some African from a no name university who was coached by the still unmentionable Lee Evans, who told Avery Brundidge and the entire racist Olympic establishment where to shove it 40 years ago. And since he never recanted, he has never been forgiven. I don't have to say how many national medals the UofSouthA won before his arrival four short years ago, but it would be the same as the number of AIDS patients cured in more than 25. (Otis)

Lee Evans on the HIV Test

Alive & Well $50,000 Fact Finder Award

Find One Study, Save Countless Lives

Non-profit Education, Research and Support Network Offers Money in Exchange for Missing Science
Tel 877-411-AIDS, 818-7801875

Alive & Well will present a cash award of $25,000 to the first person to locate a study that provides us with missing evidence about the accuracy of HIV tests, and in celebration of this important finding, will donate an additional $25,000 to Heifer International, a unique charity working to end hunger in the developing world using a holistic approach to building sustainable communities.

The missing evidence we’re looking for is a study published in a peer reviewed medical journal that shows the validation of any HIV test by the direct isolation of HIV from the fresh, uncultured fluids or tissues of positive testing persons.

Since no HIV test directly detects HIV itself, and since the tests currently used to diagnose HIV infection rely on surrogate markers such as antibodies or genetic material, a study should exist somewhere in the published medical literature which shows that at least one type of surrogate test for HIV has been validated for accuracy by the direct isolation of HIV itself from people who test antibody, RNA or DNA positive.

The $50,000 offered through Alive & Well will be paid by two anonymous donors committed to the possibility of integrity in AIDS science and to creating a world in which no one goes hungry. Award funds will be disbursed within 30 days of presentation of the required evidence as described above.
For each month the award remains uncollected, Alive & Well founder Christine Maggiore, will make a personal donation to Heifer International ( whose work resolves the most prevalent cause of disease and death in Africa: poverty and malnutrition.
The Fact Finder Award expires on April 23, 2009, the 25-year anniversary of the historic announcement by the US Department of Health and Human Services that HIV had been found.
Potential participants should note that detection of other surrogate markers not mentioned in this text (reverse transcriptase, p24, etc) or the presence of “retrovirus-like particles” in co-culture do not substitute for evidence of direct isolation of HIV from fresh, uncultured fluids or tissues.

Can a study that validates HIV tests really be missing from the medical literature?

That’s what we want to find out. It’s been 23 years since the discovery of HIV and the development and marketing of the HIV antibody test, yet it appears that no study ever validated HIV tests by the direct isolation of HIV from persons who test positive or have a “viral load.” As far as we can tell, the accuracy of the HIV antibody tests used around the world to say someone is infected with HIV has never been properly established, and there’s no information in the published medical literature showing how many positive tests occur in the absence of infection with HIV.

What would a validation study prove?

The accuracy of an antibody or other surrogate test for a virus can only be established by verifying that positive results are found only in people who actually have the virus. This standard for determining accuracy was not met in 1984 when the first HIV antibody test was developed. To this day, positive HIV antibody screening tests (ELISAs) are verified by a second antibody test of unknown accuracy (HIV Western Blots) or by “viral load,” another unvalidated test.

A validation study would prove the ethical and scientific basis for the practice of telling people who test antibody, DNA or RNA positive that they are infected with HIV. Without evidence of validation by direct isolation of the virus, a diagnosis of HIV infection rests on unverified beliefs and unfounded assumptions.

Is a validation study worth $50,000?

To us, $50,000 is a small price to pay for scientific validation that HIV tests give positive results only to people who actually have the virus.

Current HIV tests signal the presence of antibodies that react with an assortment of proteins associated with HIV, however, none of these proteins, are unique or specific to HIV. Without a validation study, no honest, well-informed doctor can say with any degree of certainty that someone who tests positive actually has the virus.

Why can’t “viral load” tests be used to validate HIV antibody tests?

Like HIV antibody tests, viral load tests are not able to directly detect HIV itself. Instead, these tests detect only fragments of genetic material (DNA or RNA) associated with HIV. To date, we have not found a study showing that the DNA or RNA attributed to HIV is found only in people who are actually infected with HIV using direct isolation as a gold standard to determine true infection.

In fact, viral load tests carry disclaimers stating they are “not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic to confirm the presence of HIV infection” (Roche Amplicor viral load test).

Why isn’t an antibody test that’s verified by another antibody test good enough to say someone is infected with HIV?

The rationale for the use of antibody tests is that the immune system has the ability to detect foreign agents or viruses and to respond by producing antibodies that react with those agents or viruses. However, this rationale does not work in reverse. That is, the observation of an antibody reaction with a particular agent or virus does not prove that the antibody was produced in response to that particular agent or virus.

The problem with using antibodies alone to indicate infection with a particular agent or virus is that antibodies engage in indiscriminate relationships with a variety of agents or viruses. One could say that antibodies are “promiscuous,” that is, antibodies meant for one agent or virus may react with another agent or virus that is a perfect stranger. Or, to put it technically, there is ample evidence that antibody molecules, even the most pure (monoclonal antibodies) are not mono-specific, and that they cross-react with other, non-immunizing antigens.

What does all this mean?

What this means is that people do not necessarily have the virus that their antibodies may appear to suggest they have. Here are some examples of how misleading antibody tests can be:

1) People can have positive antibody responses to certain laboratory chemicals, but this does not mean they are infected with laboratory chemicals.

2) People vaccinated for polio will test positive for antibodies to polio even though they don’t have polio.

3) People exposed to TB will test antibody positive for TB but this does not necessarily mean they are currently infected with TB.

4) The test for glandular fever measures antibody response to red blood cells of sheep and horses, but a positive test does not mean that someone is infected with sheep or horse blood, or that animal blood causes glandular fever.

> From these few examples, we understand why antibody response alone cannot
determine if someone is infected with a particular virus.

What's the solution to the problems with HIV antibody tests?

Since antibody reactions can come from more than one possible cause, scientists need more information before they can claim that an antibody reaction alone means a person is actually infected with a particular virus. Long before the HIV test was introduced into routine clinical practice, scientists needed to prove that a positive test means that HIV itself is present, too. This is especially important given the profound implications of testing HIV positive. People’s lives literally depend on the specificity of HIV tests.

What is specificity?

In this case, the formal, mathematical definition of specificity is the number of negative tests in a large group of individuals who do not have HIV infection. If 100% of 1,000 people who do not have HIV infection also test antibody negative, the specificity of the antibody test is 100%. If one uninfected person tests antibody positive, the specificity of the test is reduced to 99.9% (999/1000) due to the single false positive result.

As far as we know, the specificity of HIV tests has not been established in this very necessary scientific manner.

Is specificity the same as accuracy? How is the accuracy for an HIV test determined?

A study that establishes the sensitivity and specificity of an HIV test would provide a scientific basis for claims of accuracy.

Sensitivity + Specificity = Accuracy

To determine the sensitivity of an HIV antibody test, researchers need to establish the numbers of persons with positive tests, and the number among those who also have HIV infection as determined by the direct isolation of HIV from their fresh, uncultured fluids or tissues.

Conversely, to determine the specificity of an HIV antibody test, researchers need to establish the numbers of persons with negative tests, and the number among those who also have no HIV infection.

How did AIDS experts arrive at the specificity of the HIV antibody tests used today?

According to the medical literature on AIDS, the specificity of HIV antibody tests has been evaluated by testing healthy individuals such as blood donors. Because these individuals are healthy, it’s assumed that negative antibody test results mean they don’t have HIV, and because few if any of these people test positive, AIDS experts use this information to claim that the antibody tests are highly specific. This evaluation is the wrong type of experiment from which to draw such conclusions for two reasons.

First, healthy people do not have a large number or a variety of antibodies to react with the test, so there are not enough antibodies available to measure the propensity for unwanted reactions. Second, good health cannot be used as a substitute measure for the absence of HIV infection any more than good health can be used as a substitute measure for the absence of kidney stones, pregnancy, cerebral aneurysms, pathogenic bacteria or coronary artery disease.

What is the correct solution to the problem of distinguishing who is and who is not HIV infected?

According to Dr Valendar Turner (, a medical doctor who has examined the problems with HIV tests, “The solution is obvious, scientifically speaking. You have to use HIV itself to validate the tests. To do this, you must take two samples from each person in a study and divide the two blood samples from each person in two groups: One sample to test for the antibody reactions and the other to try to directly isolate HIV. To know what the HIV antibody tests tell you about HIV infection, you then compare the reactions (positive tests) with what you are trying to find or measure (actual virus). The only way to distinguish between real reactions and false reactions (cross-reactions) is to use direct isolation of HIV as an independent yardstick or gold standard.”

What would the results of such an isolation experiment show?

The results of such an experiment would show how many of an appropriately chosen group people from whom HIV cannot be isolated have a positive antibody reaction anyway. This would tell us how many positive antibody tests occur in the absence of HIV infection.

Without validation by direct isolation of the virus from the fresh, uncultured fluids or tissues of people who test positive, AIDS experts cannot know what positive and negative test results actually indicate.

That there appears to be no data establishing the accuracy of HIV tests is particularly concerning given that people who test positive are said to be infected with a fatal, incurable virus and treated as if this were an indisputable truth.
Why is it called a Fact Finder Award?
What we want to find meets the dictionary definition of a fact, which is:
1. Something that can be shown to be true, to exist, or to have happened.
2. The truth or actual existence of something, as opposed to the supposition of something or a belief about something.
3. A piece of information such as a statistic or a statement of the truth.
4. The circumstances of an event, motion, occurrence, or state of affairs, rather than an interpretation of its significance.
5. Something that is based on or concerned with the evidence presented in a legal case.
In our search of the published medical literature, we have not found actual existence of evidence showing that popular interpretations of the significance of HIV tests are scientifically validated, and that suppositions and beliefs about the accuracy of HIV tests are scientifically correct. In exchange for a fact--a piece of information that shows statistics and statements are true--we will award the finder. Hence, the “Fact Finder Award.”

(Definition of “fact” is from Encarta Dictionary, 2007 edition)

If a study that validates HIV tests may not exist, what’s the point of offering the award?

We hope a monetary incentive will motivate someone to find a study we’ve missed or to inspire a group of AIDS researchers to create one that hasn’t happened.

The spirit of the Fact Finder Award is win-win. Anyway it goes, everyone will benefit from questions and concerns about HIV tests being addressed in a forthright, scientific manner.

With this in mind, we invite you to join an effort that’s good for one and all by passing this offer on to AIDS doctors, AIDS scientists, AIDS organizations, AIDS activists and celebrity spokespersons, journalists, teachers, medical students, or anyone who wants to help Heifer International end hunger and poverty in developing world by building sustainable communities.