Letter to Nobel Prize Committee, October 16, 2008

Date: Thursday, 16 Oct 2008
To: Nobel Prize Committee
From: Jennifer Craig
Subject: 2008 prize in medicine

I wish to refute the second sentence in your promotion of the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine to Montagnier, namely “The report identified clusters of previously healthy young men who suffered from different life threatening medical conditions previously not seen in this population.” This population means, I assume, gay men. I present evidence that these young men were not healthy as they led a lifestyle that defied wellness. Their lifestyle included, the intake of nitrite inhalers, recreational drugs, repeated antibiotics, and multiple sexual partners leading to sexually transmitted disease. Furthermore, as an outcast group, they suffered psychologically.

 Homosexual men have a long history of being scorned and persecuted in Christian societies where they were, and still are by the Christian Right, seen as sinful, sick, child-molesters and doomed to die. In the Nazi era, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and those labelled as mentally retarded were thought to be a danger to the German people and were, therefore, eligible for extinction.

American psychiatrists considered homosexuality a mental illness until the 1970s and only took it off their diagnostic manual after forceful protests by the fledgling Gay Rights movement. As late as the 1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) still classified homosexuality as an illness. 

For decades same-sex acts were illegal. “In the District of Columbia alone, there were 1000 arrests each year in the early 1950s. In every state, local newspapers published names of those charged together with their place of work, resulting in many workers getting fired. The postal service opened the mail of gay men and lesbians and passed on their names. Colleges maintained lists of suspected gay students.” Simple affectionate acts in public, such as two women kissing each other on greeting, could lead to arrest.

Naturally, many gay men did not openly acknowledge their same-sex desires and the term “in the closet” came into being. Social activities between gay men mainly took place in bars often run by organized crime that stood to benefit from these covert gay meeting places. Ian Young writes in his 1995 book, The Stonewall Experiment, “The Big Apple in the 1970s, any Friday night: the Anvil full of gay men, sweatily packed together, dancing, buying drinks, snorting poppers, having fun, a large percentage of them ‘ripped to the tits’, for there were a great many drugs at the Anvil. In the cellar the flickering light of the projector (for this was B.V. – Before Video) illuminated dark puddles on the stone floor, and there were black rooms and cubby-holes for sex with improper strangers. The windows were sealed, the party timeless, human voices barely audible over the disco throb.”

Gay bars were frequently raided by the police. Then on June 27, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the customers responded to a police raid by a show of mass anger that was to last several days. Lionel Wright says in his article, The Stonewall Riots – 1969, “People in the crowd started shouting “Gay Power!” And as word spread through Greenwich Village and across the city, hundreds of gay men and lesbians, black, white, Hispanic, and predominantly working class, converged on the Christopher Street area around the Stonewall Inn to join the fray.” The police brought in their crack riot-control squad who “found themselves face-to-face with their worst nightmare: a chorus line of mocking queens, their arms clasped around each other, kicking their heels in the air Rockettes-style and singing at the tops of their sardonic voices.” 

The Stonewall riots are considered to be the birth of Gay Liberation Movement and gay activism. Men came out of the closet in large numbers and the difficult task of becoming a distinct social group began. “No people can cohese without social guidelines, and gays, aware of it or not, sought them desperately. When they came, they took the form of commercial messages, controlled for the most part by extensive criminal networks, promoting porn stars as role models, bathhouses as the chief recreation, and drugs to put the gay consumers in the right frame of mind … the Mafia became a kind of anonymous corporate sponsor of the gay lifestyle.”

Unlike the Woman’s Movement that encouraged women to honour their bodies, to respect themselves and to seek love rather than sex, Gay Lib’s slogan became “promiscuity knits together the social fabric of the gay male community”, a slogan provided by Canada’s magazine The Body Politic. Promiscuity is confirmed by many respondents interviewed for The Stonewall Experiment and for The Band Played OnA CDC study of the first 100 men in the US to come down with AIDS revealed that the median number of partners over each lifetime was 1,160. 

Across the US and Canada Gay Liberation spawned a $100 million industry of bathhouses and sex clubs. These bathhouses were breeding grounds for disease. “A Denver study found that an average bathhouse patron having his typical 2.2 sexual contacts a night risked a 33 percent chance of walking out of the tubs with syphilis or gonorrhoea, because about one in eight of those wandering the hallways had asymptomatic cases of these diseases.” As a consequence, gay men used antibiotics for prolonged periods. Antibiotics kill off good bugs as well as bad bugs and thus decimate the intestinal flora. As the gut plays a huge role in the maintenance of a healthy immune system, overuse of antibiotics alone can be responsible for immune suppression.

A “new” sexual act among gay men in the 1970s was ‘fisting’ – the manual manipulation of the inside of a partner’s rectum and lower intestine. Not all, or even a majority of gay men engaged in fisting but those who did were over-represented among AIDS cases. Fisters used a lubricant known to inhibit the production of prostaglandin E1, a substance which helps regulate T-cell production. A low T-cell count is considered to be diagnostic of AIDS.

Ian Young writes, “If fisters were over-represented among men who developed AIDS, it might well have had something to do with the massive drug intake which they shared with many other ghetto gay men, at a time when taking half a dozen drugs during a night at the disco was a common practice.”

A survey of 102 fisters, when such surveys were conducted on gay men, published in 1981, indicated that 99% of those polled ‘always’ or ‘almost always’ used drugs as part of fisting scenes.  Types of drugs used included poppers, speed, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and LSD.

Perhaps the prime suspect as the cause of immune collapse in these young men is the inhalation of amyl nitrite, known as ‘poppers’. I remember giving amyl nitrite to patients with angina when I was a nurse in the 1950s. The solution came in little glass ampoules that looked like tiny wine bottles. We had to cover the neck of the ampoule with a piece of gauze before snapping it off. The resultant ‘pop’ gave amyl nitrite its colloquial name. Our medical use of it ended with the introduction of nitro-glycerine so that Burroughs Welcome, its pharmaceutical manufacturer, found another market in the gay ghettos where it became a staple of the new gay lifestyle. Poppers were legal and needed no prescription.

Amyl nitrite dilates the blood vessels and thus enhances sexual arousal and prolongs orgasm. However, the chemical events that occur after inhalation are: a) it is converted into nitric oxide; b) in the presence of nitric oxide the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen is compromised; c) without oxygen the first areas to be damaged are the linings of the smallest blood vessels, particularly in the lungs; c) dead organic material is produced which cannot be completely removed because of the system’s weakened state; e) fungi enter the game because their role is to eat away all kinds of waste; g) pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a fungal disease, develops. 

Clinically, the toxic effects of amyl nitrite include: rapid flushing of the face or cyanosis, confusion, dizziness, fainting, weakness, yellow vision, low blood pressure, anaemia, strokes, thymus atrophy and chronic depletion of T-cells. The liquid is highly flammable and when spilt on the skin causes burns. Poppers have been used to commit suicide by drinking it and even to commit murder when the victim was gagged with a nitrite-soaked sock. 

Lauritsen explains why poppers became a mass phenomenon among gay men: they were legal as long as they were advertised as room odorizers and marketed to only gay men; at $3 a vial they were affordable; they were assumed to be harmless.

Some of the more reputable gay magazines refused to carry poppers ads and some printed warnings. For example, a researcher, Sue Watson, wrote a letter to a 1982 issue of Advocate, saying, “Our studies show that amyl nitrite strongly suppresses the segment of the immune system (cellular immunity) which normally protects individuals against Kaposi’s sarcoma, pneumocystis pneumonia, herpes virus, Candida, amebiasis, and a variety of other opportunistic infections. The upshot of this research is that persons using nitrite inhalants may be at risk for the development of AIDS”.

To give you some idea of the pervasiveness of the inhalant, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that sales in just one US state added up to $50 million in 1976. At $3 per vial that equals more than 16 million bottles.

The use of other drugs by gay men mirrored the increase in use of recreational drugs by everyone in that era. For example, between 1981 and 1993, the number of cocaine overdose victims delivered to hospitals in the US jumped from 3,000 to 120,000, a 4,000% increase.

By 1981, an unusual assortment of disorders had arisen in the gay community: syphilis, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, amoebiasis (increased by 7,000% since 1974), herpes and intestinal infections usually seen in the tropics. 

Amyl nitrite as the cause of AIDS was the most common hypothesis before April 23, 1984. But this was in an era when it was legitimate to debate the cause of AIDS. Following the 1984 viral-cause announcement, no other hypotheses were, or are, allowed. Even to a non-researcher it is obvious that other avenues to explore in the search for the cause of AIDS are drugs – recreational, poppers, antibiotics, lubricants – lack of sleep, sexually transmitted diseases, particularly syphilis, intestinal infections, stress, and any combination of these.

 Wright, Lionel. The Stonewall Riots – 1969. Socialism Today, #40, July 1999 Young, Ian. The Stonewall Experiment. Cassell, 1995, p.6 Wright, Lionel. The Stonewall Riots – 1969. Socialism Today, #40, July 1999 Ibid. p.91 Null, G. AIDS: a Second Opinion. Seven Stories Press, 2002, p. 129 Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On. St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p.19 Young, Ian. The Stonewall Experiment. Cassell, 1995, p.174

Ibid. p.173

 Ibid. p. 173

 Young, Ian. The Stonewall Experiment. Cassell, 1995, p.105

 Engelbrecht, T & Köhnlein, C. Virus Mania. Trafford Publishing, 2007, p.100

 Lauritsen, John. Queer Advertising. Address to the Queer Studies Symposium, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, Januray 15, 2000

 Ibid. p. 108

 Ibid. p. 102

 Duesberg, P. Inventing the AIDS Virus. Regnery Publishing, 1996, p. 260-261