HIV/AIDS vigilantes have accused HIV Skeptics and AIDS Rethinkers of contributing to the death toll by influencing some people to resist antiretroviral treatment. The enumeration of names of people who refused antiretroviral treatment and died is among the unsavory tactics of the vigilantes at “AIDSTruth” (see, for example, “Questioning HIV/AIDS: Morally Reprehensible or Scientifically Warranted?”, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 12 [#4, Winter 2007] 116-120).
The “AIDSTruth” list of people who died lacks necessary information about the health risks that had affected the named individuals. Yet the death of any given “HIV-positive” person who was not taking antiretroviral drugs might have resulted from any one of a large number of possible causes. Some of those on the list had taken AIDS medications for many years before quitting because of adverse effects, or because of a change of perspective; others had a history of compromised health caused by long-term drug or alcohol addiction, or health challenges not related to AIDS.
A direct response to the AIDSTruthers’ exploitation of people’s deaths is the appended list of high-profile AIDS activists, treatment advocates, and celebrities who followed doctors’ orders to consume AIDS drugs and died anyway — often in the prime of their lives — from the very AIDS illnesses they believed the drugs would prevent, or from heart attacks, organ failures, cancers, or other conditions characteristic of chronic exposure to toxic anti-HIV chemicals. Notice that some of these deaths of AIDS activists are attributed to “AIDS-related conditions” or “AIDS complications” — terms that fail to disclose whether the death resulted from a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes, lactic acidosis, cancer, liver failure, or some other adverse effect of AIDS drugs. As I’ve pointed out on several earlier occasions, the official Treatment Guidelines acknowledge that such “side” effects of HAART are responsible for more mortality than the “disease” supposedly being treated:
“In the era of combination antiretroviral therapy, . . . the risk of several non-AIDS-defining conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, liver-related events, renal disease, and certain non-AIDS malignancies [97-102] is greater than the risk for AIDS in persons with CD4 T-cell counts >200 cells/mm3; the risk for these events increases progressively as the CD4 T-cell count decreases from 350 to 200 cells/mm3” (p. 13, 28 January 2008 version).
Despite this acknowledgment, the numbers of “AIDS” or “HIV disease” deaths reported each year in the US are actually the numbers of people who tested “HIV antibody positive” or were living with an official AIDS diagnosis when they died of any cause at all, be it an accident, a homicide or suicide, or a non-AIDS illness like diabetes that may be a “side” effect of antiretroviral drugs [Walensky et al., cited in HIV/AIDS SCAM: Have antiretroviral drugs saved 3 million life-years?, 6 July 2008 ].
A recent post [HAART saves lives— but doesn’t prolong them!?, 17 September 2008] noted that the dramatic drop in deaths between 1996 and 1997, by about half, had not been accompanied by any dramatic increase in the median age at which HIV-positive people were dying: that median age had been increasing at about the same rate — ~0.4 years per year — since 1982. A nitpicker might point out that the rate was only ~0.3 years per year up to 1993 and about twice that thereafter — predictably, because since 1993 the definition of “AIDS” had included people with low CD4 counts but who are asymptomatic — i.e., people who are not ill —, a definition not adopted in such other regions as Australia, Britain, Canada, or Europe. “Side” effects of antiretroviral drugs would naturally take longer to kill people who had been initially healthy than those who had presented with some sort of illness at diagnosis.
Eleven of the people named below died before the HAART era, and 26 died after the introduction of HAART in 1996.
AZT medication from 1987 to 1996 can be blamed for at least 150,000 deaths [HAART saves lives— but doesn’t prolong them!?]: the immediate 50% decline in deaths from 1996 to 1997 seems the direct result of desisting from the administration of high doses of AZT. But HAART typically includes appreciable amounts of AZT or a similar drug, so HAART remains toxic, even if somewhat less so than pure high-dose AZT.
The latest published claims for HAART include that life expectancy for 20-year-old HIV-positives had increased by 13 years between 1996 and 2005 to an additional 49 years, and for 35-year-olds the life expectancy in 1996-99 was said to be another 25 years (Antiretroviral Therapy Collaboration, Lancet 372  293-99). But the death statistics show that the median age of death from “HIV disease” was still only 45 in 2004 [HAART saves lives— but doesn’t prolong them!?]; and, indeed, the 26 people listed below who died after 1996 averaged 44 years of age at death. The activists’ refrain that AIDS is now a chronic, manageable condition is contradicted by the facts — at least for those “HIV-positive” people who accept antiretroviral treatment.
Researching and preparing this post has been no pleasant task. Death comes to all of us sooner or later, and most of us summon sympathy and empathy over any human death. Not many people are willing to use deaths of named individuals as talking points in an argument, as the AIDSTruthers do. Unfortunately, the only answer that might be heard by these vigilantes is to cite deaths that directly contradict their claim, for the AIDSTruthers have explicitly refused to engage in reasoned, evidence-based discussion, and they have shown themselves impervious to more general argument. So, while regretting the need to do so, we present these data to correct the one-sided story put forth by the AIDSTruth vigilantes.
We even understand — apparently, unlike the AIDSTruth Team — that anecdotes or lists cannot serve to establish reliable generalizations. Nevertheless, because these prominent AIDS “activists” and proponents of HAART were as well placed as anyone could be, to know about and to receive the very best antiretroviral treatment, their premature deaths do seem probative of the claims made for HAART. Moreover, their average age of death is consistent with the statistical data from death certificates reported by the Center for Health Statistics [Table 2 in HAART saves lives— but doesn’t prolong them!?].
Deceased AIDS Activists, Treatment Advocates and Celebrities
who died owing to or despite taking AIDS medications
(This information is from various published obituaries;
some are quoted direct, others have been shortened or copy-edited)
I — Pre-HAART
Hollywood Icon Rock Hudson Dies of AIDS
On 2 October 1985, actor Rock Hudson, 59, became the first major U.S. celebrity to die of AIDS. Hudson’s death raised public awareness of the epidemic, which until that time had been ignored by many in the mainstream as a “gay plague”. It’s of interest that Hudson’s partner, Marc Christian, with whom he lived and from whom he withheld the serious nature of his condition, never tested HIV positive as a result of their unprotected, intimate contact.
Liberace Dies at 67 from AIDS
On 4 February 1987, Walter Valentino Liberace, world-renowned pianist and entertainer, died after falling into a coma. The official cause of death was complications of AIDS, though those close to him refused to acknowledge that he ever had AIDS.
Barry Gingell, Medical Director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Dies at 34
Dr. Barry Gingell, 34, who became medical director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization in New York and a noted advocate for improved treatment of AIDS patients, died of AIDS on 28 May 1989 at a hospital in New York City.
Keith Haring, Artist/Cartoonist, Dies of AIDS at 31
When artist Keith Haring died on 16 February 1990 of AIDS, he left behind an astonishing artistic legacy. In his 31 years, Haring had gone from being an anonymous graffiti artist who drew chalk figures on New York City subway posters, to being called the successor to Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Ryan White Dies of AIDS at 18; His Struggle Helped Pierce Myths
9 April 1990 — Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who put the face of a child on AIDS and served as a leader for gaining greater understanding and compassion for those with the deadly disease, died today at age 18, in Riley Hospital for Children, owing to complications of AIDS. Ryan, a hemophiliac who contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, had entered the hospital on March 29 suffering from a respiratory infection. His death continues to be used to raise “awareness” and funding for AIDS.
White had been taking AIDS-treatment drugs. Other sources attribute his death to internal bleeding as a result of hemophilia.
Rock Singer Freddie Mercury Dies at 45
24 November 1991 — Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the rock band Queen, died of AIDS-related pneumonia on Sunday at age 45. A day before his death, Mercury released a statement indicating that he had the disease: “I felt it correct to keep this information private to date in order to protect the privacy of those around me.” He added that he wanted everyone to join him and his doctors to combat AIDS.
As with Rock Hudson, Mercury’s long-term partner never tested HIV positive.
Kimberly Bergalis, AZT Victim
After testing HIV positive, Bergalis was treated with AZT at the University of Miami. Suddenly she started a precipitous decline in health. In an angry letter, she partly ascribed her symptoms to the toxic drug: “I have lived through the torturous ache that infested my face and neck, brought on by AZT. I have endured trips twice a week to Miami for three months only to receive painful IV injections. I’ve had blood transfusions. I’ve had a bone marrow biopsy. I cried my heart out from the pain”. This was only the beginning. The yeast infection that led to her AIDS diagnosis worsened after AZT treatment and became uncontrollable; she lost more than thirty pounds, her hair gradually fell out, her blood cells died and had to be replaced with transfusions, and her muscles wasted away. Her fevers hit highs of 103 degrees, and by late 1990 her T-cell count had dropped from an average of 1,000 to a mere 43. She looked just like a chemotherapy patient — which she now was. She developed AIDS just two years after testing HIV positive, and died shortly thereafter (on 8 December 1991).
AIDS Activist, Artist Alison (‘Ali’) Gertz, 26, Dies
8 August 1992 — Alison Gertz, who was exposed to the AIDS virus during her first sexual experience at age 16, died Saturday at her parents’ home in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Gertz went public with her disease, giving lectures, founding an AIDS-awareness group called Love Heals, and allowing the airing of a television movie based on her life. To keep her functioning normally, Ms. Gertz each day took AZT, Ganciclovir, and Bactrim.
Arthur Ashe: The Gentle Warrior, 1943-1993
6 February 1993 — Ashe was ranked the number-one tennis-player in the world in 1968. He contracted the AIDS virus from an unscreened blood transfusion during his second open-heart surgery in 1983. Later he organized the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS. Arthur Ashe died at age 49 in New York Hospital as a result of AIDS-related pneumonia.
In his book, Black Lies, White Lies, journalist Tony Brown — a close friend of Ashe’s — reveals that in the last months of his life, Ashe concluded that the AZT therapy he took in response to testing HIV positive was at the root of his descent into illness.
Bruce Voeller, NGLTF Founder, Loses Battle with AIDS
13 February 1994 — In the 1970s, Bruce Voeller founded the National Gay Task Force (NGTF), which in 1986 changed its name to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). It was Voeller who had suggested the name AIDS, “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”, instead of GRID, “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency”, which he considered both stigmatizing and inaccurate. Voeller lost his own battle with the disease and died at his Topanga, CA, home, assisted by his life partner, Richard Lucik.
MTV Star Pedro Zamora Dies at 22
11 November 1994 — AIDS activist Pedro Zamora died of AIDS at age 22. Zamora said he became infected with HIV through unprotected sex when he was 17. He testified at a congressional hearing, appeared in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention television commercial about AIDS, and was featured on MTV’s “The Real World”.
Elizabeth Glaser Dies at 47; Crusader for Pediatric AIDS
4 December 1994 — Elizabeth Glaser, who waged a tireless campaign to draw attention to pediatric AIDS, died yesterday at her home in Santa Monica, CA. She was 47. The cause was complications from AIDS, said Josh Baran, a spokesman for the family. Mrs. Glaser, the wife of Paul Michael Glaser, a director and actor who starred in the “Starsky and Hutch” television series, was one of several public figures to bring AIDS to the forefront of the 1992 Presidential campaign. She had contracted the virus through a blood transfusion in 1981. Thousands of delegates, dignitaries, and guests stood frozen in place at the Democratic National Convention in New York City as she told of the death of her 7-year-old daughter, Ariel, in 1988 from AIDS.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Glaser’s autobiography, In the Absence of Angels, reveals that prior to starting the AIDS drug treatment that she had delayed for many years, her T-cell count was in normal ranges and she was enjoying normal health.
II — During the HAART period
ACT UP DC Founder Steve Michael Dies at 42
Steve Michael, founder of ACT UP of Washington, DC, died of AIDS complications on 25 May 1998. Michael’s partner of seven years, Wayne Turner, gave the order to disconnect Michael from life support after his condition severely worsened. Michael had spent almost four weeks in the intensive care unit at Washington Hospital Center for treatment of AIDS-related pneumonia. He was 42 years old.
AIDS Activist Simon Nkoli Dies
30 November 1998 — Nkoli died on the eve of World Aids Day, and in news articles was described as “only 41 years young”. Nkoli was the first South African to declare openly that he had AIDS.
Singing Star Ofra Haza Dies at 42 of AIDS Complications
Ofra Haza, popular Israeli singer, died on 23 February 2000 at the age of 42. Although initial reports suggested that Haza was only suffering from pneumonia or an extended bout with the flu, The Jerusalem Post reports that she suffered from liver and kidney failure.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Leading HIV/AIDS Activist, Dies
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, one of the world’s leading AIDS activists, died on the night of 10 May 2000, owing to complications from AIDS. To the last, Kiyoshi remained an activist, insisting on and receiving the most aggressive treatment for cancer and the HIV that complicated its treatment. He participated fully in every treatment decision, making sure that he, his friends and fellow activists were involved with his treatment every step of the way.
Stephen Gendin, Activist and Writer, Dies of AIDS at 34
Stephen Gendin, who was at the center of AIDS activism for fifteen years and whose provocative writing in POZ magazine as a gay man struggling with HIV sparked community controversies, died on 19 July 2000 at New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital. He was 34. Gendin’s death was caused by cardiac arrest while undergoing chemotherapy for AIDS-related lymphoma.
Nkosi Johnson, Young AIDS Activist, Dies at Age 12
1 June 2001, South Africa — Nkosi Johnson, a boy who was born with HIV and became an outspoken champion of others infected with the AIDS virus, died Friday of the disease he battled for all of his 12 years. Nkosi had collapsed in December with brain damage and viral infections. His foster mother, Gail Johnson, said he died peacefully in his sleep. Nkosi is featured in the documentary film, Questioning AIDS in South Africa.
Frances ‘Dace’ Stone, AIDS Activist, Dies at 48
20 August 2001 — Longtime AIDS activist Frances “Dace” Stone, 48, died of undisclosed causes last Wednesday in Washington, DC. Stone had been involved with the Whitman-Walker Clinic for nearly 20 years as a volunteer, board member, and former president of the board of directors.
Gay Columnist Lance Loud Dies of AIDS
Lance Loud, the openly gay columnist probably best known for his role in An American Family and as a columnist for various magazines, including The Advocate, Details, Interview, and Creem, died at age 50. Lance entered a hospice suffering from AIDS and died on 22 December 2001.
AIDS Activist Belynda Dunn Dies
13 March 2002 — HIV-positive activist Belynda Dunn, whose crusade for a new liver pitted her against a big insurer and won the support of Boston’s mayor, died yesterday in a Pittsburgh hospital, four days after she received the second of two liver transplants. She was 51. Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center believe a blood clot clogged her lungs.
Project Inform Board Member Linda Grinberg Dies
27 May 2002 — One of AIDS activism’s greats, Linda Grinberg, died on Memorial Day of a heart attack, the result of AIDS-related pulmonary hypertension. She had just turned 51. Grinberg served on the board of treatment-advocacy-group Project Inform.
Barbara Garrison, AIDS Activist, Dead at 45 from AIDS Complications
28 May 2002 — Barbara Garrison, an AIDS activist and former blood technician, died from complications of AIDS at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. She was 45. She had been diagnosed as HIV-positive in December 1995 and became involved with the Michigan Persons Living with AIDS Task Force, and at the time of her death headed the group’s membership and management committee.
AIDS Activist Javier Contreras Dies at 33
March 2003 — Javier Contreras, a Chicago AIDS activist, died of AIDS complications at age 33. He had worked at a counselor and case manager and was also a member of the HIV Prevention Planning Group of Chicago.
AIDS Activist Evan Ruderman Dies at 44
Evan Ruderman, an AIDS activist, died on 18 November 2003 from complications of AIDS. She was 44. Ruderman helped create the Foundation for Integrated AIDS Research and worked to obtain equal access to treatment for HIV patients around the world.
AIDS Activist Carlton Hogan Dead at 42
Carlton H. Hogan, age 42, of Minneapolis, died at home on 18 November 2003 after a long fight with AIDS. He had worked for the Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS Statistical Center, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota.
ACT UP Legend Keith Cylar Dead at 45 of Heart Trouble
Keith Cylar, a 45-year-old ACT UP legend, died of heart trouble on 5 April 2004. Cylar and his partner, Charles King, founded the one-stop New York social-service-and-activist powerhouse, Housing Works.
Positively Aware’s Charles Clifton Dies at 45 of Heart Attack
Clifton died on 15 August 2004 of a heart attack at age 45. He was executive director of Test Positive Aware Network and edited the influential publication Positively Aware.
Heart Attack Claims AIDS Activist Gigi Nicks
Gigi Nicks, the patient advocacy director at Chicago’s CORE Center, was well known for her pioneering activism on behalf of positive women and children. She died of a heart attack on 19 August 2004 at age 52.
Nelson Mandela Says AIDS Led to Death of His Son, Makgatho Mandela
Johannesburg, 6 January 2005 — Former South African president Nelson Mandela announced Thursday that his son, Makgatho Mandela, 54, had died that morning of an undisclosed illness related to AIDS. Makgatho had been receiving antiretroviral treatment for more than a year.
AIDS Activist, Speaker Debbie Runions Dies
Debbie Runions, a prominent AIDS activist and patient who called for governmental response to the spread of AIDS, died of AIDS-related complications on 16 October 2005 at age 55. Runions found out she was HIV positive in 1992 and spent the rest of her life promoting AIDS awareness and prevention.
Jerry ‘Grant’ Lewis, 19 December 1979 — 17 January 2006
Grant was born with hemophilia and at the age of 11 learned that he was infected with HIV. Grant was an experimental pediatric-HIV-drugs research patient at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (MD) for 5 years, and he was the first adolescent in the world to introduce one of the new protease inhibitors into his body. Grant made several appearances on the Phil Donahue, Montel Williams, Jenny Jones, and Maury Povich shows, and along with Magic Johnson and Greg Louganis he was the subject of a feature story on an ESPN segment about sports and HIV. Grant died at age 26.
Jeff Getty, AIDS Activist, Passes Away
16 October 2006 — AIDS activist Jeff Getty passed away in California at age 49. Getty died of heart failure in Joshua Tree, CA, following a cancer treatment. He became famous after doctors at San Francisco General Hospital transplanted bone marrow from a baboon into him in 1995. The experiment was termed a failure, yet Getty regained his health and continued to offer himself as a guinea pig for several other experiments.
Pioneering Atlanta AIDS Activist John Granger Dies
John Granger, a local AIDS activist and community volunteer, died on 29 January 2007 at Tucker Nursing Center, of AIDS-related complications owing to multifocal leukoencephalopathy, according to Dr. Jesse Peel, his former partner of 10 years. Granger was 52.
Gay/AIDS Advocate Bob Hattoy Dies of Heart Attack
3 March 2007 — Bob Hattoy, 56, died in his sleep at his home in Sacramento, CA, apparently of a heart attack. The environmental-political-gay-AIDS activist became perhaps the most widely known openly gay member of the Clinton administration. He addressed the 1992 Democratic National Convention as a person living with AIDS. Hattoy was a long-term survivor of HIV.
John Campbell, Founder of People Living with HIV, Dead at 39
30 May 2007 — Britain lost a national hero yesterday when John Campbell succumbed to an HIV-related neurodegenerative disease. Campbell shot to prominence in the gay activist community when he and three peers founded the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS in 1993. Campbell also founded Positive Nation, an HIV-focused magazine. A former male prostitute, Campbell was also a special government HIV advisor.
Brett Lykins, Celebrated AIDS Activist, Dies at 28
1 August 2007— To say that Brett Lykins was a familiar face would be an understatement. For nearly all his life, he was the young man at the head of the AIDS awareness movement in Georgia. He first made headlines in 1989 when he was in third grade, revealing to his Gwinnett County classmates during show-and-tell that he was HIV-positive. Brett took to his celebrity like a pro, leading marches and rallies and rubbing shoulders with big-name stars like Sir Elton John during the Atlanta AIDS Walk. On Wednesday night, at his mother’s home in Duluth, Brett Lykins finally succumbed to illness, surrounded by relatives and friends.
Presidential AIDS Advisor Dr. Scott Hitt Dies at 49
Dr. R. Scott Hitt, an AIDS specialist and the first openly gay person to head a presidential advisory board, died on 8 November 2007, at age 49, of colon cancer at his home in West Hollywood, according to John Duran, the city’s mayor and a longtime friend. Hitt was chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS during President Clinton’s administration in the 1990s.
Thomas Morgan, Journalist and Activist, Dies at 56
27 December 2007 — Thomas Morgan III, a former reporter and editor at the New York Times and a president of the National Association of Black Journalists, died on Monday in Southampton, MA, aged 56. The cause was complications of AIDS, his partner, Tom Ciano, said.
Dallas AIDS Activist Don Sneed Dies
Don Sneed, who will undoubtedly be remembered as the city’s most colorful and controversial AIDS activist ever, died on 4 January 2008, aged 54, after a brief hospitalization at the Veterans Hospital in Dallas. He reportedly was in a coma at the time of his death, which was owing apparently to an HIV-related illness.
Saturday, 20 December 2008 at 9:18 pm
Another sad death of an HIV+ treatment advocate:
“Dan Dunable, longtime Atlanta AIDS activist and HIV treatment educator, died unexpectedly at home October 4th. He was 51.”
“The medical examiner says that Dan died from a stroke. . . . Dan’s T-cell count was good, he was adherent to his meds, he went to the doctor, and he exercised … so I don’t understand why he is dead. Did he die because of his HIV, because of the medications … or was it something else?”
A correspondent alerted me to yet another sad death, at age 31, in this era of “life-saving HAART”; from the link sent me (http://kenyonfarrow.com/2009/03/03/rip-shelton-jackson/):
Shelton Jackson (1978 – 2009)…. passed away on Monday, March 2, 2009 at approximately 6:00 am. His death was due to complications due to AIDS. He was a patient at UMDNJ where he has been for the last month or so… AIDS has truly cut this young man down in the prime of his life. He was just 31-years-old, and has done as much activism as one person can do. Even to the end, he was working as a consultant for us for our upcoming social marketing project. Shelton Jackson will certainly be missed.