To the editors:

Your feature article in last week’s Reader, “Everything You Know About AIDS Is Wrong” [October 4], made me mad as hell.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not your fault. On the contrary, you made a brave and important contribution to our community. Steve Heimoff did an outstanding job of researching his questions and giving Dr. Peter Duesberg the opportunity to defend the valid criticisms to his unpopular idea that HIV is not the cause for AIDS. But I’m still mad as hell.

My partner in life is HIV positive. Our relationship has had many new challenges during the past two years since we found this out. Our sex life has suffered too, because he’s afraid he’ll infect me; and I find it hard to forget my fears when we are intimate.

If Dr. Duesberg is right, our paranoia may be totally useless. We will continue to have safe sex until science knows more. But nothing important is 100 percent certain. We have the right to enjoy the highest quality of life possible. We need to trust the “experts” who advise us. We need all the facts that “science” can offer us to make our own personal decisions. The idea that we may be suffering longer than necessary because of professional “turfism” makes me mad as hell.

I am thankful that my partner remains healthy and has no symptoms. His physician is one of the most distinguished doctors in Chicago for AIDS-related illnesses. But he’s taking AZT along with 125,000 other patients, presumably to delay the spread of the virus.

If Dr. Duesberg is right, the toxic effects of AZT could further deteriorate my partner’s immune system, accelerate the onset of AIDS and/or create additional medical problems. Does he have to take a serious risk and ignore his physician’s advice to get the proper care? Or does he continue taking AZT and face its life-threatening consequences? I’m mad as hell that we’re stuck in this dilemma while the professionals pursue their own self- interests.

As is so common today, I’ve lost many dear friends to AIDS. The AIDS label itself caused panic and fear among their families and friends. If Dr. Duesberg is right, their lives might have been saved had AIDS research been broadened sooner. I’m mad as hell.

I work as a volunteer in an AIDs ward of a prominent Chicago hospital. I’ve been there with patients through unbelievable pain and death. I’ve experienced the fear and hopelessness among the patients, their friends and families. If Dr. Duesberg is right, many of the treatments they received may have contributed to their suffering and deaths. I’m mad as hell.

My widowed dad won’t allow me to visit the home he shares with his present wife and their young son. He’s afraid that I’ll give them AIDS. No mind that science says you can’t get AIDS from casual contact. No mind that I am HIV negative. No mind that I have never been a “druggie.” No mind that I’m healthier and stronger than most people.

He bitterly criticizes me for “choosing” my gay life-style and taking unnecessary risks by staying with my partner and working with AIDS patients. Besides, there’s so much unknown about this disease. He simply refuses to risk his family’s health on something so serious as AIDS, even a hug or a visit over a cup of coffee in his home.

If Dr. Duesberg is right, most research regarding AIDS is misguided or wrong. It may take many years to turn the tide. My 70-year-old dad has diabetes and high blood pressure. He may not be with us very long. I may never get a chance to be close to him again or get to know his new family. Part of the blame is because so much remains unknown about AIDS. The possibility that scientists may be wrong but refuse to research other ideas makes me had as hell.

In spite of the heroic work of many AIDS education organizations, the spread of this killer disease continues to widen. Now women and minorities are getting AIDS at a faster rate than gay men. If Dr. Duesberg is right, the focus of AIDS education on safe sex and clean needles may actually encourage sex with multiple partners and continued intravenous drug use. It may also give the larger population a false sense of security. What we may need instead is more education regarding unhealthy living habits and the use of “toxic” drugs–prescribed or recreational–as the culprits. I’m mad as hell.

We’ll never know the answers if we don’t give Dr. Duesberg’s plausible questions the merit they deserve. Dare we ignore one of the “world’s foremost experts on retroviruses” (quoted from your article)?

With $3 billion being invested around one central theory, it’s time for the public to demand that Dr. Duesberg’s and other significant theories be more thoroughly researched.

Are we so hypnotized with the sanctity of the established medical community that we can’t challenge its direction in the face of plausible evidence it may be wrong? A simple review of medical history clearly shows that it has been wrong in the past during the early treatment of unfamiliar diseases.

Who’s running the show, anyway? Whose money is being used? Whose lives are at risk? It’s certainly not only the professional medical community. It’s all of us. We need to make sure that everything possible is done to end this tragic epidemic.

I intend to investigate what I can do, beginning with this (unusual for me) letter to the Reader. I invite other citizens to make their feelings known.

Name withheld