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U.S. AIDS denialist dies at 36
by Gus Cairns
David Pasquarelli, a U.S. AIDS activist who fought long and hard to convince others that AIDS was not caused by HIV, and was jailed for his pains, has died of the AIDS-related illness CMV (cytomegalovirus). He was 36.
Pasquarelli started as a conventional ACT-UP activist in his home state of Florida, but soon became convinced by the arguments of dissident scientists like Peter Duesberg that AIDS was not a viral illness but an immune suppression brought about by stress, drug use, HIV medications or other factors.
In 1993 he moved to San Francisco where he and a group of denialists effectively took over ACT-UP San Francisco. The dissident group was notorious for its confrontational forms of protest, which involved the pillorying of public health officials and noisy, occasionally violent disruptions of other organizations' meetings. Pasquarelli was a talented satirist and graphic artist, producing at one point ACT-UP S.F.'s own cable TV program.
Following what was said to be phoned death threats from Pasquarelli to public health officials, he was jailed for 72 days in November 2001. In good health till then, his immune system collapsed in jail and he was increasingly unwell from then on.
Although many people in "conventional" HIV organizations detested Pasquarelli for his frequently libelous attacks on their work and motives, there was unease in some quarters over jailing an activist like Pasquarelli for sincerely held beliefs.
Opinion on Pasquarelli's death was predictably outraged in the tribute book organized for his Web site www.davidpasquarelli.com. Some praised his work exposing the "AIDS Myth." Others said that Pasquarelli had done valuable work exposing self-serving exaggerations of the true epidemiology of AIDS in San Francisco and challenging the salaries given to some HIV workers. And others said he was motivated as much by attempting to combat the stigma attached to anal sex as he was to combating conventional theories on AIDS.
He is survived by his partner Steve Huggins, who is giving donations in his memory to the AIDS Emergency Fund, San Francisco's HIV hardship program.
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