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On February 14, 2008, Rethinking AIDS distributed a shortened version of the following objection to the (Product) RED art auction at Sotheby's in New York City, to patrons entering the building. Organized by Irish rock star Bono as part of a popular product-licensing program, the auction sought to raise money for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by selling art including a red balloon animal expected to fetch up to $1.2 million.

koons_rabbit.jpegWho could possibly object to that?

  • On scientific grounds . . .
  • On moral grounds . . .
  • On compassionate grounds . . .
  • On grounds of artistic taste and responsibility . . .

We do! 

The (Product) RED campaign benefits pharmaceutical companies, not Africans, by funding AIDS drug treatment in Africa. Rethinking AIDS--an international organization of more than 2,700 scientists, medical doctors, journalists, health advocates and business professionals--thinks you should know the facts about the damage to Africa (RED) asks you to support.

IGNO(RED): The Dangers of Toxic AIDS Drugs

The short-lived "Lazarus effect." AIDS drugs can be effective in the short term against some fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections, but down the road, they gradually destroy health and life. In the U.S., peer-reviewed studies now acknowledge that AIDS treatment drugs cause more illness and death among HIV positives than AIDS-defining diseases do. In a recent study published in the Journal of AIDS, “All four classes of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and all 19 FDA-approved ARVs have been directly or indirectly associated with life-threatening events and death.” A study published in 2002 showed that deaths attributable to ARVs “surpassed deaths due to advanced HIV.” Other studies have found that people on AIDS drugs are twice as likely to die from liver and kidney failure and heart attacks as from AIDS-defining diseases.

The devastating effects of nevirapine. Nevirapine, commonly touted as a miracle drug for reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, causes liver failure and Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rash that actually burns off layers of skin. The drug’s clinical studies in Uganda showed the opposite of reducing mother-to-child transmission and were so scandal ridden that nevirapine's manufacturer, Boehringer-Ingelheim, withdrew its applications for nevirapine use by pregnant women in the U.S. and Canada. Because of this, nevirapine has never been approved for use among pregnant women in America, Canada, Europe or any First World nation. Several mothers died from nevirapine use in trials in the U.S. and Africa.

Death by AZT. AZT, one of the main drugs promoted by the (RED) campaign, is one of the most toxic drugs ever approved for human use. It caused tens of thousands of premature deaths among the first generation of Western HIV positives who took it in the late 1980s. AZT is carcinogenic, mutagenic, brain damaging, and toxic to all cells in the human body, especially immune system cells. Researchers have found AZT to cause severe mitochondrial disorders, tumors, blood cancers, anemia, severe birth defects and other disorders.

The tragedy of AZT for children. A Florida study found that rapid progression to AIDS-defining diseases was “three times more likely” in AZT-treated infants than in untreated ones. Many other studies have compounded this tragic finding. In 2000, British science writer Neville Hodgkinson wrote, "An Italian study examining 200 HIV-positive children found that, at three years old, children whose mothers took AZT in pregnancy were 'significantly more likely' to become seriously ill than babies of untreated mothers. They also had a higher death rate."

AZT's admitted toxicity. The inventor of AZT, Professor Richard Beltz, has warned of AZT’s long-term toxicities. Referring to the media-besieged government of South Africa, he wrote to advocate (lawyer) and magistrate A. Brink:

“I hope you succeed in convincing your government not to make AZT available.”

IGNO(RED): The Real Needs of Africans

Food and water. Almost half of all people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to clean water (UNDP, Human Development Report 2006). A third of the population there is malnourished, and the numbers are rising (FAO, SOFI report, 2006). Commonly provided emergency food supplies of cornmeal, white flour, sugar and tea are nutritionally void. Contrary to sensational media reports, Africans use homegrown remedies for diseases categorized as AIDS not out of ignorance but because these nutritious foods help restore health in many malnourished people. Food, not drugs, cures starvation.

IGNO(RED): Misdiagnoses of AIDS

AIDS without an HIV test. Most Africans diagnosed with AIDS have never tested HIV positive. Instead, symptoms of common African illnesses such as malaria, tuberculosis, parasitic infections and malnutrition are called AIDS, with no HIV test necessary. When testing is conducted, false-positive rates are high because of cross-reactions from antibodies to common African illnesses. Reports of HIV statistics on the continent are projections based on screening pregnant women with tests known to cross-react with pregnancy. Malaria also confuses test results.

IGNO(RED): African Dignity

(R)acist, (E)litist and (D)estructive. The (RED) art auction is a cruel and ineffective response to the real suffering of the world’s poor. Condescending ideas about Africans' supposed ignorance, denial or unhealthy sexual practices are racist stereotypes with no supporting medical, scientific or sociological evidence. Exploitative media reports attributing death and devastation to sex foster shame and hopelessness among Africans while ignoring important facts. For example, overall life expectancy in South Africa has increased by seven years during the so-called "AIDS epidemic" there, and the population of Botswana, the first nation predicted to die out from AIDS, is one of the fastest growing in the world today. The population of Africa has grown by more than 260 million people since the mid-1980s.

IGNO(RED): The Conscience of Artists

Artistic and moral integrity at risk. According to reports in the London Observer and The Wall Street Journal, at least 20 artists have refused to donate their work for the (RED) art auction. We hope you will be inspired by their courageous resistance to powerful corporate propaganda and the cynical opportunity for publicity. Please help artists and others speak out against the poverty, war, malnutrition and official corruption that are the most common causes of disease, death and devastation of natural resources on the continent.

If you care about Africa and world health, become informed on what your participation in (RED) really supports. Find out how to give the people of Africa what they really need.

The following charitable organizations work to provide food, clean water and other basic supplies to the people of Africa. We encourage you to support them.

Heifer International  is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability.

The Millennium Villages are based on the single powerful idea that impoverished villages can transform themselves and meet the Millennium Development Goals if they are empowered with proven, powerful and practical technologies. By investing in health, food production, education, access to clean water and essential infrastructure, these community-led interventions help villages escape the extreme poverty that currently confines more than 1 billion people worldwide.

To support the educational work of Rethinking AIDS, please give generously here. We do not receive any money from pharmaceutical companies, nor do we enjoy the support of art auctions, corporate sponsors and Bono. We appreciate your support greatly.

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