Wednesday, February 10, 2016
The July 2008 issue of Adbusters published a letter to the editor defending Bono's Product (RED) campaign to send HIV drugs to Africa, in response to the magazine's "Fuck You Bono This Is Not Cool" item ridiculing (RED) in the previous issue. We would like to inform the writer of this letter that the "good cause" she applauds does not fund treatments for tuberculosis or malaria — just HIV drugs — and that these drugs have certain side effects.  Perhaps she didn't know.

But Adbusters knows, because it received the following letter four times: once from each of our two experts by e-mail, and once from each by mail.

(In March 2006, Harper's published "Out of Control," an article by Celia Farber recounting the corruption of clinical trials for nevirapine, one of the two drugs Product (RED) buys for Africans. Link here for Rethinking AIDS' defense of every pertinent fact in this article.)

This is still "not cool," Bono — and Adbusters.

June 4, 2008

1243 West 7th Avenue
Vancouver BC, Canada V6H 1B7

Dear Adbusters:

Thank you for your perceptive spoof of Bono's Product(RED) campaign, which few dare to question and fewer still recognize as a booster of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Product(RED) buys AIDS drugs nevirapine and AZT and gives them to Africans. As a director of a diverse organization of scientists, doctors, and other professionals concerned with human and medical rights, we offer a few details on these allegedly "life-saving" drugs.

Nevirapine (tradename Viramune): Shown, by incomplete and unethical clinical studies on black populations in Uganda and the U.S., to kill people faster than starvation does. Especially toxic to the liver--in several cases, requiring a liver transplant--and also known to cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rash which literally burns skin off the body, exposing people to life-threatening infections.

AZT (zidovudine, tradename Retrovir): Failed cancer chemotherapy created in the 1960s, documented to cause anemia, lymphoma, brain damage, severe birth defects--and T-cell depletion, a hallmark symptom of AIDS. Conventional wisdom was that AZT was better than nothing, but the only study comparing it to nothing (Concorde, 1993) concluded that taking nothing was actually better.

(RED) says, "If they don't get the pills, they die," but this focus on AIDS drugs as answers to African suffering is at odds with current reality. An article in the May 9 British Medical Journal calls for a shutdown of UNAIDS, asking a question Bono has apparently never pondered: "Why a UN agency for AIDS and not for pneumonia or diabetes, which both kill more people than AIDS? Far too much is spent on HIV relative to other needs and this is damaging health systems." AIDS causes an estimated 3.7% of global mortality but receives 25% of international healthcare aid.

Unfortunately for poor and starving Africans, AIDS is much easier to market than such unromantic problems as dirty water, malnutrition and diarrhea, which are responsible for millions more annual deaths among the world's poor than HIV-positive status is.

Sincerely (by separate letters),

Charles Geshekter, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, African Studies, California State University, Chico;
Board Member, The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis

Christian Fiala, M.D., Ph.D.
Vienna, Austria (formerly Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania)
Member, South African AIDS Advisory Panel
Former Board Member, The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis

Letter published in the July 2008 issue of Adbusters
I was interested to see in Adbusters #77 a page with the (RED) manifesto overwritten with the message “Fuck You Bono. This is Not Cool.” On February 14, Bono and Damien Hirst organized Auction (RED) at Sotheby’s New York, and asked the world’s leading contemporary artists to donate works for sale. The auction raised $38.7 million to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

I am an arts journalist and I know that many people in the art world (probably the artists foremost among them) recognize that the prices for contemporary art are currently nothing short of crazy. However, while this market is booming, wealthy people are going to continue collecting it regardless of whether it is for charity or not. Bono created a platform that put the power back into the hands of the artists, allowing them to do something powerful and positive with their art.

I love your magazine and have been a loyal reader for years, but fortunately I don’t always take your word for what is “cool” or “not cool.” I think what Bono did with the (RED) auction was very cool, and I hope some of your other readers will make up their own mind on that, too.

Stephanie Harris
London, UK

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