Nadja’s Choice

It’s one of the first ominous signs of the 21st century’s basic struggle.  Public order is no longer content with policing what we do, or even what we do in our most intimate relationships.  It has begun to police our very thoughts – what we are allowed to know, based upon scientific evidence.  Instead, we are to know only ideology, propaganda, and banal, side-of-the-bus platitudes about what is “safe” and what is “dangerous.”

On August 25, 2010, HIV-positive German pop singer Nadja Benaissa, 28, avoided serving a 10-year jail term for causing “grievous bodily harm” by having sex without disclosing her HIV status.  It’s a victory for Benaissa, but a stunning defeat for scientific, rational thought, however temporary.

It was a show trial, a teaching example, from beginning to end. The authorities, who had met a week prior to plan Benaissa’s arrest, went out of their way to make a scene.  There was the April 9, 2009, arrest at the Frankfurt club where she was to perform, right in front of her fans in the ticket line.  Then the pre-trial detention, “to protect other men against infection,” as if she were an armed criminal on a killing spree.  Then the filing of an in-court statement that she hadn’t really believed the risk of spreading HIV through sex was all that high, followed by her apology that she had somehow miscalculated that risk. 

The charge of “aggravated battery” involves an intentional crime.  At issue was what she knew.  Did she know the risk? 

The answer is, at least partly, yes.  She knew it to be small, and she was right according to scientific research so far. 

Benaissa surely must have seen the warning signs everywhere – on the sides of buses, on billboards, on TV – that the only kind of sex that’s safe is the kind with condoms and full disclosure of HIV status.  But where her advising doctors apparently didn’t see it was in the medical literature, because it’s not there, and they told her it was all right to have sex as long as her “viral load” was low.  (These weren’t even “dissident” doctors, if they were depending on viral load, which neither finds nor counts virions.)  So it wasn’t just wishful thinking that taught her that she could live and love like any other free person.  Science supports it. 

The Padian study in Northern California followed 175 couples with one HIV-positive partner over six years, and not one HIV-negative partner became positive.  This leaves the AIDS establishment with quite a dilemma in high-profile cases like Benaissa’s:  If she had been declared innocent based on the science, what would happen when all her young fans also realized the lie behind “safe sex”?   It could have also left Benaissa with the problem of having to be that poster girl for “dirty” sex – hardly a career-enhancing move, even if her band is called “No Angels.”  The blackmail was on to get her to recant what she knew.

The prosecution was tasked to prove that the side-of-the-bus propaganda-promoted risk was the right one and that any other risk that a doctor or patient might reasonably infer from the actual research was the wrong one.  And they needed to do this in the highest profile way possible, as a teachable moment for the masses against the dangers of thinking for oneself. 

So the trial was an educational event reinforcing all the unscientific myths about AIDS.  Apparently, scientists can claim, on one hand, that HIV “mutates” (see “No Mutation to Resistant Forms”) so rapidly that it’s impossible to eradicate it with the current drugs.  On the other hand, they claim they can “trace” the exact “strain” of HIV from one person to another, even three years after a relationship has ended – and claim, apparently just because the defendant is part Morroccan, that it’s a “rare African” strain.  

A low point in the trial was when, according to one observer, the defense attorney asked the expert witness for the prosecution what he thought about the e-mails, faxes and letters sent by AIDS-dissident activists stating that HIV didn’t exist, and laughter ensued.  As if the AIDS dissident movement needed another example of poorly planned activist strategy. 

In fact, no such scientific circus was needed.  A threat to bring in proof that this so-called “HIV test” is not reliable has been enough in similar, but lower profile, cases in the U.S.  This is how the HIV Innocence Project has already helped defense attorneys force prosecutors to drop all HIV-related charges against defendants in less than one year and may be instrumental in President Obama’s recent call to repeal U.S. states’ HIV criminal statutes. 

Benaissa’s unnecessary acceptance of a two-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service “working with those who are HIV positive,” stemmed not from the power of expert opinion but from the fact that Benaissa’s attorney had no clue about how to defend his client.  Like Parenzee, Benaissa’s guilty plea is nothing more than a propaganda victory for an industry that has paid $8 billion since 2004 to settle thousands of criminal and civil complaints related to the illegal marketing of drugs that kill or injure millions of people every year.

Because of her plea deal, Benaissa will work for the pharmaceutical industry and AIDS activist groups; notwithstanding the latter’s whining about the unfair burden of responsibility on the HIV-positive partner that these cases present — a stance one organization, Deutsche Aids-Hilfe, actually contradicts on its Web site –  they will presumably be the recipients of Benaissa’s charitable work. 

Perhaps she thinks her latest crime — accepting a plea deal based on a lie — is also victimless.  It’s not.  It’s Orwellian to educate others into something she doesn’t really believe.  Because of her sellout (when she had a choice), millions of people will be taught to fear their own sexuality, trust a test whose accuracy and rationale have repeatedly disappointed for 26 years, and decide to take toxic drugs to “extend” lives that were never truly at risk in the first place.  They will further risk losing custody of their children for refusing to pass such a death sentence on them, as has happened in both Europe and America. 

But let’s notice, for once, the delicate position celebrities find themselves in vis-à-vis AIDS.  It’s the kind of blackmail that would likely have made the keepers of the old Hollywood communist blacklist blush: Support the AIDS propaganda or “you’ll never have lunch in this town again.”  Curiously, “Bareback Jack” Nicholson gets to brag publicly about not using condoms, with his doctors making the same argument Benaissa’s doctors did, though in reverse — concluding that the possibility of his receiving the infection is low.  But certain celebs seem eager to cooperate out of sheer credulity.  Sharon Stone, Elton John and fashion designer and real-life Zoolander Kenneth Cole come to mind.  Too-dumb-to-know-better is one thing; the anti-sex messages of kinky sex symbols Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper inspire one to wonder who threatened their careers if they didn’t become pharmasluts.  And threats don’t come close to explaining former Los Angeles Lakers player Ervin “Magic” Johnson, with his healthy post-diagnosis kids, apparent absence of the “side effects” that are killing off others on the drugs he mugs for, persistent rumors of HIV-negative status, and at least one account of his knowing better.  Perhaps pharmaceutical money explains the “magic.”

It’s a grand extortion scheme, on a global scale.  I await the court case on that.

Martin Barnes and HEAL London also weigh in.

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