Few things illustrate the medical profession's enthusiasm for fashion better than the way that doctors gave credence to the AIDS myth in the 1980s. AIDS was, for a while, the most fashionable disease in history. (Politicians and journalists created the hysteria which surrounded AIDS but it was doctors who gave the disease its false credibility.)
In the 1980s a spokesman for the British Medical Association warned that by 1991 every family in Britain would be touched by AIDS and attacked me viciously when I quoted evidence supporting a less scary point of view. Other medical establishment groups jumped on the `AIDS is going to kill us all so give us lots of money to try and find a cure' bandwagon and the official line was defended with unprecedented ferocity and an astonishing amount of self-righteous, sanctimonious venom.
The World Health Organisation forecast that 100 million people might be infected by the year 1990, and the Royal College of Nursing in the UK forecast that one in fifty people in Britain would have the disease by the early 1990s. As far as I know none of these groups have apologised for their absurd scaremongering and none have provided an explanation for the size of their error.
In addition, numerous organisations and individuals who were applying for grants, made dramatic promises of `miracle breakthroughs' and `wonder vaccines', probably because they knew that the bigger the promise the larger the grant would probably be.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s I rejected the theory put forward by every scaremongering half wit eager to jump on the `AIDS is the biggest plague to hit mankind' bandwagon. For a variety of self-serving reasons which had nothing to do with medicine many scaremongers were claiming that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease and was likely to wipe out a large proportion of the western world. At the time I was vilified for daring to point out that all the available scientific evidence showed that AIDS was not going to be the plague that killed us all.
The evidence shows that I was right and there is now no doubt that the original predictions for AIDS have all been proved utterly wrong. Because AIDS offers an excellent example of a disease that became fashionable it is worth exploring in a little more detail.
Early in 1987, an ex-soldier called Michael Coles, a forty-two-year old father of two, picked up a shotgun and blasted his eighteen-year-old son in the back. He then killed his thirty-nine-year old wife before turning the shotgun on himself. The coroner recorded that Mrs Coles had been unlawfully killed and that her husband had committed suicide. Their eighteen-year-old son survived.
Mr Coles took this dreadful step because he thought he had AIDS. He decided to wipe out his family in case he had infected them. And he decided to kill himself to avoid the misery and suffering that he considered inevitable.
In fact he didn't have AIDS at all. He had flu. But like millions of other perfectly ordinary healthy individuals, he had been terrified out of his mind by the propaganda from which it was impossible to escape at the time.
Michael Coles, like many others, was convinced that AIDS threatens us all and that it is a common, easily caught, inevitably lethal disease. He had believed what his government had told him, what he had heard on television and what he'd read in the newspapers. The real tragedy is that he, like everyone else, had been conned.
In The Health Scandal (published in 1988) I wrote that `from the facts that are available it is clear that AIDS is not going to be the disease that wipes out mankind.' And I published a true anecdote designed to make it clear why the public image of this disease was so horribly inaccurate.
I reported that in early 1987 I had received a telephone call from a researcher for a TV company who had told me that his company (Thames TV) was planning a documentary about AIDS.'
`What do you think about AIDS?' he asked me.
I told him that I thought that the threat had been exaggerated by some doctors, a lot of politicians and most journalists. The researcher was silent for a moment or two. I could tell by the silence that he was disappointed. It wasn't quite what he'd hoped to hear.
We're planning a major documentary,' he said. `We want to cover all the angles. Haven't you got anything new to say about AIDS?'
`I don't think AIDS is a plague that threatens mankind,' I insisted.
I then pointed out that I believed that the evidence about AIDS had been distorted and the facts exaggerated.
`We really wanted you to come on to the programme and talk about some of the problems likely to be caused by the disease,' persisted the researcher.
`I'm happy to come on to the programme and say that I think that the dangers posed by the disease have been exaggerated,' I told the researcher.
The researcher sighed. `Quite a few doctors have said that to me,' he said sadly. `But it really isn't the sort of angle we're looking for.'
Very gently I put down the telephone. I didn't expect to hear from the researcher again and I didn't. His company produced a networked television programme about AiDS that appeared on our screens a short time after that conversation. And I suspect that most of those who viewed it went to bed believing that AIDS is the greatest threat to mankind since the Black Death.
That was by no means an isolated incident. The facts about AIDS were carefully selected to satisfy the public image of the disease - and to satisfy those with vested interests to protect.
At the time when that television company was broadcasting a programme predicting that AIDS would soon affect us all the official figures showed that just eight heterosexuals had contracted AIDS in Britain. That wasn't the total for one year. It was the total for ever.
To try to put this in perspective I wrote an article at the time pointing out that in Britain during the previous two years no less than thirty six people had died while horse riding.
According to experts speaking in the late 1980s on behalf of the Government and the British Medical Association AIDS was likely to decimate the British population before the decade was out. (There were at the time considerably more so-called experts on AIDS than there were patients with AIDS).
Politicians and the medical experts agreed that within a few years every family in the country would be affected by the disease. An official spokesman for the British Medical Association (the doctors' trade union) was widely quoted as forecasting that within five years 400 people a month would be dying of the disease, though as far as I know no one bothered to ask him where he got this figure from. It was officially forecast that every family in the UK would soon be touched by AIDS and one gloomy official forecast was that by the year 2000 we would all have the disease. The Government paid a fortune to put bizarre advertisements involving icebergs on television screens. These, it was rumoured, had something to do with AIDS and were intended as a warning to us all.
Back in 1988 I pointed out that two specific groups had been particularly at risk: syringe sharing drug users and promiscuous homosexuals.
`These two groups are at risk because AIDS is essentially a disease that is transmitted through the blood (rather than a sexually transmitted disease) and both these groups enjoy practices which involve possible contamination through an exchange of blood.'
One of the most significant scientific papers available then concluded that the only sexual practice which was found likely to lead to contracting AIDS was receptive anal intercourse. Another important study showed that on average homosexuals who contracted AIDS had had 1,100 sexual partners.
This evidence was available in medical and scientific journals. But AIDS had become so fashionable that no one was interested in anything as boring as evidence.
Why was the threat of AIDS exaggerated so recklessly?
In my book The Health Scandal I put forward a number of possible explanations.
First, I explained that AIDS was an attractive media disease. People love being terrified. Aware of this, television companies are constantly on the look out for new scare stories. That television researcher I spoke to wasn't the only person working in television who wanted to build up the myth about AIDS.
A killer disease that is transmitted sexually made irresistible copy. For example, it enabled the religious right to tell those whom they regarded as promiscuous that AIDS was a sign of the wrath of God. Television producers could confront people who believed in free love with people who disapproved of any sex outside marriage. And, best of all, producers could make programmes in which eager experts showed viewers how a condom should be put onto a penis.
Second, AIDS had by 1988 become big business. And it was making a lot of money for a lot of people. Medical researchers admitted to me that they found it much easier to get funding for projects if their project title had the disease AIDS mentioned in it. Private screening clinics were making a fortune. Companies making drugs which were recommended for patients thought to have AIDS found that their share prices rocketed. Shares in Wellcome, the British drug company which had produced an anti-AIDS drug called AZT, rocketed by 360% in just twelve months. A portfolio of shares in companies offering AIDS solutions rose by a magnificent 41%.
Third, 1987 was an election year and AIDS was the 1987 equivalent of the Falklands War (which many commentators believed had helped the Conservatives win the 1983 election). When the political climate is unsettled and unsettling, when there are dangers threatening our very existence and when the enemy is mysterious, we tend to turn for security that something that seems strong and powerful. Was it possible, I wonder, that this was why the public was bombarded with Government sponsored commercials warning us of the dangers of AIDS?
When I was eventually allowed into radio studios to discuss AIDS I took part in a radio programme with a spokesman for a group of homosexuals who had been loudly promoting the theory that AIDS was a heterosexual disease. On the programme I read from scientific papers which proved conclusively that the risks to heterosexuals were at the most extremely slight. But the spokesman for the homosexuals ignored my evidence, and without any of his own, insisted that AIDS was a threat to us all. After the programme we stood together on the pavement outside the studio waiting for taxis. I asked him why he persisted with an argument which he must have known was not based on science. Away from the microphone he was honest. `If we admit that AIDS is a disease which affects gays no one will be interested in it and no one will do any research into it,' he admitted.
And that was the truth. Gay pressure groups (working to make sure that AIDS did not become established as a `gay' disease') were responsible for the initial development of the `plague' myth. And that AIDS was then turned into a major scare through the efforts of insurance companies (eager to find an excuse to put up premiums), drug companies (keen to sell new products), doctors (keen to help drug companies), researchers (eager to get their hands on the vast amounts of money being raised by volunteers), religious groups (desperate to exploit an opportunity to suppress sexual activity outside marriage) and politicians (eager, as always, to leap on an opportunity to frighten the voters - since when voters are frightened it is much easier to introduce new, repressive legislation).
During the late 1980s the mail I received from readers of my newspaper and magazine columns proved to me that the AIDS propaganda campaigns had affected the lives of millions of men and women who had absolutely no risk at all of contracting the disease. So, for example, I received a sad letter from a 57-year-old widow who had been to her doctor for an internal examination. She was worried that if the doctor had previously examined a patient with AIDS she might have caught the disease. She told me that she wouldn't be going back to the doctor unless I could provide her with reassurance. Another letter came from a reader who wanted to know if her small son could have caught AIDS from an insect bite. There were letters from an old lady who wouldn't pat her dog in case she caught AIDS from it and a worried mother whose son wouldn't kiss her goodnight for fear of catching AIDS. And Michael Coles was by no means the only person to kill himself as a result of all the AIDS scaremongering.
In 1988 I wrote that I strongly suspected that the scare campaign about AIDS had killed more heterosexuals than the disease itself. I am now convinced that I was absolutely right.
Telling the truth about AIDS was not easy. Indeed, for most of the time, it was very nearly impossible. When a disease becomes fashionable, and is promoted by the whole of the establishment, anyone who stands against the storm of support must expect to be under pressure.
When my book The Health Scandal was being prepared for publication in 1988 the publishers (Sidgwick and Jackson) were wildly enthusiastic about its prospects and expressed themselves eager to promote the book as widely as possible.
But suddenly, and without explanation, things changed. The book came out without even a whimper - let alone a bang. There was so little publicity that I sent out a press release myself - and was actually told off by the publishers for doing so. The book was remaindered very quickly and no real effort was made to sell the paperback rights. (Indeed, Sidgwick and Jackson insisted that the paperback rights could not be sold because no one wanted to buy them. My agent took back the rights and sold the paperback rights very quickly. This was curious because it meant that we did not have to share the financial proceeds from the paperback sale with Sidgwick & Jackson). I got the impression that a book of mine had been effectively suppressed by its own publisher.
When, in 1989, I talked about my book Sex For Everyone to the publisher's representatives, publicity department and editorial staff many of the audience started to walk out when I claimed that AIDS was not a major threat to heterosexuals. (The publisher was called Angus and Robertson but the audience also included many employees of associated companies.)
The trickle of people leaving the room turned into a flood when I suggested that the campaign to prevent AIDS should adopt the phrase `Stop buggering about' as a slogan. The ignorance of these people (many of whom seemed to regard themselves as knowledgeable but who were instead sanctimonious and egregiously ill-informed) was typical at the time. After my speech had finished a number of stunningly ignorant sales representatives and publicity people came up to me and told me that they would not help promote or sell the book because they regarded my claims that AIDS was not a serious threat to heterosexuals as grossly irresponsible. Indignant and self-righteous editorial employees glowered at me and did their best to make me feel unwelcome. I remember feeling so unwelcome that I left the hotel very late at night and drove several hundred miles back home in the dark rather than use the room that had been reserved for me.
The book's sales were duly disastrous, destroyed by its publisher because I had dared to tell the truth and expose the AIDS myth for what it was.
When I first criticised the highly fashionable AIDS myth I was vilified for daring even to suggest that AIDS might not be the heterosexual epidemic the Government, the medical establishment and the media was warning us about.
According to former Sunday Times Editor Andrew Neil, the same thing happened to American author Michael Fumento who wrote a book called The Myth of Heterosexual Aids.
According to Neil `Instead of confronting Fumento's arguments and figures, the Aids Lobby resorted to abusing him for daring to write such a book...I began to think that maybe all this bluster was to hide the truth: there was no heterosexual epidemic.'
`In the early 1990s the media in Britain and other countries was almost totally committed to the notion that AIDS was a threat to the survival of the human race. As Neil writes in his book Full Disclosure : `On the BBC it was for a long time almost impossible for any other opinion to get a hearing.'
I remember going to a medical bookshop in the early 1990s and being appalled to see shelf after shelf of books about AIDS and very few books at all about cancer. At the time anyone with AIDS would end up surrounded by would-be helpers. Anyone with cancer with have to wait months, even years, for treatment.
The scientific evidence and the figures available when the AIDS fashion was at its greatest, proved conclusively that there was no AIDS epidemic among heterosexuals and that there never would be. Since the 1980s and early 1990s the evidence has continued to support this viewpoint.
The AIDS myth was deliberately created by homosexuals who feared, probably correctly, that if AIDS was thought to be a disease which only affected homosexuals it would not receive much funding. The myth was sustained by a variety of self-serving groups.
The billions of pounds that have been pumped into the AIDS industry have resulted in the development of a massive industry of helpers, advisors, aides and so on.
Most of those involved in raising, distributing and spending this money knew and know little or nothing about the disease and although some were probably well intentioned there were far more of them than there were alleged Aids sufferers.
The AIDS fashionistas have continued to defend their industry with great enthusiasm and commitment, largely because it is their jobs and their industry they are defending.
There is still much mystery about whether the HIV virus really exists and, if it does exist, whether it has anything to do with AIDS.
Just one thing is crystal clear: the predictions of the medical establishment, the politicians and the journalists who claimed that by the end of the 20th century one in three of us would be touched by AIDS were absurd scaremongering.
Claims that Africa is ravaged by AIDS are also misleading and dangerous. If there is AIDS in Africa then it is because anal sex is widespread in African countries (where it is used as a form of birth control) and beause a scarcity of doctors and treatments means that venereal diseases (creating bleeding sores) are widespread too.
In order to justify the huge expenditure of time and money on research into finding a cure many of those involved in helping to maintain the AIDS industry have for years been busily changing the rules about the way that AIDS is defined.
These days if you die of influenza, malaria or tuberculosis (TB) in Africa there is a good chance that you will be included in the AIDS statistics.
(Including TB and malaria victims in the AIDS statistics is one of the ways in which the alleged AIDS plague in Africa has been created. This type of `bending' of the statistics is nothing new. When the authorities wanted to give the impression that smallpox had been conquered by the vaccination programme they attributed many deaths caused by smallpox to chickenpox - even though chickenpox is very rarely a fatal disease.)
Describing diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, which are well established in Africa, and which are a real threat, as AIDS is tragic. The end result is that more money is handed to AIDS researchers and AIDS agencies and less is given to controlling real and well-established killer diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. It is hardly surprising that the death rate from AIDS is said to be exploding. People aren't really dying of AIDS; they are dying of tuberculosis and malaria.
I have no doubt that the enormously fashionable AIDS industry, in its various discredited forms, has now killed far more people than the disease. But perhaps the most worrying thing about AIDS is the truth about AIDS is never acknowledged or discussed by AIDS experts, by people working in the AIDS industry or by the mainstream media.
AIDS has become a sacred disease.
To question the motives of those involved in the search for a vaccine or a cure, or the treatment of alleged AIDS patients, is politically incorrect and utterly unacceptable.
And, of course, those members of the media who leapt on the AIDS bandwagon in the 1980s and early 1990s are probably too embarrassed to want to talk about their mistakes.
The AIDS story is a good example of the way that doctors cause more fear than they ease. (They create the fear to suit the needs of governments and corporations.)
Experts always exaggerate the importance of their subject in order to make themselves appear more important than they are.
Taken from Coleman's Laws by Vernon Coleman, published by EMJ Books. `Coleman's Laws' is available from the shop on this website and from all good bookshops everywhere - on and off line.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2007