Peter Duesberg and homophobia
by Martin Delaney
April 15, 2007
More than a decade and a half ago we on the frontlines in the fight against HIV/AIDS concluded that
Peter Duesberg was bitterly homophobic. Long before there were many anti-viral drugs for him to
blame, he clearly blamed AIDS on the gay men who contracted it, arguing that it was the product of a
life of promiscuity and drug abuse. In the earliest days, a lot of people suspected that, but
studies were soon done by Ascher and others that disproved the theory. Only Duesberg continued to
promote the belief, despite studies of thousands of drug using men, controlled for the presence or
absence of HIV. Only the presence of HIV correlated with death and major immune deficiency. Drug use
and promiscuity were indeed a risk factor for contracting HIV, but by themselves were never shown
capable of producing AIDS-like symptoms. Despite this evidence, Duesberg continued to blame AIDS on
the behavior of the men, not the viral infection they acquired. This was the same nonsense mouthed
by right wing fundamentalists, minus the religious overtones. It still came down to blaming the
victim for the disease. In my opinion Duesberg always was, and continues to be, a major homophobe. For a while, he
tried to counter this view by hanging around with leather-clad gay men, trying to show some
affiliation, but these men were simply a first wave of denialists among the gay community. They were
notorious themselves for denigrating others in the gay community, accusing people with AIDS of
promiscuity and drug abuse. Their presence in no way cleansed Duesberg of his homophobia.
In all his efforts to blame the victim for the disease, Duesberg has always
overlooked the fact that there were plenty of gay men who died of AIDS
who never had a history of either promiscuity or drug use. Whenever
confronted with this information, Duesberg simply accused people of
lying or being in denial.
While I am not aware of explicit homophobic words on record by Duesberg (unlike his friend and
business colleague Harvey Bialy, though both are known
to use racial slurs), his explanations about AIDS makes it clear what he thinks of gay
people in general – contrary to clear, controlled studies, Duesberg insists that AIDS is the fault of
the immorality of its victims.
Martin Delaney is the Founding Director of Project Inform, one of the nation's oldest and best-known non-profit foundations working in AIDS.