LARRY KRAMER: Using Rage to Fight the Plague

AIDS activist, and now victim LARRY KRAMER blasts away at the Government, the medical establishment and the Catholic Church

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A. It makes life exceptionally precious. On the other hand, you have nightmares, and there are many nights when you wake up at 4 in the morning scared.

Q. Were you encouraged by the report from Johns Hopkins that bone-marrow transplants might provide a cure?

A. We're always happy that research is going ahead, obviously. But the press really did the world a disservice by putting such an incomplete and unchallenged story on the front page, giving, in essence, false hope to a lot of people. Even if it worked, it would cost, minimum, $200,000 per patient, and there are very few people they could do it on because it is very hard to match up bone marrow.

Q. What is the most promising research going on right now?

A. One of the most interesting developments has been the appearance of what is called CRIs, community research initiatives, which are community-based treatment organizations. We have found ways to set up in each individual community, with doctors' help, tests that are free from Government interference and can therefore work much more smoothly.

Q. Isn't the Government funding some of these programs?

A. The grants are peanuts.

Q. But more people die each year from cancer or heart disease than from AIDS, and yet the Government spends more on AIDS than on them.

A. I'm so sick of that argument. AIDS is a transmissible virus. Heart disease is not. There is a new HIV infection every single minute in this country. There is a new death every half-hour. We found that Congress has indeed appropriated the money, but it's not being spent, or it's being spent foolishly. Someone has got to be put in charge. You need a Lee Iacocca.

Q. Where is the bottleneck?

A. The bottleneck is that George Bush doesn't give a damn. We got the second inhumane, uncaring monster in the White House in a row. The Government is spending half a billion dollars a year to test drugs in Government research in local hospitals around the country, but those hospitals don't have enough patients enrolled in the drug trials because the Government doesn't tell anybody that these trials exist.

Q. Why, instead of setting up your own testing programs, aren't you directing people into these?

A. We're doing that too. We set up our own organization called the AIDS Treatment Registry. It's an in-depth directory of every drug trial that you can get into in this area.

Q. Aren't doctors the ones who direct their patients to the hospitals?

A. Don't talk to me about doctors. I think doctors have probably one of the most shameful records in this whole epidemic, because they've known from the very beginning what's going on. They have a very powerful union in the A.M.A., and yet they've done precious little about exerting pressure.

Q. Why has there been such complacency about AIDS?

A. Well, I think that there is no question because of who it's happening to. I mean, you can say all you want about denial, but this is happening to black people and to Hispanic people and to people who take drugs and to gay people and to babies who are born out of wedlock, and these are all people that a lot of other people would just as soon weren't there.

Q. How have you sustained the intensity of your anger over these past nine years?

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