Everett G. Jarvis has mailed his report, "The Real Cause and Cure of AIDS," to mayors, members of Congress, even to Presidents Reagan and Bush.
All he wants to do is save lives, he says. But officials won't listen.
He claims powerful institutions hide the truth: that AIDS is not caused by a virus, as scientists say, but by use of drugs, including doctor-prescribed medicines approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
"Our government and the American Medical Association share equal guilt in promoting (yes, PROMOTING) the spread of AIDS - worldwide!" his report charges.
Jarvis, 60, is a former computer science teacher at Community College of Baltimore who runs a small home-based publishing company near Randallstown. His most successful effort has been a book listing the names and gravesites of dead movie and TV stars.
He has no medical credentials. Scientists would laugh at his ideas.
But Jarvis isn't alone. Other people around the country are propagating similar messages.
The government isn't telling the whole truth. There's a conspiracy.
They sow skepticism through pamphlets, books, speeches and videotapes. Some, such as Dr. Robert B. Strecker of Los Angeles, claim AIDS is a government-hatched plot to kill people.
It's not clear how many Jarvises and Streckers there are or the size of the audience they reach.
Typically they write in obscure journals or distribute their own materials. One measure of their efforts is the letters the government receives from people who have read an article or seen a videotape.
The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta act as a kind of clearinghouse for such mail and report having received "many hundreds."
One of the most influential conspiracy theorists, judging by the mail his ideas have generated, is Strecker.
He and his brother Ted, an attorney, claim they did research in the 1980s showing that the virus was man-made. The results are in the "Strecker Memorandum," a videotape that an organization called the Strecker Group sells by mail for $29.95.
"Eventually, the Streckers came to realize everything the government, the so-called AIDS experts and the media were telling the public was not only misleading, but out-and-out lies," a written summary of the Memorandum states. The Memorandum
says, contrary to established scientific information, that AIDS can be spread by mosquitoes and that the virus is too small to be blocked by condoms.
A copy of the Memorandum summary was obtained from the CDC.
"We get this stuff all the time," says Brenda Garza, a writer and editor at CDC. "We got lots of letters from people with all kinds of ideas about how [AIDS] started."
The volume of mail provoked by Strecker and others led CDC to draft form-letter responses disputing each allegation.
"HIV is not a man-made virus and did not originate in laboratories in this country or others," one CDC letter states. "It has never been introduced into selected populations as part of a secret experiment or for any other reason. It is a human virus that evolved naturally over time."
But conspiracy theories appeal to a small number of Americans.
A New York Times poll in June 1990 found that 10 percent of blacks in New York City believed the virus was created in a laboratory to infect black people. Only one percent of whites believed there was a conspiracy.
"There is a small but vocal contingent in the black community in the United States that believes that HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] was the result of biological warfare development by the U.S. Army or the CIA or some other agency," Dr. Mark Smith, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told the National Commission on AIDS last December in Baltimore.
Suspicion about AIDS and the government's role can be traced, in part, to government medical experiments, such as the notorious U.S. Public Health Service study of the effects of untreated syphilis in a group of poor blacks, according to Smith.
What worries Smith and some other health experts is that such suspicion might undermine government efforts to prevent and treat AIDS.
Jarvis would have people disregard what the government and physicians tell them about AIDS.
To prevent or cure AIDS, he says, people should stop taking all drugs, including prescription medications such as AZT, which he says bring on disease by destroying the body's immune system.
He advises people with AIDS or who are at risk of infection to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, sleep 10 hours or more a night, take vitamins and trust in God.
"It's just remarkable how the public has been brainwashed by the medical profession into discrediting anything that hints of a non-drug cure for anything," he said in an interview.
"I would dearly love to find someone who has read my book and is interested in making a change from a drug cure. I could almost guarantee in a month or within 45 days that person would be totally cured."
The head of the state health department hopes Jarvis doesn't get a chance.
"I would be concerned if I thought anybody would start reading this and taking it seriously," said health secretary Nelson J. Sabatini, after reviewing excerpts of Jarvis' report provided by a reporter. "But I think there is little or no scientific basis for anything he is saying."
Jarvis doesn't have great hopes of changing the world's view of AIDS.
There's not been much demand for his 72-page report, which is a collection of his ideas and newspaper stories about AIDS and drugs. He says he has sent out 250 copies at his own expense since writing the first edition in 1986.
Les Nachman, who works for the Strecker Group selling the Memorandum, reports a similar response, though he won't disclose sales figures. He had hoped to make money.
"We've had virtually no success," he asserts. "Thousands of Americans could care less; [they] prefer to accept what the government is telling them."