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Nureyev, AIDS and HIV


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 09:57 AM

This is old news, but I found a 1993 article on the web while doing some research on Nureyev that I hadn't seen before, presenting a case that Nureyev was HIV-positive, but did not have AIDS, and that his death was really caused by AZT poisoning.

It may be of interesting to some, and so I'm posting a link to it here:

http://www.virusmyth...jlpetrushka.htm

#2 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:21 AM

Peter Duesberg, quoted in this article, is a retrovirologist who has claimed that HIV does not cause AIDs and has different causes depending upon which set of victims one looks at, and that safe sex campaigns and clean needle programs are in essence a waste of time. (I am simplifying brutally, but life is short.) He inspired a sharp controversy among scientists, some of which was related to political concerns and the reluctance to rethink matters.

No question that many of the side effects of AIDS treatment are dreadful. There are many difficult issues surrounding the causes of AIDS, and anyone has the right to raise questions -- but. Thabo Mbeki, the otherwise highly intelligent and intellectual president of South Africa, used Duesberg’s notions as a justification for refusing to give AZT to pregnant women. (AZT can reduce the risk of transmission from mother to child, depending on variables such as viral load, by two-thirds.)

That said, not being a scientist, I can't comment on the accuracy of this particular article. This is what I know offhand, and it may not be current or entirely accurate – anyone else?

#3 bart

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:29 AM

I'm not a scientist either, but Dirac is, I think, absolutely correct.

Duesberg's controversial hypothesis -- of which the Nureyev story appears to be just a small facet -- was pushed relentlessly in the pages of the New York Native, almost to the point of monomania. This has to be read in the context of the passionate controversy over AZT. The denial of an HIV-AIDS causality seems to have faded since then; at the same time, other factors cited by Duesberg have been recognized to play a role.

One casualty was The Native itself, which did not survive its fixation on this line of argument.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:45 AM

I didn't know of the demise of the New York Native (nor, actually, anything about the paper but the name) but I remembered, reading this, of the many articles about alternative theories -- unsolved clues as well as now-discredited ideas -- on AIDS that appeared in mainstream magazines, such as the Atlantic Monthly, during the '80s.

Re this article, I hadn't thought of fear of benig denied entry to a country as being a possible motive for denying one had an illness (one of the writers' points).

Edited by Alexandra, 08 July 2005 - 11:50 AM.


#5 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 01:32 PM

I seem to recall from the Otis Stuart book that Nureyev did have that concern, and he wasn’t the only one – anyone whose work involved international travel had that worry. Again, my information may be incomplete, but beginning circa 1987 the US, along with other countries, banned any non-citizen with AIDs from entering the country. Many countries have since lifted the ban, although I don’t think the US is one of them.

#6 Helene

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 02:53 PM

The underlying emotional response of the author, Lauritsen, and a single cited source to the contrary don't convince me to question the diagnosis of Nureyev's attending physicians.

#7 oberon

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:22 PM

I guess the question remains: at what point does one stop being HIV positive and actually have AIDS? Having lost several friends over the years, none of whom - even as death approached - would ever say they had AIDS, I have pondered this situation often. My two closest friends, both extremely promiscuous throughtout the 70s and well into the 80s, nearly died. Pulled back from the brink by a fortunate combination of drugs, they both now describe themselves as "HIV positive".

#8 carbro

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:38 PM

I've known of cases where the presence of one of the opportunistic diseases changed the diagnosis from HIV+ to AIDS. I've known of others where the diagnosis was changed based on T-Cell count.

With the newer therapies, some sufferers endure the diagnostically significant diseases but subsequently have a drop in their viral load and increase in T-Cells. I don't know how those cases are correctly described.

#9 innopac

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:29 AM

Have any of Nureyev's biographers discussed the effect of being HIV in terms of the possible neurological and psychological effects on his personality and behavior? Or the affect of social attitudes towards HIV/AIDS on his emotional and mental state during his last years?

From what I have seen in life it seems to me that impatience, loss of judgment, anxiety, anger and other symptoms of stress can often accompany illness. Not everyone is able to manage a graceful acceptance in such circumstances. And I am surprised that there is so much writing about Nureyev's "bad behavior" during his later years with no reflection on the influence of his medical condition on his psyche.

#10 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 05:50 AM

without speaking untruthfully of the dead, acknowledging that he was capable of good behavior, and without any great medical knowledge, i feel i should point out that his behavior was often bad long before his later years.

#11 Paquita

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:41 PM

I seem to recall from the Otis Stuart book that Nureyev did have that concern, and he wasn’t the only one – anyone whose work involved international travel had that worry. Again, my information may be incomplete, but beginning circa 1987 the US, along with other countries, banned any non-citizen with AIDs from entering the country. Many countries have since lifted the ban, although I don’t think the US is one of them.


Last time I checked the US has not yet lifted the ban (there is a waiver for those entering the US on a short-term visa or for special events, e.g. the olympics... but then your HIV status can be recorded on your passport, making it more difficult to enter the country in the future) but there is a lot of pressure for that to change. Canada lifted the ban a few years ago, I believe (good thing that happened before Toronto hosted the AIDS conference in 2006!). Of course, some people choose to hide their HIV status at the border. I have heard of people sending their medications to the US by mail so that officials at the border won't find their pills in their luggage and prevent them from entering.

Re: progression of HIV to AIDS, as carbro mentioned it has often been defined by certain diseases that are associated with AIDS such as Kaposi's Sarcoma or lymphadenopathy. The newer definition of AIDS refers to CD4 (T helper cell) counts (less than 200/uL) or percentage of lymphocytes that are CD4 cells (less than 14%) in an HIV positive person. This is the definition used by the Centre for Disease Control. My understanding is that even if the CD4 level rises or if the associated disease is cured, the patient is still referred to as having AIDS.

#12 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:31 PM

I would say that Julie Kavanagh's recent biography describes mainly an exascerbation of the behaviors he showed before his diagnosis. She writes about his knowledge that he doesn't have a lot of time left, when it wasn't generally known. While this ties into his life-long impatience at having lost critical time in classical training, I think Kavanagh argues implictly that he wouldn't have been under-prepared as a conductor if he thought he had another 20 years to study and hone his craft.

#13 bart

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:59 PM

I think you are right, Helene. Diane Solway's biography covers the ground very well, putting it in the context of his declining powers as a dancer, the death of Fonteyn, his long list of goals he wished to accomplish before the end, occasional bouts of denial, and other events occuring all at the same time. She writes, "The furies that drove him to dance could not be appeased."

He seems to have brought the same freneticism to all his activities at the time. Sometimes he joked about it, as when he attempted to demonstrate a jump to the dancer playing the Prince in the Sleeping Beauty he was staging for Deutsche Oper: "Carcass not working. I hope I haven't displaced the plumbing," alluding to his recent kidney surgery. Sometimes he became frustrated and enraged.

His last major effort was the restaging of his version of Bayadere for Paris. Solway writes:

The premiere was one week away when Pierre Berge [Chief Executive of the Opera ] decided that Rudolf was too ill to conduct opening night. The problem was, no one wanted to be the messenger, "an excruciating task," as Helene Trailine [Director of Programming] thought of it. Finally, she called [his physician, [Michel] Canesi [ ... ] "It will exhaust you, the dotor said, "and perhaps your ballet will suffer as a result." Rudolf became furious. "Don't shit on my brain!" he lashed out at the doctor from his bed.

The next day Rudolf returned to the opera house, hell-bent on showing his colleagues that he indeed had the necessary vigor to conduct the premiere. When Helen Trailine went to greet him near a backstage staircase, he glared at her and pushed away the arm of the young man assigned to assist him. As he started to descend, he faltered badly and nearly toppled down the stairs before the young man caught his arm again. Still, he persisted. Entering the rehearsal studio, he curtly refused any assistance. "No divan," he said, and for the rest of the day insisted on sitting upright in a chair, although the effort clearly exhausted him.

It was Nureyev's last battle.

Like all battles, Nureyev's was a maelstrom of many intense, often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and actions.

He died three months later.

#14 diane

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:50 PM

just an aside, which came to mind here.. Dylan Thomas' poem, where it is stated again and again,

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


It does seem as if Nureyev was doing that.

-d-

#15 dancemed

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 11:55 AM

I seem to recall from the Otis Stuart book that Nureyev did have that concern, and he wasn’t the only one – anyone whose work involved international travel had that worry. Again, my information may be incomplete, but beginning circa 1987 the US, along with other countries, banned any non-citizen with AIDs from entering the country. Many countries have since lifted the ban, although I don’t think the US is one of them.


Last time I checked the US has not yet lifted the ban (there is a waiver for those entering the US on a short-term visa or for special events, e.g. the olympics... but then your HIV status can be recorded on your passport, making it more difficult to enter the country in the future) but there is a lot of pressure for that to change. Canada lifted the ban a few years ago, I believe (good thing that happened before Toronto hosted the AIDS conference in 2006!). Of course, some people choose to hide their HIV status at the border. I have heard of people sending their medications to the US by mail so that officials at the border won't find their pills in their luggage and prevent them from entering.

Re: progression of HIV to AIDS, as carbro mentioned it has often been defined by certain diseases that are associated with AIDS such as Kaposi's Sarcoma or lymphadenopathy. The newer definition of AIDS refers to CD4 (T helper cell) counts (less than 200/uL) or percentage of lymphocytes that are CD4 cells (less than 14%) in an HIV positive person. This is the definition used by the Centre for Disease Control. My understanding is that even if the CD4 level rises or if the associated disease is cured, the patient is still referred to as having AIDS.


You are indeed correct in terms of how AIDS is diagnosed. However, my long-standing concern is how little time we give to the impact of AIDS in the dance community. Many dancers have seen their friends and loved ones die. The current cocktail of medicines has saved lives, but it often comes with a debilitating number of side effects, such as painful neuropathy. My impression is that AIDS is still in the closet & the people who need our support are not getting it.


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