Nadja: German Show Trial for the HIV/AIDS paradigm

September 1, 2010

Nadja Benaissa, a star in the German pop group “No Angels,” was dramatically arrested on stage in front of a large Frankfurt crowd in April, 2009.  On the day of her arrest the state prosecutor issued a press release which said Nadja was HIV positive, she failed to inform her lovers of her HIV seropositivity status, and that she infected a lover by the name of ‘S’. Newspaper headlines screamed in bold type Nadja was now the “Death Angel.” She was found guilty before the trial began.

by Martin Barnes
with Georg von Wintzingerode

Nadja was the perfect candidate for a show trial to reinforce the message: HIV equals AIDS equals DEATH. She has North-African ancestry, she ran away from her parents’ home at age 13 and lived on the streets of Frankfurt. She did drugs, became addicted to crack cocaine, and at age 17 she did not even know who the father of her baby was.  But Nadja’s luck changed when she signed up as a contestant for a ‘discover the stars’ TV show and won – Nadja’s career with the pop group No Angels had begun.

When Nadja was pregnant, a routine test found her to be HIV seropositive. In the years ahead Nadja admits that she rarely told her lovers about her HIV status. In court she was asked why. Nadja  said her career would have been over, she would probably be kicked out of the band, and her family and daughter would be frightened.

The only person in Nadja’s family who knew of her HIV status was her aunt, and the aunt introduced her niece to a new lover. That was the man who brought Nadja to court (as a co-plaintiff) claiming that she infected him with HIV.

Everyone likes Nadja. Young, pretty, a pop star, a miracle from the street, but the money from her days of stardom was gone. She could not afford a lawyer fit for a star. She was now bankrupt, reliant upon her public attorney’s advice and a compliant compromise with the state. Nadja willingly and regretfully admitted that she did wrong, apologizing for not telling her lovers about her seropositivity. The perfect subject for an AIDS show trial, beautiful and apologetic, the judge and jury sentenced her to two years probation and 300 hours community service, preferably for the mainstream German non-profit AIDS-Hilfe. She accepted her sentence with tears.

It was a completely political and otherwise “correct” sentence. Had she received a harsher sentence, as some might have hoped, the public message would have been to avoid HIV tests – by the time you know your serostatus, you might be sent to jail if you do not tell your partner. Had she been declared innocent, the public message would have been that for an HIV positive person, it is somehow okay to have sex, even if it was unsafe.

But in the blaze of publicity no one seemed to notice the statements made by the virologist, Dr. Josef Eberle from the University of Munich, who was called to testify for the state. He said he was given two probes, delivered by police courier to his laboratory in sealed envelopes, one labelled as from Nadja’s blood, the other from her accuser. The virologist stated that to his big surprise the two strains of HIV in the probes were nearly identical (HIV-1, a recombinant AE, a rare strain from West Africa). He stated in court that if he did not know better, just based on the data, he would have concluded the two probes came from the same person. But the state claimed his testimony proved it was Nadja who infected her accuser. Nadja’s attorney, the judge, and the jury all willingly accepted this assessment.

The blood samples from Nadja and her accuser were taken last year, but Nadja’s love affair with him ended some five years earlier. Virologists keep stating that HIV mutates so rapidly that even just in one year in just one individual it will evolve into nearly a different virus. How could the strains be almost the same having resided in two separate bodies for more that five years? Was the evidence tampered with?

And no one noticed something else. Nadja’s health is fine even though she had not taken AIDS medication during her eleven years of seropositivity, except during a short period in the hospital when she had the baby. (Only since the arrest did she start taking low dose ARVs.)  Nadja’s accuser is doing fine, and he was taking no anti-retroviral AIDS medicines. What happened to the HIV killer virus?

During the trial, Nadja’s attorney asked the virologist his opinion of the many letters, emails, and faxes he received from AIDS dissidents. They were saying, the attorney said, that HIV does not exist.  Dr. Eberle responded, “Anyone can say what they like, and some people say the world is flat.” At that moment in the trial Nadja rolled her eyes and laughed. She actually believes that she harbours a deadly virus.

What lessons can be learned by AIDS dissidents from the Nadja affair? One is that the approaches made to Nadja and her attorneys were not coordinated, each of them with slightly different – and sometimes even contradictory – messages. Nadja was in need of a defence, and a more organized approach might have been accepted. This could have changed the focus of this, the most publicized AIDS trial in Germany’s history.

Perhaps another lesson is that questioning the existence of HIV, even though technically valid, is too much to swallow for the uninitiated, causing the casual observer to throw up his arms and laugh. The virologist expert spent more than two hours explaining the technical details of how he was able to detect the genetic sequences he said were from ‘HIV.’

What dissidents should be disputing is not the existence of the amino acid chains which are labelled HIV, or the reactions these chains cause in seropositivity tests, but what they actually are. All dissidents agree that these chains are not poisonous. Therefore, a more credible message dissidents could be promoting is ‘HIV is innocent!’ ‘HIV has been framed!’ ‘Free HIV!’

The dissident message has not yet reached the public. The conventional narrative is overwhelmingly powerful as it is embedded in fear, sexual myth, the God-like status accorded scientists and MDs, and scientific obscurity. The question that continues to face dissidents is – what is the best way to reach the public with a powerful but easy to perceive message, one that is based on scientific competence and medical reality.

Elizabeth Ely and HEAL London also weigh in.

OMSJ made repeated attempts to contact Ms. Benaissi and her attorneys in the months leading up to her trial.  Although OMSJ’s involvement in other HIV-related trials resulted in prosecutors or courts dismissing all HIV-related charges, neither Benaissi nor her attorneys responded to free offers for assistance from OMSJ’s scientists, investigators or attorneys.  She was convicted not because she was HIV+ but because her attorneys had no clue about how to defend the case.

OMSJ is currently involved in 40+ other HIV-related civil and criminal cases in the US and Canada and awaits the trial that should have occurred in Germany.  For more information, visit the HIV Innocence Group.

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