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Jim Jones was dying of AIDS when he ordered mass suicide in Jonestown

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posted on Aug, 23 2006 @ 08:40 AM
Jim Jones was Dying of AIDS.

Press coverage in the wake of the 1978 Jonestown suicides and mass-murders, as well as scholarly research, has left the public with the impression that Rev. Jim Jones was a stoned madman when he ordered the deaths of over a thousand of his loyal followers, in the wake of the killings of a US Congressman and his entourage.

While I don't doubt that Jones was addicted to psychoactive drugs, I have found several passages in "Gone From the Promised Land" ( considered the authoritative work on the Jonestown tragedy) which, to a contemporary eye, point to the possibility that Jim Jones was dying of AIDS.

First, there is the widely noted fact of Jones' bisexuality, or more correctly, his omnisexuality. While Jones used sex as a "therapeutic tool," ostensibly to help the lives of the Peoples Temple's female members, he also used sex as a weapon for punishing the male church-members who had displeased him. He would accuse them of being latent homosexuals, and then force them to have sex with him. In addition to unproved charges that Jones had molested children, Jones had been arrested in San Francisco in 1973, for lewd conduct in a public men's restroom: he exposed himself to a male undercover police officer, and solicited sex. (Hall, 1989, 103). His sexual behavior definitely indicates that he enjoyed a wide variety of sexual partners, and resorted to having sex with strangers often enough to run across a vice officer at least once.

Second, and the item which initiated this whole line of inquiry, is author Hall's note that, after living in Jonestown for only a few months, Jones' personal physician had diagnosed him with "progressive coccidioidomycosis." Tellingly, Hall writes that "Jones felt that he was dying anyway." (Hall, p. 254)

This site, the Merck Online Medical Manual,
( )
relates that coccidioidomycosis is caused by a fungal spore found in central and South American soils, and occurs especially in farm-workers who breathe lots of dust. So far, this fits in with someone directing the clearing of tropical jungle. But, as the Merck Manual points out, while the acute form is of short duration and dissipates without treatment,

The progressive form is often a sign that the person has a weakened immune system, usually because of AIDS.

One might expect that out of 1100 Peoples Temple workers, many of whom, unlike Jones, did the actual manual labor of hoeing crops, at least one other case of coccidioidomycosis would occur. Yet this is not the case, even though there were a large number of elderly church-members, who had lived in various nursing homes operated by the Peoples Temple in the San Francisco Area before moving to Guyana. Certainly, the heath of these elderly had been fragile enough for them to be institutionalized in nursing homes. And yet not one of them contracted this unusual disease. This lack of other cases indicates that there was something about him as a patient that made Jones so uniquely at risk to what was a rare disease in that location.

Further, in the week before Congressman Ryan's fact-finding expedition to Jonestown in 1978 in Guyana, staffers from the American embassy had been allowed to tour Jonestown and speak with Jim Jones himself. Just a week before Jones' death, this is their impression of the cult-leader's physical health, as related by author John R. Hall:

source: "Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History." John R. Hall, 1989. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

"Jim Jones seemed in a poor state: he slurred his speech, he could not spell a word that he did not want a child to overhear, and he complained of a high fever, even though he did not appear to be perspiring. To underscore his fragile health, the leader wore a surgical mask when not eating and had two aides help him away from the table when he finished dining with his guests." (Hall, p. 264).

Most authorities, including Hall, seem to attribute Jones' poor health to his various addictions to mood-altering medication. Yet the description above also fits in with the symptoms of a patient in the very last stages of the AIDS virus. The surgical mask may have appeared an oddity in 1978; but it would soon become one of the hallmarks of a person whose immune system had been suppressed---by AIDS.

Finally, on the audiotape found by investigators in the aftermath of the Jonestown killings, there is heard the following conversation, as a Peoples Temple member, Christine Miller, tries to talk Jim Jones out of giving the order to drink the purple flavor-aid:

(Jones, referring to the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan and his entourage at the airstrip on the edge of Jonestown: )
Jones, stammering: "You think Russia's gonna want us with all this Stigma?"
Miller: "As long as there's life, there's hope. That's my faith."
Jones: "Well . . . everybody dies. Some place that hope runs out, because everybody dies. I haven't seen anybody yet didn't die."
(Hall, p. 283)

While this theory that Jim Jones was succumbing to AIDS will probably never be conclusively proven, it does accord with all the known facts, and helps explain anomalous facts not accounted by the "drug addiction" story. If it were true, it might go a long way to explaining Jones' state of mind when he ordered the mass suicide and murder of his entire congregation.

posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 01:46 PM
Its possible, since Aids was not even isolated, recognized, and named until 1981. I think a couple of years before that, it was spreading, but mainly in gay communities in New York and San Fran. So I suppose its possible. One of the world's first AIDS cases and no one knew it. the irony.......

posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 06:21 PM
The SanFran connection struck me, also. The People's Temple had it's home office in Ukaiah, California, before the move to Guyana. And while 2 hours is a long drive down to San Francisco, it's also true that the People's Temple had other satelites, including a homeless shelter in San Francisco.

I was astonished at the level of JJ's promiscuity when I read the book mentioned in my first post. I suspect that he was probably quite active in the west coast swinger scene.

I originally arrived at the AIDS hypothesis when I read that he wore a surgeon's mask because he was always getting sick. I have known several victims of aids, and recognized that as one strategy used by aids victims to reduce their succeptibility to infection.

When I looked up the resperatory disease he with which he was diagnosed, various diagnostic tools all point to an underlying HIV infection.


posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 07:49 PM
I had never heard of the AIDS possibility before. Heard alot of other crazy stuff regarding Jonestown, Jones, CIA, Russia etc, but this does add another dimension to the whole story, it's very possible that he did indeed have AIDS..

posted on Apr, 24 2009 @ 06:52 PM
It just so happened recently that I was studying AIDS and the Jonestown massacre at the same time. I independently speculated your hypothesis. Unfortunately your post is currently the only google hit regarding it.

Indeed we now know HIV -- the AIDS virus -- was alive and well in California in the late 1970's. An HIV infection can remain latent in an individual for up to 10 years before manifesting itself as AIDS, though some people succumb much quicker -- which may have been Jones' case, supposing he had HIV. The point is that AIDS was identified in 1981 as the tip of the iceberg in a population experiencing HIV infections for a great deal of time.

It is interesting to note that AIDS was confounded with drug use and was implicated in many of the early cases before the disease was understood (transmission of HIV through shared drug needles aside).

Another interesting aspect is AIDS dementia, which could have some implications on his mental state and apparent cognitive difficulty at the end...

I wonder if this could be explored further. What one could look for is the following:

-A known AIDS diagnosis in surviving People's Temple members, especially ones known to have sexual contact with Jones
-find any footage of Jones showing the lesions of Kaposi's Sarcoma (large purple spots -- an opportunistic infection characteristic of AIDS) on his skin. I have not seen any evidence of this myself.

What would be most fortunate is if the coroner's office in Guyana kept samples from Jones where modern accurate nucleic acid HIV tests could be applied to find out for sure.
The fevers and coccidioidomycosis infection are quite compelling. It would be nice to know if the organism responsible for his lung infection was culture confirmed. I say this because his doctors would not likely have considered the similar infection pneumocystis pneumonia in 1978 because it was almost never seen in healthy adults before AIDS was with us. Again a surviving lung sample, or a report of a lung biopsy would be very revealing.

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