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'88 Finishing Touches : 'Hayride' Participants Becoming Growing Force

December 30, 1988|BETH ANN KRIER

Though the number of AIDS cases diagnosed in Los Angeles has recently decreased, the number of people attending the celebrated "Hayrides" of controversial AIDS counselor Louise Hay continues to grow dramatically.

Hay, an author who is known for preaching that "love is the most powerful stimulant to the immune system," began her meetings in January of 1985 with six patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Earlier this year, 600 to 700 AIDS patients and their supporters were crowding into her weekly sessions in West Hollywood Park's auditorium, a place participants claim is typically the most uplifting spot in town on any Wednesday night. In fact, the meetings have become such a phenomenon that other AIDS-related groups and organizations are careful to schedule their meetings around the Hayrides.

By the end of the 1988, audiences for the metaphysically oriented sessions were averaging about 800 participants an evening, says Hay, adding that noticeably more women with AIDS have been attending the meetings in recent months.

The year also saw national recognition for Santa Monica-based Hay with appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Donahue." With Bernie Siegel MD, the author of "Love, Medicine and Miracles," she presented workshops on the East Coast. And Hay was invited to explain her message--that AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence but rather a physical manifestation of a lack of love in one's life--at medical conferences, such as a meeting in Phoenix of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies.

Her book, "You Can Heal Your Life," published by Hay House (the author's publishing firm) spent 13 weeks on the New York Times' paperback best-seller list this year. On the Publishers Weekly paperback list, the book is currently No. 1, while an older Hay work, "Heal Your Body," is No. 3. In addition, Hay's most recent treatise, "AIDS: Creating a Positive Approach," was published this year. "It's gotten good response," she says, "but it's not a big seller. It never will be. It has a limited appeal to people."

Hay is currently producing audio- and videotape companions to her existing works and presiding over Hay House--which also publishes the books and tapes of numerous other authors. The firm has grown so rapidly that after moving into larger offices in Santa Monica this spring, it's had to expand into additional office space that recently became available around the corner.

Though Hay emphasizes that she doesn't "deal much with statistics," she says she's delighted to hear that the number of AIDS cases diagnosed in Los Angeles has been decreasing of late. "I think it's true because the gay community in many cases has gotten its act together," she says. "And it's also due to the fact that in the beginning, everybody with AIDS was dying. Not so many are dying with it now. . . . There seem to be more long-term survivors coming to the group now."

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