In the mid-1980s I got an invitation from my friends at the health ministry to travel to Geneva to work for a few weeks as a translator with the World Health Organization. The pay offer was significantly higher than my Tass salary so I was only too eager to take advantage of the opportunity to see another country and get more experience along with more cash.
However, I needed to ask permission from the agency’s bosses to take an unpaid leave of absence, so very soon everybody knew where I was going. So did Sergei Losev, the then general director of Tass. Losev knew me personally, as I often assisted in his talks with foreign colleagues. One day his aide asked me to come to his office. The conversation that we had made me sad. Sad, but as always, there is something useful to learn even from bad experience.
Losev was sitting at his desk in the spacious office on the sixth floor of the Tass headquarters in downtown Moscow and I took a seat at the adjoining smaller desk. “Sasha, advise those lazybones in Geneva that we need more stories from the West to prove that AIDS was created and disseminated by the CIA,” he told me straight away.