In the summer of 2004, Liam Scheff, an independent investigative journalist published the story of Incarnation Children’s Center in New York, where experimental and highly toxic Aids drugs were forcibly administered to foster children of the State. Originally published in the article The House That Aids Built, the story was subsequently carried by The New York Press with the title: Orphans on Trial.
On November 30th that same year, the BBC broadcast the documentary “Guinea Pig Kids” and a news article of the same name by reporter Jamie Doran. He reveals that children involved in the New York City foster care system were unwitting human subjects in experimental AIDS drug trials from 1988 to, in his belief, present times.
New York’s HIV Experiment
By Jamie Doran Reporter/producer, Guinea Pig Kids
HIV positive children and their loved ones have few rights if they choose to battle with social work authorities in New York City.
Jacklyn Hoerger’s job was to treat children with HIV at a New York children’s home.
But nobody had told her that the drugs she was administering were experimental and highly toxic.
“We were told that if they were vomiting, if they lost their ability to walk, if they were having diarrhoea, if they were dying, then all of this was because of their HIV infection.”
In fact it was the drugs that were making the children ill and the children had been enrolled on the secret trials without their relatives’ or guardians’ knowledge.
As Jacklyn would later discover, those who tried to take the children off the drugs risked losing them into care.
The BBC asked the Alliance for Human Research Protection about their view on the drug trials.
Spokesperson Vera Sherav said: “They tested these highly experimental drugs. Why didn’t they provide the children with the current best treatment? That’s the question we have.
“Why did they expose them to risk and pain, when they were helpless?
“Would they have done those experiments with their own children? I doubt it.”
Power and authority
When I first heard the story of the “guinea pig kids”, I instinctively refused to believe that it could be happening in any civilised country, particularly the United States, where the propensity for legal action normally ensures a high level of protection.
But that, as I was to discover, was central to the choice of location and subjects, because to be free in New York City, you need money.
Over 23,000 of the city’s children are either in foster care or independent homes run mostly by religious organisations on behalf of the local authorities and almost 99% are black or hispanic.
Some of these kids come from “crack” mothers and have been infected with the HIV virus. For over a decade, this became the target group for experimentation involving cocktails of toxic drugs.
Central to this story is the city’s child welfare department, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).
The ACS, as it is known, was granted far-reaching powers in the 1990s by then-Republican Mayor Rudi Giuliani, after a particularly horrific child killing.
Within the shortest of periods, literally thousands of children were being rounded up and placed in foster care.
“They’re essentially out of control,” said family lawyer David Lansner. “I’ve had many ACS case workers tell me: ‘We’re ACS, we can do whatever we want’ and they usually get away with it.”
Having taken children into care, the ACS was now, effectively, their parent and could do just about anything it wished with them.
One of the homes to which HIV positive children were taken was the Incarnation Children’s Center, a large, expensively refurbished red-bricked building set back from the sidewalk in a busy Harlem street.
It is owned by the Catholic church and when we attempted to talk to officials at Incarnation we were referred to an equally expensive Manhattan public relations company, which then refused to comment on activities within the home.
Dr Rasnick is internationally renowned for his work on numerous diseases, including cancer
Hardly surprising, when we already knew that highly controversial and secretive drug experiments had been conducted on orphans and foster children as young as three months old.
We asked Dr David Rasnick, visiting scholar at the University of Berkeley, for his opinion on some of the experiments.
He said: “We’re talking about serious, serious side-effects. These children are going to be absolutely miserable. They’re going to have cramps, diarrhoea and their joints are going to swell up. They’re going to roll around the ground and you can’t touch them.”
He went on to describe some of the drugs – supplied by major drug manufacturers including Glaxo SmithKline – as “lethal”.
When approached by the BBC, Glaxo SmithKline said such trials must have stringent standards and be conducted strictly in accordance with local regulations.
Battle of wills
At Incarnation, if a child refused to take the medicines offered, he or she was force-fed through a peg-tube inserted into the stomach.
Critics of the trials say children should have been volunteered to test drugs by their parents.
When Jacklyn Hoerger later fostered two children from the home where she used to work with a view to adopting them, she discovered just how powerful the ACS was.
“It was a Saturday morning and they had come a few times unannounced,” she said. “So when I opened the door I invited them in and they said that this wasn’t a happy visit. At that point they told me that they were taking the children away. I was in shock.”
Jacklyn, a trained paediatric nurse, had taken the fatal step of taking the children off the drugs, which had resulted in an immediate boost to their health and happiness.
As a result she was branded a child abuser in court. She has not been allowed to see the children since.
In the film Guinea Pig Kids, we follow Jacklyn’s story and that of other parents or guardians who fear for the lives of their loved ones.
We talk to a child who spent years on drugs programmes which made them and their friends ill, and we discover that Incarnation is not an isolated case. The experiments continue to be carried out on the poor children of New York City.
Guinea Pig Kids was broadcast on Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK).
Celia Farber worked as an investigator on the documentary. She had this to say about deaths involved from the experimentation:
The information I have received is that the ICC children themselves told Scheff and Schwager that seven of their friends had died on the drugs. It took me about six months to obtain death certificates for the only two children whose names I had. A characteristic of ARV zealots that you will see very clearly in the BBC complaint letter is a refusal to deal in hard facts or figures. It is always viscous claims about widely known truths a slight distance ahead on the road. Then they make peoplefeel ashamed for wondering what people would naturally wonder, namely, not how safe the drugs are in theory but rather, a simple and singular question: How many of these kids did in fact die?
They don’t know. Why? There was a “warehouse fire” in which all the children’s medical records were destroyed.
I have in front of me two certificates of death. Both were children. Both died in the autumn of 2004, while partaking in what some call a clinical trial, and others call a medical experiment, under the auspices of a well-funded “nursing facility” in Harlem for HIV-positive orphans called Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC). According to the AIDS orthodoxy, these children died of AIDS. There is no reason to believe anybody wanted them to die, least of all those who knew them and cared for them. But serious questions remain unanswered about these and other deaths that have occurred in the course of ongoing clinical trials involving foster children in the United States.
She goes on to discuss those who wanted to quit the treatments due to complications:
A 2004 paper in the journal Pediatric, titled Gastronomy Tube Insertion for Improvement of Adherence to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy in Pediatric Patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, describes 17 children who had tubes inserted after they refused drugs. “Reasons for non-adherence,” the paper states, “include refusal, drug tolerability and adverse reactions.”
The paper includes a picture of a child in a diaper with what looks like the plastic twist-cap from a gallon of juice protruding from under his ribcage. The authors found that after the tube insertions, for which eight children required general anesthesia, “adherence” to the drug regimens was 100 percent.