Why is this happening?
#3091 - 04/06/00 03:50 PM
ON THE RUN
HIV-positive mothers resist pressure to put their children on drug
By Marnie Ko
The Report Newsmagazine 11-08-1999
The women have little in common, except that they are all mothers and are all HIV-positive. One is frantic; her children have already been seized by the state. The second is in hiding with her two infants, ready to flee at a moment's notice. The third mother is haunted by the heart-breaking decision to abort her baby. They are part of a growing Canadian trend: Women intimidated by doctors and public officials into taking anti-AIDS drugs during pregnancy, and into giving these drugs to their newborns, even though there is no law compelling anti-viral therapies, and strong reason to think they do more harm than good.
The first mother, Sophie Brassard, 37, is waging a legal battle to prevent doctors from drugging her HIV-positive children. In August, a court order removed the seven-year-old and his three-year-old sister from Ms. Brassard's Montreal home and placed them with her parents. After the grandparents expressed reservations about drug therapy, the children were put in a foster home on October 22. Five days later, social workers placed both children on anti-HIV drugs at least until the case resumes later this month in Quebec Superior Court.
The second woman, a 29-year-old B.C. mother of two, has been in hiding in Alberta with her sons since September. She ran after social workers demanded she surrender her nine-week-old and three-year-old boys for HIV testing. The soft-spoken European immigrant took anti-HIV drugs only once in 15 years of being HIV-positive, for less than a month. "I've never been so sick," she says. "The drugs made me nauseated all day long and constantly exhausted. I stopped taking the pills and felt better almost immediately. I've been healthy ever since."
The third woman is a 35-year-old from Montreal who was just a few weeks pregnant when her doctor began pressuring her to take anti-viral drugs, and warning that her child would be seized at birth if she refused to give the newborn AIDS cocktails. She spent several weeks agonizing over what seemed an impossible choice: a life on the run, or losing her child. In September, she aborted her baby.
Most people accept conventional theories of AIDS and are surprised that anyone would reject anti-viral drug treatments, but a growing body of scientists believe the medical orthodoxy is wrong. The dissidents include Kary Mullis, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing the polymerase chain reaction used to test for HIV. Another is University of California-Berkeley scientist David Rasnick, president of the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis. Formed in 1991, it is supported by more than 2,000 scientists and doctors. "AZT and other anti-virals have horrible side effects," says Dr. Rasnick, an expert on the protease inhibitors that are mixed with AZT to make AIDS cocktails. " They are DNA chain terminators; they kill all living things. If these women and children take these drugs religiously as prescribed, they will die."
There's no disputing the drugs' toxicity. Pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome warns against confusing AZT's side-effects, which include dementia, muscle wasting, severe immune deficiency, diarrhea, life- threatening anemia and birth defects, with AIDS itself. In 1994, the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and Human Retrovirology detailed an alarming incidence of therapeutic and spontaneous abortions among mothers on AZT, and a 10% abnormality rate among live births. The grotesque defects included holes in the chest, misplaced ears, misshapen faces, heart defects, extra digits and albinism. Meanwhile, an Italian study published this year in the journal AIDS concluded children born to mothers taking AZT were much likelier to get severely sick and die by age three than those born to HIV-positive mothers not on AZT.
Conventional AIDS researchers resist any suggestion of the inadvisability of anti-viral drug treatments. Dr. Philip Berger, an AIDS specialist at St. Michael's Health Centre in Toronto, says that he doesn't know "anybody" credible who questions AIDS dogma. "Well, maybe some guy who won the Nobel Prize," he allows. As for side-effects, Dr. Berger acknowledges only relatively trivial consequences like tingling in the limbs, redistribution of body fat and rashes, which he says occur only "in a minority situation."
The woman hiding in Alberta is unpersuaded. Explain why people like her remain healthy, the mother challenges. She believes it's because they didn't allow themselves to be used as guinea pigs for anti-HIV drug experimentation. And her family's bags remain packed and waiting at the back door, in case she has to run from the "AIDS police" again. "I'm not giving healthy children, even if they test HIV-positive, drugs that come in a bottle with a skull that has an X through it," she says. "It's crazy."
AIDS and women
By Sky Gilbert
Women can get AIDS too, right? In fact, women with AIDS have been
ignored, right? So AIDS organizations are starting to respond to the
needs of women with HIV, right?
Women all over Canada are having very real, frightening problems
concerning AIDS and human rights. And Canadian AIDS organizations
couldn't give a flying [censored].
Take the case of Madame X.
Madame X is a Montreal woman who is being persecuted by the police and
the government through the Youth Protection agencies in her city. (I
cannot reveal her real name because she is terrified of further
trouble.) Madame X is 38 years old, and looked 28 until, as she says,
she "put on a few wrinkles in the last six months because of the
horrible stress and crying." She is HIV-positive. Her sister ratted to
the authorities when she was giving birth to her first child (who is
8). She was hassled about breast-feeding her children -- she had to
agree to allow a government nurse to check on her child every two
months. The child developed normally, but every cold and slight loss of
weight brought a hysterical response from the nurse. Her second child
was born healthy and is now 4. But this hasn't stopped the persecution.
Though her children are not sick, and Madame X is a good mother, the
Youth Protection agency in Montreal has now taken her to court. Why?
Because she refuses to feed her children the new Protease Inhibitor/AZT
Madame X doesn't believe that HIV is the cause of AIDS. She has no
reason to -- she has been healthy since her diagnosis. Like many people
who are diagnosed HIV-positive, she has experienced absolutely no AIDS
symptoms, but plenty of hate and ignorance has been directed her way
instead. She has seen other children take the new "wonder" drugs and
die. She says -- please pardon her English -- "I thought it was the
treatment that killed."
Madame X is an informed HIV-positive woman who believes in homeopathic
remedies, and has the audacity to dare to take an active part in her
and her children's medical care. Her views may not be your own. But
that mean she should lose her family?
Last month Madame X's two children were taken away and put into foster
care, where the "cocktail" will be forcefully administered until her
case comes to trial.
Madame X is not alone. The Globe and Mail recently reported that a
29-year-old mother in Alberta has gone into hiding with her two infant
sons to protect them from what she sees as lethal HIV treatments. The
Globe also mentioned nine legal cases around the world where parents
fighting the state over HIV drug therapies.
I have nothing against HIV-positive patients who choose to go on
heavy-duty drug therapy. I am pro-choice. Some HIV-positive people that
are near death experience miracle cures. But I do have something
government agencies forcefully administering controversial, sometimes
dangerous drug treatments to children. Why is it that courts will
carefully consider the beliefs of Christian Scientists in the issue of
child health, but dismiss the beliefs of an HIV-positive mother?
Two reasons. First: AIDS is not a disease as much as it is a social
stigma. The politics of fear take over and suddenly anyone who is
HIV-positive is not a person. Second: there's lots of money wrapped up
in AIDS treatment. AIDS organizations such as Toronto's Community AIDS
Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) and the International AIDS
Society receive pharmaceutical funding (either directly or indirectly).
They know that if they dare challenge prevailing wisdom, they will lose
The only three Canadian AIDS organizations brave enough to defend
X are HEAL Toronto, the International Coalition for Medical Justice and
the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society.
In the mad rush toward pharmaceutical profits, AIDS organizations and
doctors refuse to consider that perhaps the new drugs aren't good for
everyone, especially those diagnosed with HIV who have never been sick.
These drugs are scary. AZT may have killed thousands already. As Dr.
Grant Hill, Canada's official opposition Health Critic, says, "AZT is
not a cure for AIDS, and there are significant issues around its use in
children." When will we stop the fear and the greed and learn to
consider these issues rationally?
The Toronto AIDS organizations I contacted were not concerned about the
issue of Madame X or the plight of her children. CATIE told me this is
"a child custody issue, not a treatment issue." The AIDS Committee of
Toronto "has no official policy." The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
stated: "It's very difficult to take a position on this issue." The
Theresa Group said: "That's not an issue we would get into." Voices of
Positive Women never returned my call.
Any HIV-positive Canadian woman who dares to think independently had
better prepare for her family to be ripped apart. In Canada, basic
rights and the rights of HIV-positive women are very different. And
service organizations in our country just don't care.
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