BBC TwoThis World


Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Monday, 29 November 2004

Guinea Pig Kids

Vulnerable children in some of New York's poorest districts are being forced to take part in HIV drug trials.

Following a complaint, an investigation by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit has identified serious failings with this programme and ruled that some of the online material based on it was misleading.
The issues raised in this programme prompted the New York authorities to commission an independent study.

During a nine month investigation, the BBC has uncovered the disturbing truth about the way authorities in New York City are conducting the fight against Aids.

HIV positive children - some only a few months old - are enrolled in toxic experiments without the consent of guardians or relatives.

In some cases where parents have refused to give children their medication, they have been placed in care.

The city's Administration of Children's Services (ACS) does not even require a court order to place HIV kids with foster parents or in children's homes, where they can continue to give them experimental drugs.

Tuesday, 30th November, 2004
1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK)

Reporter Jamie Doran talks to parents and guardians who fear for the lives of their loved ones, and to a child who spent years on a drugs programme that made him and his friends ill.

Transcript: Click to view or save to disk

Young lives

Garfield with grandmother Regina Mousa
Regina Mousa's grandson (left) is HIV positive and in a foster home
In 2002, the Incarnation Children's Center - a children's home in Harlem - was at the hub of controversy over secretive drugs trials.

Jamie speaks to a boy who spent most of his life at Incaranation. Medical records, obtained by the This World team, prove the boy had been enrolled in these trials.

"I did not want to take my medication," said the boy, "but if you want to get out of there, you have to do what they say."

He also conveys a horrifying account of what happened to the children at Incarnation who refused to obey the rules. "My friend Daniel didn't like to take his medicine and he got a tube in his stomach," he said.


Administration for Children's Services
The ACS has exceptionally strong legal muscle over the city's kids

Dr David Rasnick from the University of Berkeley who has studied the effects of HIV drugs on patients - particularly children - says these drugs are "lethal".

"The young are not completely developed yet," he says. "The immune system isn't completely mature until a person's in their teens."

So why are these children targetted? Is it simply because they cannot defend themselves?

At the beginning of this investigation, the ACS said that no child was selected for trials without a long process of decision making, but declined to comment further.

For months, the BBC tried to get information from the people responsible for the trials, but none would comment.

The companies that supply drugs for the trials are among the world's largest, including Britain's own Glaxo SmithKline (GSK).

GSK responded to BBC programme makers, saying that all trials follow stringent stardards and are compliant with local laws and regulations.

Under federal rules, consent for children to take part in drug trials has to be given by their parents.

But what if that child is in the care of New York City authorities, which volunteered it for trials in the first place?

Guinea Pig Kids was broadcast on Tuesday, 30th November, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK).

New York's HIV experiment
30 Nov 04 |  This World
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29 Nov 04 |  This World

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