Jane Doe in Montreal refuses to give toxic, lifelong medication to her two healthy sons, and loses custody of them. Another woman in Montreal hears this and decides to have an abortion.
A woman in Maine has a daughter die on this medication, and finds that the debilitating symptoms she and her son were also experiencing rapidly disappear after stopping. The State takes her to court, but she wins her case.
A couple in Oregon are less fortunate. They are "legally" forced to medicate their infant and the mother forbidden to nurse him! A woman in British Columbia is harassed by social workers who threaten to force her to medicate her two children, and then hastily leaves the province.
A couple in London refuse to test their baby and flee from England after losing their case, fearing that forced medication will follow forced testing.
All these people have one thing in common - both they and their children are HIV-positive. They all reject the need for medication for their condition, and for their HIV-positive children. In fact, they question whether the HIV test indicates an illness at all.
The AIDS Epidemic
To most Canadians, AIDS is something that happens to other people - largely gay men and drug addicts. They have no reason to doubt that HIV is the cause of AIDS, that new drugs are miraculous advances or that the tests for HIV are accurate unless they test positive, of course. Just like a diagnosis of terminal cancer, most people are completely unprepared for this shattering moment, and rely on their doctors for advice, which is almost always to get on AIDS drugs immediately to try to stop the virus from its deadly advance. They usually do not question that they will die a painful and early death, but hope that the drugs can buy time.
Canadas top AIDS scientist, Dr. Mark Wainberg believes that HIV always leads to AIDS. In his opinion, those people who question the accuracy of the HIV tests, or question whether immunosuppressive drugs are wise for a disease characterized by immunsuppression are considered a threat to public health and should be thrown in jail [Picard]!
Many people would consider a parent refusing AIDS medication to be irresponsible but, considering the fatal nature of the diagnosis, perhaps within their rights to let their child die a natural death, versus gaining a longer, but lower quality of life with medication. Few people would consider that Jane Doe is actually behaving more sanely than the doctors. Yet, her do-nothing approach to HIV has worked. 14 years after being found HIV-positive she is still extremely healthy, and has never taken medication.
AIDS and AZT
The oldest, and still most widely prescribed AIDS medications are nucleoside analogs. If DNA is likened to a chain of beads, a nucleoside analog is a broken bead that can attach at one end, but not the other. Nucleoside analogs are supposed to stop retroviruses from being incorporated into DNA, but the inevitable incorporation of a molecule directly into a growing chain of DNA will cause replication to halt.
One of these nucleoside analogs (AZT) is prescribed to pregnant women to prevent transmission of HIV to their (rapidly growing) fetuses. It is also prescribed to HIV-positive children. Side effects of nucleoside analogs are similar to chemotherapy - anemia so serious that transfusions are required, bone marrow destruction, peripheral nerve damage, failure of the pancreas, and many others [Crowe]. It is also known that nucleoside analogs can cross the placenta and likely cause cancer, birth defects and mutations [Olivero].
The Price Of Health
There are several reasons why AIDS doctors and researchers may be so adamant that not taking anti-HIV drugs is irresponsible - money, money and money. Dr. Mark Wainberg, for example, has acknowledged being a shareholder in the Montreal company Biochem Pharma that manufacturers 3TC, one of the drugs that Jane Does children are believed to be taking. While the income from one patient is probably not significant to him, the impression that every rational person supports taking them is worth millions. HIV/AIDS is worth billions of dollars to doctors, researchers, hospitals and manufacturers - far out of proportion to the number of people affected in Canada (1,751 at the peak in 1993, declining to 279 in 1998 [LCDC]).
If it becomes legitimate to question whether HIV tests are accurate, whether HIV always leads to AIDS, whether AIDS is always fatal without medication and whether anti-HIV drugs are useful, the entire infrastructure will collapse. While that would be the end of the career of men like Dr. Mark Wainberg, for Jane Doe this would be the end of her nightmare.
One Woman's True Story
Jane Doe has been through hell ever since she had her first child about 8 years ago. When one son came down with a chest infection (variously diagnosed as bronchitis or mild pneumonia) in 1999, the entire weight of the medical, social service and legal establishment was thrown on her. It was only through the major financial support of the US-based International Coalition for Medical Justice (www.icmj.org) that she was able to fight back. Even so, after the involvement of several lawyers and tens of thousands of dollars, Jane Doe lost custody of her two sons. Her parents were placed in the horrible position of providing the three-drug AIDS cocktail to them several times a day . If the children vomit after taking the drugs (a common reaction), they must be given again. If the children refuse to take the drugs, they must be forced. If the children have diarrhea, that is just the price they have to pay. Nobody knows how long the children can live while taking these drugs, which have acknowledged fatal side effects, but that does not stop doctors from almost universally and absolutely recommending them.
No Report Card
The Canadian Government doesn't have statistics on how many Canadians are taking HIV medications, let alone how many adverse reactions there are.
Every page of one Health Canada report of adverse reactions notes Only a small proportion of suspected adverse reactions are reported to the program. Other estimates suggest that one to 10 per cent of adverse reactions are reported.
In HIV/AIDS, where the drugs can destroy the bone marrow, and therefore the immune system, it is very difficult to distinguish the disease from the side effects of the therapy.
Glaxo Wellcome, the largest manufacturer of AIDS drugs claims that a list of adverse reactions to their AIDS drugs in Canada is 'proprietary to the company'.
[Picard] Picard A. HIV deniers should be jailed: researcher. Globe & Mail. 2000 May 1; A3.
[Olivero] Olivero OA et al. AZT is a Genotoxic Transplacental Carcinogen in Animal Models. J Acquir Immun Defic Syndr Hum Retro. 1997 Apr 1; 14(4): A29., Olivero OA et al. Incorporation of zidovudine into leukocyte DNA from HIV-1-positive adults and pregnant women, and cord blood from infants exposed in utero. AIDS. 1999 May 28; 13: 919-25, Olivero OA et al. Transplacental effects of 3'-azido-2',3'-dideoxythymidine (AZT): tumorigenicity in mice and genotoxicity in mice and monkeys. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1997 Nov 5; 89(21): 1602-8., Olivero OA et al. Vaginal epithelial DNA damage and expression of preneoplastic markers in mice during chronic dosing with tumorigenic levels of 3'-azido-2',3'-dideoxythymidine (AZT). Cancer Res. 1994; 54: 6235-42., Olivero OA et al. 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (AZT) transplacental perfusion kinetics and DNA incorporation in normal human placentas perfused with AZT. Mutat Res Fundam Mol Mech Mutagen. 1999 Jul 16; 428(1-2): 41-7.
[Crowe] www.aras.ab.ca/azt.html and www.aras.ab.ca/haart.html.
[LCDC] Laboratory Centre for Disease Control (Health Canada). HIV and AIDS in Canada: Surveillance Report to December 31, 1998. Health Canada. 1999. Available at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/publicat.html