Supreme Court Upholds Right To Keep
Child Off AIDS Drugs
By Christine Maggiore
Questions and comments challenging the HIV/AIDS hypothesis are thoughtfully addressed by Christine Maggiore of HEAL, LA's leading purveyor of "dangerous information". Send yours to HEAL Q & A, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604; fax (818) 780-7093, or e-mail through HEAL's website www.heal-la.org
I've been following the case of Valerie Emerson, the woman in Maine who risked losing custody of her HIV-positive son for not giving him AIDS drugs. What do you think about this? Did HEAL have anything to do with her stance?
Lewis Rose, Echo Park
The story of Valerie Emerson has been featured in national news programs ("Dateline" January 25, "The View" February 1), and magazines ("People Oct. '98), and has provided a hot topic for radio talk shows around the country. Emerson, a single mother on public assistance, was reported to Maine's Department of Human Services by an AIDS specialist for "serious parental neglect" when she declined to enroll her four- year-old son Nikolas in a pediatric study of Protease Inhibitors (popularly known as "AIDS cocktails"). HEAL had nothing to do with her stance, but since we provided last- minute help with her legal case, I am able to share some important details not mentioned in most news reports.
Two of Valerie's four children tested HIV positive in 1995 after Valerie, then three months pregnant, came up positive on a mandatory prenatal HIV screening. Valerie followed doctor's orders to start treatment with AZT (alleged to reduce transmission of HIV from mother to child during pregnancy*), but recalls that within just a few days she began experiencing vomiting, hair loss, intense leg pain and loss of appetite, symptoms which doctors attributed to her pregnancy. When brain cysts were found developing on her unborn child, Valerie decided to stop the AZT. She says all her symptoms disappeared within two weeks along with the cysts on her fetus, and this child, Jacob, was born testing HIV negative.
Valerie's daughter Tia died after less than a year on AIDS treatment drugs. Prior to AIDS therapies, Tia had not been seriously ill. She did suffer from acute asthma which made her susceptible to pneumonia, but before Tia's HIV-positive diagnosis, doctors assured Valerie that there was nothing abnormal about her daughter's health. After testing positive at age three, however, doctors claimed that Tia's history of recurrent pneumonia was indicative of full- blown AIDS, and ordered her to begin immediate treatment with AZT and a series of antibiotics.
According to Valerie, the pneu-monias became more frequent and lasted longer once Tia began taking treatment drugs. After a few months, she stopped growing and was unable to walk. By the ninth month on AZT and antibiotics, her daughter had become so emaciated Emerson recalls having to prop her up with pillows to keep her bones from touching, and that Tia was in so much pain she wouldn't allow anyone touch her. Tia died in her mother's arms a few days before her fourth birthday.
When Nikolas began experiencing the same symptoms as his sister after just ten weeks on treatments, Valerie felt certain it was the AIDS drugs, and not AIDS, that had taken the life of her little girl. She stopped giving her son the drugs and watched him return to health within days. In the year since Nikolas quit the drugs, he's recovered from a variety of problems that AIDS experts previously attributed to HIV, including a persistent eye infection and a learning disability.
HEAL provided Valerie with experts who substantiated her decision to take Nikolas off AIDS drugs. Our advisory board members Dr. David Rasnick and Dr. Roberto Giraldo flew to Maine at their own expense to testify on her behalf. Rasnick is a chemist holding nine patents on protease inhibitors, and Giraldo is an MD and infectious disease specialist. Valerie reports that their testimony was the deciding factor in last September's district court victory.
The judge's decision states that "experts may be right in their advice" for "more aggressive and powerful therapy" for Nikolas, but that "current statistics can be interpreted that they may also be wrong." He noted that Valerie "has discontinued her own therapy with no apparent present ill effects" and that "she has observed an outward improvement in her sick son's condition with a discontinuance of drug therapy." Maine's supreme court recently upheld her right to keep Nikolas off toxic AIDS pharmaceuticals.
A quick reality check of "facts" presented in Dateline's report on Valerie Emerson:
THEY SAID: AIDS cocktail treatments prolong the life of children by
REALITY: These treatments were approved for use in adults just three years ago and there are no studies showing any benefits in children.
THEY SAID: With AZT treatment, children live only three years, without
treatment they die.
REALITY: Nikolas Emerson is four years old, alive and well after 10 weeks of AZT "treatment" that left him ill and debilitated.
THEY SAID: The new "AIDS cocktails" work in 50-70% of
children who take them.
REALITY: There are no studies demonstrating a 50-70% success rate in patients of any age; in fact, "AIDS cocktails" are well documented to fail in 20-60% of patients while an equal number are unable to tolerate side effects that include physical deformities, liver failure and diabetes.
THEY SAID: The worst aspect of administering AIDS drugs to children is
the bad taste.
REALITY: AIDS drugs are known carcinogens that impede new-cell growth by destroying DNA. They cause severe anemia, diarrhea, dementia, muscle wasting, and deplete the T-cells of the immune system.
THEY SAID: Valerie and her son are HIV infected.
REALITY: HIV tests look for antibodies, not actual virus, and viral load tests do not isolate or measure infectious virus. It is unknown whether the Emersons are "HIV infected".
* AZT was approved for use during pregnancy based on the results of one study (ACTG 076) which claimed that transmission rates of HIV from mother to child were cut from 25.5% in the untreated group to 8.3% for women on AZT. However, other studies show transmissions rates in unmedicated mothers to range between 7 and 14%, while one study found that high levels of Vita-min A, correlated with a transmission rate of 7.2%, which is lower than the lowest rates for AZT. In all these studies, "transmission of HIV" was assumed based on the presence of HIV antibodies or PCR viral load.
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