Incarnation Children's Center
Incarnation Children's Center (ICC) is a nursing facility for children living with HIV in New York City. From 1989 until 2000 the center operated as a foster care boarding home; since then it has concentrated on providing medical care. The ICC is a non-profit corporation affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York and Columbia University.
Between 1993 and 2002, approximately 60 children with HIV/AIDS at the ICC took part in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to test the efficacy of antiretroviral medication, alongside thousands of other children across the United States. In 2004, HIV denialist Liam Scheff alleged on his blog, and later in an article in Hustler, that the ICC was abusing HIV-positive children enrolled on clinical trials by forcing them to take HIV medications, suggesting that children became ill when they might otherwise have remained healthy. The story was later investigated by The Guardian, while the BBC financed and aired a documentary entitled Guinea Pig Kids, echoing the charges against Incarnation Children's Center.
Staff at the center vehemently denied the allegations of mistreatment, arguing that all trials were properly run and beneficial to the children. The New York State Department of Health investigated and concluded that none of the abuse allegations were substantiated, and that the source of the accusations "appears to be a group of individuals holding the view that HIV does not cause AIDS—a view discredited by scientific and medical consensus around the world."
The New York Times described the allegations against ICC as "given by a single writer about people not identified by real names, backed up with no official documentation as supporting proof, and put out on the Internet in early 2004 after the author was unable to get the story published anywhere else." The Times further noted that there is "little evidence that the trials were anything but a medical success" and dramatically reduced death rates among children with HIV. Subsequently, an independent investigation by the Vera Institute of Justice concluded that no "children died as a result of the trials or that the foster children were selected because of their race", as had been alleged. However, the New York State Department of Health cited confidentiality laws in limiting Vera's ability to review clinical trial research or medical records.
In early 2007 a group of scientists and AIDS activists, including Mark Wainberg, demanded a retraction and apology from the BBC, charging that the BBC documentary Guinea Pig Kids was "inflammatory, deceptive, error-filled and dangerous". The BBC upheld several of the group's complaints, apologizing for "serious breaches" of accuracy and impartiality in the documentary. In particular, the BBC review noted that the only "expert witness" interviewed in the documentary denied the link between HIV and AIDS, although the audience was not told that his views were rejected by the scientific community nor was the widely accepted scientific understanding of HIV/AIDS presented. The BBC also noted that the documentary created and contributed to "false impressions" about the enrollment of children on clinical trials at Incarnation, and about the effectiveness of antiretroviral treatment. The BBC published a correction advising readers that it had identified "serious failings with this programme and ruled that some of the online material based on it was misleading."
In his book Denying AIDS which reviews AIDS denialism, social psychologist and director of the Southeast HIV/AIDS Research and Evaluation (SHARE) project Seth Kalichman describes the film as "instigated by Liam Scheff" and that "the story ultimately resulted in children being removed from HIV treatment. The BBC came to learn they had been led astray by Scheff and apologized for producing the documentary."
- "Statement on clinical trials". Incarnation Children's Center. September 27, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2011 (archived).
- Kalichman, Seth C. (2009). Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Berlin: Springer. pp. , 99. ISBN 0-387-79475-1.
- Barnett, Anthony (2004-04-04). "UK firm tried HIV drug on orphans". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
- Scott, Janny; Leslie Kaufman (2005-07-17). "Belated Charge Ignites Furor Over AIDS Drug Trial". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
- Guthrie S. Birkhead, MD, MPH (February 2005). "Letter on allegations regarding Incarnation Children's Center" (PDF). New York State Department of Health. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved January 20, 2011 (archived).
- Federaro, Lisa (2009-01-27). "Study Refutes Claims on AIDS Drug Trials". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- "The Experiences of New York City Foster Children in HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials" (PDF). Vera Institute of Justice. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- Holmwood, Leigh (2007-10-23). "'Serious concern' at BBC over flawed HIV film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Analysis of complaints". BBC. July–September 2007. Retrieved January 21, 2010.