NEW YORK ( – Outraged community activists, reacting to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary “Guinea Pig Kids,” demonstrated Dec. 30 in front of the Incarnation Children’s Center (ICC) located in Washington Heights. The documentary, which aired in late November, charged the New York City Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) with the “experimental” use of toxic drugs on HIV-positive children in the city’s foster care system.

In the documentary, a doctor said that the effects of HIV drugs on patients, particularly children, could be lethal. The children at the ICC who refused to take the medicines were force-fed through a peg-like tube surgically inserted into the stomach, according to a press statement issued by the December 12th Movement, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based non-governmental organization (NGO).

“We will not stand silently by and allow this situation to become the ‘Tuskegee Experiment’ of the 21st Century. Thus, we are demanding that our elected officials do everything within their power to expose, denounce and bring the inhumane practices to an immediate halt,” the statement read.


These children are wards of the state, Omowale Clay, a spokesperson for December 12th, told reporters. “These children do not have anyone to defend them, so it is a violation of these children’s human rights, and it is racist because the children behind those doors are predominately Black and Latino,” Mr. Clay charged. He explained that children’s advocates involved in the demonstration wanted to know why the children housed in the ICC building, which once served as a convent, weren’t given the best medical attention instead of being used for clinical trials.

“We want to know why these children were the ones singled out for the experimentation,” he insisted. “This is collusion between the New York City government, pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Catholic Charities, an arm of the New York City Archdiocese,” he further contended.

Attorney Roger Wareham, a member of the December 12th Movement, asked for an official response to the allegations addressed in the BBC documentary from ACS Commissioner John Mattingly. Atty. Wareham’s letter asked him to identify any experimental drugs that may have been used, to confirm if parents and guardians were properly informed of the experimentation, and the start and end dates of the clinical trials.

“Were children whose parents and/or guardians had refused to give them medicines removed from their households by ACS mandate?” Mr. Wareham’s letter asked.

The letter also asked the ACS commissioner if anyone received a grant to conduct the experiments; and lastly, was similar testing conducted at other foster care facilities under the control of ACS.

Commissioner Mattingly issued a response, an “Open Letter Regarding Recent Media Coverage” on the ACS website. Concerning the BBC documentary, Mr. Mattingly said the media released a “blatantly unfair” portrayal of ACS policies.

“First, two of the children who appear in the film, and whose cases are at the center of the documentary, were not even involved in clinical trials. Additionally, the clinical trials referenced in the film were approved by the hospital’s Independent Review Board and complied with all federal and state regulations,” the commissioner’s letter states. He said the clinical trials covered in the documentary began in 1989 and ended in 1998.

However, a release from the ICC states that “drug trials at ICC ended in early 2002.” The statement said that, from 1993 through early 2002, approximately 60 children at ICC participated in a “nationwide series” of clinical trials sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

In an article, “The House That AIDS Built,” first published on the Internet back in January 2003, Liam Scheff stated that the trials were actually sponsored by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, a division of the NIH. ICC admitted that faculty at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons conducted the trials.

“ICC was only one of more than 25 foster care institutions in NYC that took part in the trials. Across the country, thousands of HIV-infected children took part in the trials,” the statement said. According to the BBC, “experiments continue to be carried out on the poor children of New York City.”

Mr. Scheff’s story was picked up by the New York Post in February and later by London’s Observer newspaper, without giving Mr. Schell credit for the story. He named Pfizer, Genetech and Chiron/Biocine as additional pharmaceutical companies involved, besides GlaxoSmithKline.

The drugs being given to the children at ICC are toxic, warned Mr. Scheff. “They are known to cause genetic mutation, organ failure, bone marrow death, bodily deformations, brain damage and fatal skin disorders,” Mr. Scheff noted.

One of the main questions asked in Atty. Wareham’s letter concerns the presence of an ACS mandate to take children out of the home if a parent does not administer the drugs. This may well have been answered by ACS Commissioner Mattingly. In his “open letter,” Mr. Mattingly noted that biological parents and foster parents are bound by law to follow doctor-prescribed medication and treatment.

“Should a foster or biological parent fail to live up to these responsibilities, we must intervene. In some instances, when a biological parent’s actions are serious enough, we would place that child in foster care,” the commissioner said in his letter.