Death by Medicine Jul 19, 2004 11:32:45 GMT -5
Post by Big Bunny on Jul 19, 2004 11:32:45 GMT -5
Protease inhibitors interfere with the body's ability to build new proteins. Since we're made of protein, protease inhibitors have pronounced effects on physical appearance and organ function. The side effects can be bizarre, grotesque and often fatal: wasting in the face, arms and legs, fatty humps on the back and shoulders, distended belly, heart disease, birth defects, organ failure—and death.
Almost all of this is found on the warning labels.
The first AIDS drug, AZT, was designed in the 60s as a chemotherapy drug for cancer patients, but it was never approved. Critics declared it too toxic even for short-term use, yet in 1987 it was pushed through for lifelong use in HIV-positive people. Although its trials were later revealed to be fraudulent, AZT remains on the market.
Finally, there's Nevirapine, which also interferes with normal cell function. In test trials, Nevirapine has caused severe liver damage and death in dozens of patients. Most die from organ failure due to drug toxicity. Nevirapine can also cause a violent skin disorder called Steven-Johnsons Syndrome—a horrifying condition in which the skin blisters and ruptures or peels off in large swaths, leaving bloody, exposed flesh.
Despite causing so many serious medical issues in the course of treatment, AIDS drugs don't even claim to work. Every AIDS drug label bears a version of this caveat:
"This drug will not cure your HIV infection… Patients receiving antiretroviral therapy may continue to experience opportunistic infections and other complications of HIV disease… Patients should be advised that the long-term effects are unknown at this time."
So why do people take the drugs? Because they test HIV-positive. But as Christine Maggiore learned, HIV tests are highly inaccurate.
Most HIV tests are antibody tests, which means that they can cross-react with normal proteins in human blood. There are nearly 70 commonly occurring conditions—as listed in the medical literature—that are known to make the tests come up positive. These include yeast infections, colds, flus, arthritis, hepatitis, herpes, recent inoculations, drug use and pregnancy.
The remaining HIV tests, called viral load tests, can produce dozens of conflicting results—even from the same blood sample.
HIV tests are so unreliable that they all bear a disclaimer: "At present there is no recognized standard for establishing the presence or absence of HIV-1 antibody in human blood," or "The AMPLICOR HIV-1 MONITOR [Viral Load] test is not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV infection," or "Do not use this kit as the sole basis of diagnosis of HIV-1 infection" (Abbott Laboratories HIV Test, Roche Viral Load Test and Epitope, Inc. Western Blot Test, respectively).
And the kicker: Positive test results can occur due to "prior pregnancy, blood transfusions...and other potential nonspecific reactions" (Vironostika HIV Test, 2003).
In short: In the 90s, drug companies like Glaxo Wellcome and Abbott Labs began recycling old chemotherapy drugs for the new AIDS drug market. This market consisted of gay men who weren't told that the HIV test was a nonspecific antibody test. They were told, however, that AIDS was an unavoidable outgrowth of testing positive on this test, and that HIV was a fatal condition.
If you look in the medical literature, you'll find that neither of these assumptions is true.
MONA'S SON SEAN has lived in a virtual coma his entire life. He was put on AZT in infancy. The drug made him so sick that he couldn't swallow solid food and, as a result, he ate through a tube in his nose until he was three. He had no energy. He was constantly ill. He couldn't play or even walk without becoming exhausted. Sean got sicker every time Mona gave him the drugs, so she cut down the doses. His energy level began to improve. She continued to wean him off the drugs and started taking him to a naturopath.
"For the first time in his life," she told me, "he became a normal boy. He could play with the other children, he could walk, he could run. He smiled and laughed. He was normal."
This would've been good news, except that Sean was born to a mother who once tested HIV-positive. Sean, the recipient of his mother's antibodies, also tested positive.
The Administration for Children's Services (ACS) came down hard on Mona for not drugging him. She was sent to a new doctor, an AIDS specialist at Beth Israel, who put Sean on a "miracle drug," Nevirapine. Within six months, he was on life support due to organ failure.
That's when ACS decided that Sean should be put into ICC. They said he'd be there for four months; he was there for more than a year. Mona had to get a lawyer to get him out.
Mona showed me Sean's medical records. They told the same story: AZT, Nevirapine, the ICU.
"Now they have Dana on the drugs."
Mona introduced me to Sean on a basketball court near their home. He was a cute kid. His jacket was too big for him, and he walked with a little shuffle—and a little wariness. He was small. I have a picture of myself at four years old—oversized denim jacket, swinging my legs a bit as I walked—and I was about the same size as Sean. Except Sean was 13. He weighed 50 pounds and was about four feet tall. An AZT baby. Stunted, his cells damaged from the inside out.
INCARNATION CHILDREN'S CENTER is housed in a four-story brick building, a converted convent with barred windows. At the entrance, there are glass panes on either side of a large, solid door with a camera above it. The day I went to ICC, there were children pushing up against the glass beside the closed door looking at me.
I walked through the door and into a waiting room with a wide steel elevator door at the far end. I signed in as a family friend of Mona's. The nurses eyed me suspiciously but didn't stop me from entering.
Beyond the reception area was a large, dark room with stained-glass windows on the far back wall. Children were grouped around folding tables.
The kids ranged from a couple years old to almost adult. Except for a few Hispanic kids, they were mostly African-American. A number of the children were in wheelchairs. There was a boom box playing in the background. Somebody had brought in pizza in cardboard boxes. A young woman in sweatpants sat on one of the chairs. She looked at me and seemed embarrassed; it was her 18th birthday party. A few bored, pale teenagers sat around in the corners, watching with detached, vague expressions. They were volunteers, coming to do community service for the AIDS children.
The wheelchair-bound kids were being fed or drugged, or both, with a milky-white fluid dispensed through tubes coming out of hanging plastic packs. The tubes disappeared beneath their shirts. Their eyes were vacant, pained, focused at a point in the distance that I couldn't see.
I walked down a short hall into another room. There was a boy, maybe 10 years old, who had a bloated, water-logged appearance. He waved and shouted, motioning for me to come play with him. A childcare worker said his name sharply, like a warning, then looked at me sternly.
Back in the hallway, another little boy approached me and held out his arms. I picked him up, and he squealed and squirmed playfully. As I tried to get a better grip, my hand hit something hard—plastic. There was a piece of plastic covering a hole in his abdomen. I went cold and put him down carefully. Again, the nurses stared at me.
Getting ready to leave, I noticed a girl with a bloated stomach. She was probably 12 or 13 years old. I looked down—there was a clear, hollow plastic tube curling out of her sweatpants.
The thick, stale air was overwhelming, and it's then that I realized the windows were not only barred, but shut.
"If they were open," Mona would later tell me, "the kids would try to get out."
As I left, I again noticed the massive steel elevator door. According to Mona, it led to the clinic.
"That's where they give them the drugs. Upstairs. They used to do it down here, but they didn't like the other children seeing them give the drugs."
DR. DAVID RASNICK is a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley whom I worked with on a series of articles examining the AIDS debate. When I told him what I'd seen at ICC, he was disturbed—but not entirely surprised.
"AIDS doctors always assume their patients are going to die," he said. "Nobody ever asks if an AIDS patient is actually sick from drug toxicity, because they never considered that the person had a chance anyway."