MOTHER SEEKS TO DENY SON HIV DRUGS
Court case is backed by fringe U.S. group that claims AIDS virus is harmless
By Aaron Derfel
The Gazette 19 Aug. 1999
A Montreal woman battling youth-protection authorities over custody of her
two HIV-infected sons is being supported by a fringe group in the U.S.
that claims the AIDS virus is perfectly harmless.
Sophie Brassard, 37, has gone to court to prevent doctors at Ste. Justine
Hospital from giving HIV drugs to her 7-year-old son. The boy was admitted
to the hospital almost two weeks ago suffering from pneumonia.
Doctors decided to delay the treatment rather than risk a protracted legal
fight in Quebec Superior Court. Brassard goes back to court Oct. 25 to try
to win back custody of her children.
"I'm living through hell," she said yesterday.
Brassard, who tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus more
than a decade ago, said she's worried that HIV drugs would cause her son
more harm than good.
"It's been my personal experience that you don't need any of these drugs,"
she said. "I have made an informed decision that these drugs are highly
toxic and experimental, and my kids should not be treated as guinea pigs."
Opposed to Antibiotics
Brassard is also opposed to antibiotics, claiming they weaken the body's
immune system - despite overwhelming medical evidence that such drugs can
cure infection when properly used.
In preparation for her court injunction, Brassard sought the advice of the
International Coalition for Medical Justice, a legal-defence group based
near Washington, D.C.
The organization believes in a vast medical conspiracy involving AIDS. Its
members have unsuccessfully defended an HIV-infected Oregon woman who
sought the right in court to breast-feed her baby boy.
Although the group invokes civil liberties and the right of parents to
decide on the medical treatment of their children, its driving force is
the denial of AIDS as an epidemic.
David Rasnick, an outspoken member of the group, signed an affidavit
supporting Brassard's case. In a lengthy telephone interview yesterday
from San Francisco, Rasnick talked about a political ploy by U.S. President
Ronald Reagan to turn AIDS into a public-health priority.
"There is no evidence at all in the scientific literature that shows that
AIDS is a contagious disease, that it is sexually transmitted and that
it's caused by HIV," said Rasnick, who has a PhD in chemistry.
"AIDS in the U.S. and Europe is a clinical manifestation of the
(recreational) drug epidemic."
But the world's foremost expert on pediatric AIDS, Dr. Arthur Ammann,
called Rasnick's arguments utter nonsense and dangerously misleading.
Ammann has tracked AIDS since the early 1980s and was the first scientist
to identify the disease in children and to show how it can be contracted
through blood transfusions.
'HIV is cause of AIDS'
He said Rasnick has never conducted an AIDS study and bases his arguments
on outdated research.
"The scientific community is 99.9 per cent in agreement that HIV is the
cause of AIDS," said the San Francisco epidemiologist, who is organizing
an international conference on pediatric AIDS in Montreal early next
Ammann accused Rasnick and his colleagues of preying on vulnerable people
with little scientific knowledge. He said the group can be very persuasive
because it often mixes true statements with false ones while ignoring the
weight of scientific evidence.
While some scientists hotly debated AIDS in the early 1980s before HIV was
discovered, the focus today is on developing new, less-toxic AIDS drugs
and a vaccine.
At Ste. Justine Hospital, authorities were tight-lipped. "It's a delicate
situation," spokesman Nicole Saint-Pierre said. "We cannot divulge any
Brassard, who lives downtown, said she lost custody of her boys last
month. "My father called child-protection services, saying my child had a
fever," she said.
Officials at the Centre Jeunesse de Montreal refused to comment, citing
the Youth Protection Act.