7 April 2000

Unwarranted mandatory HIV testing of pregnant women is closer to becoming a reality according to an ABC News Internet Ventures article dated April 4, 2000. The purported benefits of testing all pregnant women for HIV status was analyzed by researchers at the University of Illinois on a strictly financial basis. The researchers claimed that through this mandatory testing, thousands of dollars could be saved in future HIV treatment expenses in Chicago alone. The insanity of this argument is not valid morally, ethically, or medically. This is one more indication that women's health and reproductive rights means little in our society. This "research" further paves the way for new abuses of women by stripping them of their medical civil liberties and treating unborn children as guinea pigs in the name of good financial management.

The International Coalition of Medical Justice (ICMJ) is horrified that so-called medical researchers would conduct a cost-savings analysis in order to push the mandating of medication. To take away the right of a woman to choose what is best for her body and her child perpetuates the increasing criminalization of HIV/AIDS. The University of Illinois and these researchers have created an unparalleled likeness to the testing of pregnant Jewish women by the Nazis. Can this possibly be done in America in the name of science? When did "First do no harm" and the Hippocratic Oath disappear from the practice of medicine?

Deane Collie, Executive Director of ICMJ asks the University of Illinois for full disclosure of the funding source for this research, "Was it the makers of the HIV tests or was it the pharmaceutical companies who want their drugs pushed into people who may or may not be fully informed as to the consequences of the test and the toxicity of the medications? This is a Kafkaesque nightmare that hides human ethics behind a veil of holocaust-like propaganda."

Further more, the results of the study are based on assumptions that children born to these mothers will be HIV+, but there is no concrete scientific data to support these assumptions, especially when the tests during pregnancy are faulty. There is data available pointing to the surety of deformities, disfigurement, and illnesses caused by the use of HIV drugs during pregnancy. As for the researchers' financial concerns, the costs of treating these children for a lifetime of side effects from these drugs were not factored in to the study at all.

ICMJ receives calls everyday from women, high-risk, lesbian, straight HIV+, HIV-, HIV indeterminate, all of whom have their own personal horror stories. Some physicians, following HMO/PPO protocol admit in courts of law that they have not read the latest JAMA or other journal findings on side effects of anti-HIV drugs, but they are just "following orders" and treating their patients according to protocol. ICMJ contends that these physicians are hiding behind the guise of recommendations and have no business treating people.

There have been several cases of unwarranted removal of children from mothers who test positive and refuse "the recommended treatment" for their children. ICMJ suspects that child custody will become a battle for HIV+ women while their children are still in utero if they fail to comply with medical protocol. If this madness continues pregnancy, choice, and motherhood will become a legislated act with a daily dose of chemicals as a result.

Moreover, the makers of the ELISA and Western Blot HIV tests are aware that there are no less than 69 conditions that can skew the results of the test, one of which is pregnancy. Since initiating mandatory testing in New York 24% of all tests on pregnant women returned a false positive, according to Guthrie S. Buckwald, Director of the State Health Department AIDS Institute. These false positive HIV tests resulted in mothers and children being unnecessarily and dangerously medicated with AZT. AZT was originally designed as a chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients in the 1960s. It was shelved and never used for its intended manufacture because of the highly toxic side effects. These include neuropathy, liver cancer, kidney, and spleen damage, tumor formations, excessive diarrhea and vomiting and many other AIDS defining illnesses. The crippling side effects from toxic HIV antiretrovirus drugs and protease inhibitors make the issue of whether or not to swallow the prescribed cocktail a personal one, not a criminal one.

New studies indicate the use of Nevarapine in HIV+ pregnant women, a less-costly alternative to AZT. However, as published in an AP Wire story April 5, at least 5 deaths of pregnant women in South Africa were attributed to the effects of this drug during ongoing clinical trials held there. The effects on the fetus are still unknown. As estimates from the CDC point to African and African American women as growing "high-risk" groups for AIDS, this attempted mandate for testing presents an even greater risk - the loss of a woman's constitutional right to human dignity and choice.

ICMJ asks women to educate themselves about the impending unlawful search and seizure with regards to mandatory testing and to write their congressional representatives to condemn mandatory testing in their home states. Collie says, "I hope that this University of Illinois research will be a wake-up call to every citizen who cares about civil liberties and the right not to be persecuted for medical reasons. Furthermore, parents have a basic human right not to be forced to poison their children in the name of questionable efficacy and horrendous side effects. I only hope that our government will be wise enough to suspend further financial research under the guise of science and that the threat of this draconian legislation will be lifted from the shoulders of the mothers in our country."

Contact: Jennifer DeLuca, Communications Director ICMJ, Phone: (540) 829-9350, Fax: (540) 829-90009, Email: