She believes drug treatments for virus are more deadly than illness

By Marnie Ko

The Globe and Mail (Calgary) 25 Oct. 1999

Somewhere in Alberta, a 29-year old mother is in hiding with her two infant sons. She's on the run from authorities in British Columbia who have demanded she produce her children for HIV testing.

The mother is HIV-positive, a result, she says, of a relationship with a hemophiliac 15 years ago when she was just 14.

The woman says she fled after being told by a doctor that social workers could remove her children from her custody if she breast-fed her newborn. When she checked with officials to see if that could be done, she says social workers ordered her to stop breast-feeding her seven-day-old son and to present herself and her children at an AIDS clinic that day to be tested for the human immunodeficiency virus.

HIV-positive mothers are strongly discouraged from breastfeeding. It is generally believed that HIV can be passed from mother to infant during feedings--but that view is not unanimous. A recent South African study published in the medical journal Lancet concluded breast-feeding does not transmit HIV from mother to baby, the researchers surmising that immune factors in breastmilk act to "neutralize" the passage of HIV.

In the Alberta woman's case, social workers insisted that if the woman's children tested HIV-positive, they would be administered powerful anti-HIV drug cocktails, regardless of parental consent. Even though testing had not yet been performed, she says she was threatened by doctors and child welfare workers: put the kids on AZT, or we'll take them away from you.

Drug therapies for HIV are legally considered voluntary, but in cases involving children child protection officials often take custody of the kids, loathe to deny them conventional treatment, regardless of parental wishes.

The Alberta woman says that, in fear, she stopped breast-feeding and fled B.C.

The stay-at home mother, a former-hairdresser, vows that she'll "pick up and leave the country" before ever consenting to drug therapy for her children.

When she had her first child in 1996, he wasn't tested for HIV. With the exception of a few colds, and the mumps and chicken pox, the blond-haired, rosy-cheeked three year old has been happy and healthy.

She says does not believe HIV causes AIDS, and that anti-HIV drugs are themselves a death sentence. She believes that the drug cocktails prescribed to treat HIV, such as AZT, are toxic and untested; that they ravage healthy cells in the body. Moreover, she believes parents should be given the final say in medical decisions about their children.

She's not the only dissenter questioning the theories that make up the multi-billion dollar AIDS industry. A growing number of scientists world-wide dispute the science that HIV equals AIDS.

The group includes scientists such as Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993 for inventing the polymerase chain reaction used to test for HIV.

University of California at Berkeley molecular biologist Peter Duesberg, the first man to map the gene structure of retroviruses, maintains that HIV is a harmless passenger virus, which is associated with, but not the cause of, AIDS. Prof. Duesberg is convinced that AZT causes "poisoning" by destroying bone marrow and blood cell production system.

The president of the International AIDS Society, who first identified 3TC, the most widely used anti-viral drug in the world, does not agree. Mark Wainberg, a scientist at McGill University in Montreal, told ABC in October that "those who deny that HIV causes AIDS are for the most part ill-informed, confused individuals who either do not or cannot understand the issues involved."

There are currently nine legal cases underway, one in Canada, where parents are fighting the state to make their own decisions about HIV-related drug therapies.

The Alberta mother, meanwhile, said: "I've been HIV-positive, and healthy, for 15 years," adding that the only time she felt sick, was when she took anti-HIV drugs, at her doctor's insistence, for about a month.

"I've never been so sick... the drugs made me nauseated all day long and constantly exhausted. I stopped taking the pills and I felt better almost immediately. I've been healthy ever since. And I'm still alive."

"There's no way I'd give my kids anti-HIV cocktails so they can get sick and die. I'm not giving healthy children, even if they test HIV-positive, drugs that come in a bottle with a skull that has an X through it. It's crazy. AZT is poison."