Report refutes HIV denialist claims on childrens HIV trials

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Several years ago, allegations from a fringe group of HIV denialists who claiming that foster children in New York were used as guinea pigs for adult HIV drug trials, gained media publicity when used as a basis for a BBC documentary. It is important that these have been quashed following a lengthy investigation, detailed in a recent article in the New York Times. [1]

Complaints to the BBC after the documentary was aired in 2004, also resulted in a lengthy apology and retraction recognising the inappropriate balance used in their programme. [2]

An independently commissioned investigation determined that city officials had acted in good faith and in the interests of the children, many of whom were seriously ill.

The report, from the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent nonprofit group, is now available online [3]. It also found that foster children were not removed from their families because a parent had refused to consent to a child’s treatment, and that researchers did not specifically select foster children for enrollment in the trials. While the foster children were overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, as some critics, this mirrored the demographics of children with HIV infection in the city at the time.


This was probably one of the most inappropriate and inflammatory HIV-realted stories to picked up by mainstream media who themselves failed to appropriately research the real issues: that children are generally denied access to potentially life-saving pipeline compounds until after they have been approved for adult care.


  1. Foderaro L. Study refutes claims on AIDS drug trials, New York Times (27 January 2009).
  2. BBC Admits that “Guinea Pig Kids” is Misleading, Erroneous: Apologises for HIV Denialist Bias and False Allegations about NYC AIDS Drug Trials

    Link to BBC letter
  3. Ross T et al. The Experiences of New York City Foster Children in HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials. Available online:

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.