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January 28, 2009

Study Clears NYC of Children’s Deaths in AIDS Drug Trials

The Vera Institute of Justice—an independent nonprofit group—has released its findings addressing allegations that hundreds of HIV-positive New York City foster care children who took part in clinical drug trials from the late 1980s to 2005 were victims of racial discrimination and medical mismanagement, reports The New York Times. The Vera investigation found that the children—who were mostly African American and Latino—did not die from a direct result of taking certain AIDS meds and were not solely targeted due to their race.

In the late ’80s—when protease inhibitors were yet to be discovered and the epidemic was growing—New York City’s child welfare system created a policy that allowed foster care children to take part in clinical trials. In 2005, freelance journalist Liam Scheff wrote an article that raised serious ethical questions about using possibly dangerous medications and the lack of parental consent in these cases. This sparked anger among some city officials and civil rights groups, which subsequently called for the Vera investigation.

“Children’s Services did research on the rules and regulations that applied and developed a reasoned policy in the late 1980s,” said Timothy A. Ross, a co-director of the project at Vera. “The standard for enrolling kids in foster care that the child welfare agency used was higher than the federal standard.”

According to the article, Ross did however admit that the child welfare system kept poor records and did not always follow protocol. “We found a disturbing lack of medical consent forms,” he said. “In some cases we found handwritten consents instead of the official consent forms.” These actions violated both city policy and federal regulations.

Search: Vera Institute of Justice, New York City, Latino, African American, foster care


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