Printer Friendly

COUNTY HALTS HIV PROGRAM AT WATTS SITES.

Byline: Lee Condon Daily News Staff Writer

Responding to fears from Watts residents that they are being targeted as human guinea pigs to test HIV vaccines, county supervisors Tuesday ordered an immediately halt to an HIV testing program at two public housing projects.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke called for the halt to testing at the Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens housing projects, where she said there is widespread fear that the testing program is ``Phase 1'' of a larger federal program to identify HIV-negative people in high-risk neighborhoods who would be willing to participate in human vaccine testing.

``We can't let people be used as human guinea pigs in that way,'' Burke said. ``These government-sponsored human testing activities bring back haunting memories in the African-American community of the great injustices that were committed in Tuskegee (Ala.) in the early 1940s.''

John Schunhoff, director of Public Health for the county's Department of Health Services, said Burke raised valid questions but that health officials have no answers yet. A report will be presented to the Board of Supervisors next week.

The federal government has not yet approved any HIV vaccine for testing on humans, but the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started nationwide preparations to find subjects for vaccine trials, Schunhoff said.

``What NIH is trying to do across the nation, really internationally, is to come up with a group of (subjects) for when and if an appropriate vaccine becomes available,'' he said. ``Nobody's being injected today.''

It is likely that participants in a vaccine study could conceivably be paid a fee of $25 to $50 to participate, an offer many poor people could find hard to resist, Schunhoff said.

He promised to investigate whether the county-run HIV testing program in Watts is being used to identify high-risk HIV-negative people who eventually could be recruited for the vaccine trial.

Burke said she was thrilled when the CDC granted the county $500,000 to run an HIV testing program at the projects in October. The county approved the grant and the program was slated to start Jan. 1, with Charles R. Drew University running the contract for the county. A total of 800 people were to be tested.

Burke said she started receiving frantic calls last week from Watts residents about the program, with rumors running rampant that Phase 2 of the program would involve people being injected with components of the virus to determine the effectiveness of anti-viral vaccines.

After a meeting with concerned residents Friday, Burke said she decided to call for a halt in the testing program.

Burke said she never was told of any connection between the testing program run by the county and the vaccine program before the supervisors agreed to accept the testing grant.

``We want to see if this money had any strings attached to it,'' she said. ``I don't think it's a proper approach. I want to stop everything until we get some answers.''

Schunhoff noted that there are similarities between the testing program and the vaccine program, but no one at the DHS has confirmed that they are linked.

He said Dr. Peter Kerndt, the county's top epidemiologist, is heading up both projects. Kerndt, who could not be reached for comment, is overseeing the HIV testing program in Watts as part of his job as a county employee, Schunhoff said.

But Kerndt also is employed as a faculty member at the University of Southern California, Schunhoff said. In that role, he has taken on the job of principal investigator for the NIH program to find high-risk areas for potential vaccine studies.

Schunhoff said Kerndt is working on that NIH contract with a Los Angeles nonprofit group called the Health Resources Association, whose officials also could not be reached for comment.

The county is not a partner in the vaccine preparations, Schunhoff said. Drew University also is involved in both projects.

Schunhoff and Burke said the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center is involved in both projects as well. Jim Kee, a spokesman for the center, said Tuesday he could not confirm whether the center is participating in the programs.

But Burke is concerned that the same doctor and the same subcontractor are involved in both projects.

Burke said there is still distrust in the African-American community because of anger over the U.S. Public Health Services' ``Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.''

In that study, 399 poor African-American men were neither told they had syphilis nor treated for it, so doctors could study the effect of untreated syphilis. Last year President Clinton apologized for the study, which was started in 1932 and ended in 1972.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 21, 1998
Words:782
Previous Article:`TITANIC' QUICKLY RISING ON ALL-TIME MOVIE CHART.
Next Article:KACZYNSKI `PARANOID,' COMPETENT; PLEA NEGOTIATIONS FOLLOW DIAGNOSIS.


Related Articles
AGENCIES MOVE TO CALM FEARS OF WATTS HIV STUDY.
BURKE'S MOTIONS AIMED AT HIV TEST.
AREA NURSE OFFERS PLACE IMMUNE TO HIV STIGMA.
AGENCIES CAN APPLY FOR AIDS FUNDING.
REGIONAL PARTNERSHIP TO DISTRIBUTE GRANTS.
Ministers seek teen health tactics.
ADULT-FILM LAW MULLED BEFORE HIV OUTBREAK.
BRIEFLY HEAD OF EXTORTION PLOT IS CONVICTED.
BRIEFLY.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters