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Christine Maggiore, AIDS ‘Heretic’ and Grieving Parent

Marcus Cohen
Townsend Letter
June, 2006

Defecting from the AIDS Orthodoxy

Californian Christine Maggiore is a prominent HIV-AIDS “heretic.” For more than a decade, she has publicly dissented from two basic tenets of AIDS orthodoxy: (1) HIV causes AIDS; and (2) AZT and protease inhibitors are effective in holding AIDS in check. Maggiore’s views on AIDS present a 180-degree turn from those she held in 1992, when, absent symptoms of any illness, her new doctor insisted on an HIV test as part of a routine medical exam. The test proved positive.

An AIDS specialist to whom she was referred considered that test inconclusive and had her retested for HIV, ordering as well a spectrum of blood tests (including a T-cell count). As Maggiore recounts in her book, What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong,1 this test came back “indisputably positive.”

Her rapid progression from a tentative to definite positive suggested to the specialist that she’d been recently infected. Telling her she was lucky to have detected the condition so soon after infection and to be robustly healthy, he then advised her that she’d eventually develop full-blown AIDS, require AZT treatment, and die within seven years.

On the very next day, she went looking for another specialist, one who wouldn’t discourage her from fortifying her immune system through nutrition and supplemental vitamins and essential elements. The idea of a recent infection also troubled her, as it conflicted with the circumstances of her life. (She hadn’t been in a relationship for several years, and she was neither a narcotic addict nor a hemophiliac.)

Drafted soon after diagnosis into AIDS activism by the AIDS Project Los Angeles, Maggiore served as an ideal “poster girl,” speaking at local high schools and colleges as the embodiment of a young woman whose lifestyle should never have exposed her to HIV, a warning that everybody was at risk for AIDS. A year into her activism, Maggiore’s search for an AIDS specialist who wouldn’t eye her as an impending fatality or recommend immediate AZT therapy led her to a physician who felt that she didn’t didn’t fit the profile of a typical AIDS patient. This physician, struck by Maggiore’s continuing good health, urged her to take a new HIV test.

The retests came back positive, then negative, then positive again. Confused by a situation that defied the rules she’d been passionately preaching in public (paraphrasing the account in her book), Maggiore sought reasons from the AIDS groups with whom she worked. They dismissed her questions or offered what seemed to her meaningless explanations. When she persisted, she got the impression that they felt her insistent questions were ruining morale.

At this point, Maggiore gave up asking the AIDS orthodoxy for answers and started reading medical and scientific literature at odds with establishment positions on AIDS. The more she read, the more persuaded she grew that AIDS research (quoting her book) “had jumped on a bandwagon that was headed in the wrong direction.”

In 1995, she co-founded Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives, an organization that shares crucial information on HIV and AIDS unavailable from mainstream sources. In 1996, she brought out the first edition of What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? The book has been revised and reprinted three times (as of 2000). Official translations are available in German, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish; according to Maggiore, there are even bootleg versions circulating in French and Thai.

The year she published her book, Maggiore fell in love with Robin Scovill, eventually marrying him. The couple had a boy, Charlie, in 1998, and a girl, Eliza Jane, roughly five years later. Consistent with her conviction that HIV does not cause AIDS, that drugs to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to children are much too toxic and of dubious efficacy, she breastfed both children and handed over neither for the AIDS drug therapy that was thought to minimize the possibility of passing HIV to infants via mother’s milk.

The Orthodoxy Strikes Back

Christine Maggiore’s high-profile dissent eventually provoked condemnation from the AIDS orthodoxy, with a fury and savagery historically reserved for those who publicly challenge establishment dogma – medical and religious. Chiefly, the attacks have impugned Maggiore’s integrity. A piece by Jeanne Bergman in the New York Press (June 22-28, 2005), in which Bergman, a human-rights activist, debated investigative reporter Celia Farber over whether AIDS drugs are worse than the disease, is a particularly interesting sample of the mud slung at Maggiore. The article is interesting and worth quoting at length because Bergman apparently submitted the piece without knowing about the death of Maggiore’s daughter, Eliza Jane, on May 16, 2005, some five weeks before publication of the New York Press debate.

“False-negative HIV tests are extremely rare, while false-positives are much more common, though infrequent. This fact and all the other available evidence strongly indicate that Maggiore was never infected by HIV, and she herself emphasizes the term ‘positive’ and avoids saying she is infected or has the virus, allowing others to draw that erroneous conclusion. Most people would be thrilled to know they were uninfected, but Maggiore was unwilling to give up the spotlight. This HIV pretender twisted her good health and the marginal incidence of false-positives into a lucrative new racket – selling HIV denialism and bragging about her good life ‘without pharmaceutical treatments or fear of AIDS.’ But of course Maggiore has no ‘fear of AIDS’ – she doesn’t have HIV.”

Bergman went on to bring in Maggiore’s boy and girl to emphasize her point: She has since had two children…whom she boasted…have never been tested…. They don’t take AIDS drugs, and they’re not in the least bit sick.’ But, of course, Maggiore doesn’t want them to be tested: she knows they are not at risk and their being uninfected would lead people to question her own status. And of course they don’t take ‘AIDS drugs’ – they don’t have HIV or AIDS.

As stated above, Eliza Jane, Maggiore’s daughter, collapsed and died in May. Previously in good health, she was being treated for an ear infection, a condition often seen in children. Maggiore had consulted three physicians, one of whom prescribed amoxicillin, a member of the penicillin family, but at a dose higher than recommended. This antibiotic family has a well documented history of adverse reactions in people allergic to penicillin. A significant percentage of these reactions have caused sudden severe anaphylactic shock and death.

On September 15th, the office of the Los Angeles County Coroner released an autopsy report (begun May 18th) that attributed Eliza Jane’s death mainly to AIDS-related pneumonia (Pneumocystis carinii). A neurology consultant, checking her brain tissue for pathologic changes, concluded that the tissue showed HIV-induced encephalitis. Note: the LA coroner’s report was released four months after Eliza Jane died!2

On September 24, 2005, the Los Angeles Times carried a feature story on Christine Maggiore, written by two staff writers. The headline read: “A Mother’s Denial, A Daughter’s Death.” Newspapers in England and other countries picked up the feature, which painted Maggiore as neglectful. Her refusal to believe that HIV causes AIDS, to believe that children of HIV-positive mothers should be treated with antiviral drugs, to have her daughter tested for HIV, had largely contributed, the story suggested, to Eliza Jane’s death. To buttress the impression of neglect, the reporters quoted a New Jersey physician who had treated numerous HIV-positive children. Although he never examined Maggiore’s child, he felt qualified to pronounce: “I can tell you without any doubt that, at the outset of her illness, if she was appropriately evaluated, she would have been appropriately treated. She would not have died.” Farther on in the Times’ feature, there was a reference to expert opinion contending that “any doctor who saw her should have treated her as if she were HIV-positive. That would have meant giving her a stronger antibiotic, such as Bactrim.”

Maggiore wrote two letters to the Los Angeles Times, one a letter to the editor limited by the Times to 150 words (the Times’ feature ran 2,999 words), the other a lengthier rebuttal which Maggiore and her many supporters across the US have been circulating online. Both letters stressed that medical records and repeated exams by doctors days prior to Eliza Jane’s sudden death indicated that she “did not exhibit symptoms consistent with the coroner’s determination of pneumonia, AIDS-related or otherwise.” The lengthier letter stressed, too, that emergency room doctors “took a series of chest X-rays that revealed nothing to account for her dire condition.”

Obviously, those in the medical and media establishments who place ultimate blame on Maggiore’s “heretical” positions on AIDS for her child’s death wouldn’t have a figurative leg to stand on without the AIDS findings in the LA coroner’s autopsy report. The central question then becomes this: is the coroner’s report correct?

Mohammad Al-Bayati, PhD, a pathologist and a dual board-certified toxicologist, reviewed the LA coroner’s report on Eliza Jane. Dr. Al-Bayati has published 40 articles in medical and scientific journals over 25 years. He’s a member of the scientific advisory board of Alive & Well, the non-profit organization founded by Christine Maggiore; he receives no pay for being on this board. He also charged no fee and accepted no money for his review. Because many of the Townsend Letter’s readers are doctors and those who aren’t may be too busy to look at Dr. Al-Bayati’s analysis, I quote the abstract in full: My review of the medical evidence presented in this case and the pertinent medical literature clearly shows that Eliza Jane’s death was not caused by Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), as alleged by the medical examiner, or any other type of pneumonia. Eliza Jane’s lungs did not show an inflammatory response to medically justify a diagnosis of pneumonia. Pneumonia is a term that refers to inflammation and consolidation of the pulmonary parenchyma. Eliza Jane’s death resulted from an acute allergic reaction to amoxicillin, which caused severe hypotension (due to the leakage of significant amount of fluid outside the blood vessels), shock, and cardiac arrest. The autopsy revealed that she had pericardial and pleural effusion and ascites. In addition, her organ weights (lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys) were increased significantly. The weight of Eliza Jane’s lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys were 184%, 131%, 121%, and 146% of the expected average normal weight for her age, respectively. Also, her liver was significantly enlarged and the hepatocytes show micro- and macrovesicular steatosis. Amoxicillin has been known to induce immune-mediated toxic changes in the liver. Eliza Jane suffered from an upper respiratory infection for about three weeks prior to her death on May 16, 2005. My investigation indicates that her respiratory infection was probably caused by Human Parvovirus B19 (HPVB19) infection. HPVB 19 has been known to cause upper respiratory tract infection, encephalitis, and aplastic anemia in children and adults. Eliza Jane had non-specific microscopic lesions in the brain consisting of microglia and multinucleated giant cells. These lesions could be caused by HPVB19.

Given Dr. Al-Bayati’s association with an organization founded by Christine Maggiore, I’m quoting from two apparently independent experts commenting on his review.3 The first excerpt is by Dr. Harold E. Buttram, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine: “In the present case of the autopsy report on Eliza Jane Scovill…diagnostic assumptions have been made based on superficial evaluation with little if any attempt to investigate other possible causes of the child’s three-week illness culminating in death.”

The second excerpt is by Dr. Andrew Maniotis, Professor of Pathology and Program Director in the Cell and Developmental Biology of Cancer, University of Illinois, Chicago: I would emphasize what Dr. Al-Bayati developed quite adequately from a technical standpoint in noting how the independent neuroconsultant failed to perform the proper controls for the p24 staining of the microglia and neurons in this case. It should not escape the attention of readers, especially those not familiar with the technical language of these reports, that the detection of the p24 antigen is not in any way diagnostic of the presence of HIV, or any other virus or pathogenic state. Positive staining for p24 in this instance, as in all cases reported in the published literature, is without scientific basis since positive staining can also be found in normal tissues and contexts.

In my next column, I will dig into the fundamental motives for the medical and media establishments’ persistent harrying of Christine Maggiore, who, it seems to me, has had her fill of misery with the loss of a beloved child and should be allowed grieving space. I’ll speak, too, about the glibness with which so many people equate medical neglect of children with parental choice of alternative treatment, and the readiness of authorities to penalize parents for such choices. I’ll close with two Canadian cases where the courts denied requests by physicians to take custody of minors and force unwanted therapy on them.

Notes

  1. Maggiore, Christine. What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? Studio City, CA: The American Foundation for AIDS Alternatives, 1996.
  2. Note, too: the LA coroner’s office has since refused to divulge whether Eliza Jane was tested for HIV and, if she was, whether the test was positive, negative, or inconclusive.
  3. These comments are included in David Crowe’ s “Eliza Jane Scovill Died of an Allergic Reaction to Amoxicillin – Not AIDS” available via Justice for Eliza Jane, a web site set up by Christine Maggiore.