By DOUGLAS MONTERO
March 1, 2004 -- Stunned City Council members yesterday called for an investigation into the use of HIV-infected foster children in potentially dangerous experiments involving high doses of AIDS drugs.
The reaction comes after The Post reported that some 50 children, some as young as 3 months old, were involved in 13 studies at Manhattan's Incarnation Children's Center, a foster care agency run by the Archdiocese of New York.
Three lawmakers, all members of the council's General Welfare Committee, which oversees the city's Administration for Children Services, said they plan to demand an answer on the fate of the children used in the experiments.
"It's crucial that we get full disclosure," said Councilman Bill DiBlasio, the committee chairmen, who plans to reach out to ACS Commissioner William Bell today.
"We need to find out what happened to these kids," he said, adding that he may hold public hearings on the matter.
Advocates are concerned some children in the experiments, one which included giving kids a combination of six high powered AIDS medications, were injured during the studies conducted in the late 1990s by doctors from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Some, like Vera Sharav from the Alliance for Human Research and Protection, are wondering why the experiments were abruptly halted in 2002 and why Columbia-Presbyterian pulled its clinical operation out of ICC.
No one from ACS, Columbia-Presbyterian and the Archdiocese of New York could say if any children were hurt or killed in the experiments. ICC, which was established in 1989 to house and care for HIV-infected children left at city hospitals, has refused to talk.
Some side effects to the drugs used include severe liver damage, tumors, anemia and life-threatening rashes.
Councilman Bill Perkins said he's concerned because of the rumblings he's heard in the "black community" about children being taken away from their parents by ACS and used in research studies.
ACS Spokeswoman MacLean Guthrie was unavailable for comment.
"I think the council needs to take aggressive steps to put this in check," he said. "Clearly, no one knows what's going on . . . We need to call for a public hearing on this."
Councilman Josť Serrano Jr. wondered about the consent process and how the "defenseless" children could have fought off researchers.
"It's an outrage to think that they would use children in foster care who have already come from abusive situations," he said. "It's disturbing."