Did HIV-Positive Mom's Beliefs Put Her Children at Risk?

From the moment Eliza Jane Scovill came into the world on Dec. 3, 2001, she was strong and feisty -- much like her mom, Christine Maggiore.

Maggiore describes Eliza Jane as "fierce, sweet, intelligent... wildly creative, imaginative."

"She loved music, singing, dancing. She loved her older brother, Charlie," Maggiore said. "I just wanted to live as long as I could to know her, to ... listen to her speak, to bask in her beauty."

In 1992, Maggiore tested positive for HIV. While researching her diagnosis, she became a member of a small, but radical movement proclaiming that everything we thought we knew about AIDS was wrong -- even the most basic premise, that HIV causes AIDS.

She addressed huge crowds at rock concerts, and sparked protests in Africa. Mainstream scientists dismissed her message as dangerous. But a defiant Maggiore was intent on practicing what she preached, refusing to take anti-viral medication like AZT when pregnant.

She and her husband, filmmaker Robin Scovill, had a son, Charlie, in 1998. When she began breastfeeding her son in public, there was outrage that an HIV-positive mother might be literally feeding her child a deadly virus. Evidence shows that breastfeeding increases the risk of transmitting the virus to children by up to 15 percent.

Authorities investigated, but in the end, determined that her son was well cared for and healthy.

When Eliza Jane was born in 2001, Maggiore -- still healthy without anti-AIDS drugs -- again refused anti-viral treatment when pregnant and later insisted on breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding provides important antibody immunity," Maggiores said. "I wanted to give my children every advantage, and by doing so with Charlie, I raised a beautiful, healthy son. By breast feeding Eliza Jane, I had a beautiful, healthy daughter."

Refusal to Test Her Kids

Maggiore also refused to test her children to see if they were infected with the virus.

"Why would I risk the stigma, the medical label, the toxic drugs? It didn't make any sense to me at all to subject her to that. It's my job as a parent to protect my children, and do everything I can to ensure they lead a long, healthy, happy, productive life," Maggiore said.

But when Eliza Jane was 3 years old, she suddenly became ill. "In late April, she suddenly developed sniffles and a cough," Maggiore said. "I took her to the pediatrician after a few days, because I wanted to make sure she was OK."

In fact, Maggiore was so concerned about what she described as a raspy cough and rapid, shallow breathing, she took her daughter to see two pediatricians in a week.

Dr. Jay Gordon, who was one of three pediatricians who treated Eliza Jane, told "Primetime" there was nothing particularly alarming about the girl's illness.

"When I saw her, she looked like one of the many sick children I saw that week," Gordon said. "You know, she had an ear infection, a fever."

Gordon says when he called back to check up on Eliza Jane a few days later, Maggiore told him she had no fever and was feeling much better -- she was even on her way back to school.

But Eliza Jane did not return to school, and Maggiore became more concerned.

"There was a stirring in my soul. That's about all I can say," she said. "It motivated me to seek a third opinion."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: In this stock image, a lumberjack is pictured.
Joze Pojbic/Getty Images
PHOTO: Left, an undated file photo provided by the Spokane County Sheriff shows Bombing Kevin William Harpham; right, in this undated photo provided by the Johnson County Sheriff, Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr., appears in a booking photo.
Spokane County Sheriff/AP Photo| Johnson County Sheriff via Getty Images
PHOTO: The tires of a Studebaker, missing since 1971, are visible in Brule Creek near Elk Point, S.D. in this undated file photo.
South Dakota Attorney General?s Office/AP Photo