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The city agency that put 465 HIV-positive foster children into clinical trials for AIDS drugs has arranged an independent review of the program after children's rights advocates said it amounted to exploitation.

John Mattingly, commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services, said the inquiry would investigate whether the agency had the necessary permission from parents or guardians to include the children in the research from 1988 to 2001.

The tests, approved by the National Institutes of Health, were conducted at some of the city's best-known hospitals.

But such advocates as the Alliance for Human Research Protection have accused the agency of exploiting the children and subjecting them to medical harm.

Vera Hassner Sharav, alliance president, questioned whether any review requested by the agency could be credible. She called for a federal probe.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization in New York, will conduct the inquiry.