Africa’s lab rats and the “miracle” gel…

I watched in utter awe the evening news the other day as some “gynaecologist” who couldn’t pronounce Human Immunodeficiency Virus praised the recent “breakthrough” in HIV/AIDS science… While busy failing to focus on the camera and occasionally pouting (I suspect that might be her “pose”) she praised scientists for the vaginal gel that – after three years of testing on 889 women in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal – has been found to reduces the rate of infection by just under 50% and also reduces the possibility of getting infected by Herpes… Asked whether this could double as a contraceptive, the online-graduate said “No” (not in just one word though).. she laboriously attempted to convince the South African public tuned into SABC 3 at the time that “this is great news for Africa” and that the women who took part in the study are heroes.. *cough*.. from where I sat most of the women are actually unwitting martyrs, martyrs for a scientific cause that they probably aren’t even entirely committed to… No amount of publicity can rid these women of the HIV that is now in their system.. no amount… and for what? So the lovely people of San Francisco can one day have irresponsible unprotected sex with the aid of a gel? I just vomited a little inside…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have NO problem with trying to find a cure for AIDS or doing research to help prevent HIV… I am well aware that all people afflicted by this virus (and later syndrome) suffer immensely and that a cure (or at least a preventive measure) would be wonderful – not only for Africa, but the world. My problem is that African women – mostly uneducated and thus incapable of giving the informed consent requisite even in the most basic of contracts – are being used as lab rats in these scientific studies.. We might celebrate when we hear that it has a 50% success rate and thus lessens our chances of infection, BUT what of the 50% of women who were infected because they were misled into thinking they were using the “miracle” gel? Are they just necessary collateral damage? At what point will we – as Africans – wake the fuck up and just say “No”…

For the rather biased story, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10691353

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