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More about State Sponsored, Gender Based Violence in the US and Africa

Victims of the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment (1945-1956) failed in their attempt to sue the US Government for actions that a presidential bioethics investigation admitted “involved unconscionable basic violations of ethics” in 2010; the judge declared that “the US government cannot be held liable for actions outside the US”.

So the victims have now launched a lawsuit against the Johns Hopkins University over its involvement, something the university has ‘vigorously denied’. The university has expressed ‘profound sympathy’, which I’m sure the victims and their families will appreciate.

These vigorous denials were echoed by the Rockefeller Foundation, who also claim to have had nothing to do with the experiments. Big Pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb declined to comment.

This infamous episode in the history of American public health experimentation overlapped with the much longer and more extensive Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972). Although this occurred within the US, the victims were African-Americans, so the vigorous denials and profound sympathies were not deemed necessary until some time after the experiments had been halted.

Carrying out questionable public health programs in non-US countries by US institutions is a lot more common now. Injectible Depo Provera hormonal contraceptive (DMPA) is rarely used among non-white or wealthy populations, inside or outside the US. This is despite the fact that the drug has been shown to double the rate of transmission of HIV from HIV positive men to HIV negative women, and from HIV positive women to HIV negative men.

The vigorous denials continue: just search for #DMPA on Twitter and the same faces come up over and over. The tweeters often attack anyone questioning the use of DMPA, especially among poorer non-white women in the US and among people in African and Asian countries, where it is often the most common form of birth control used.

Those defending DMPA don’t generally deny that it doubles HIV risk, as they are often among the research teams who estimated this risk in the first place. They tend to argue that a doubling of risk is not high enough to warrant issuing proper warnings, and that the risk of being infected with HIV is not as serious as the risk that those using DMPA may have an unplanned pregnancy, as if there are no other contraceptives available!

Spite towards Africans expressed through dangerous ‘public health’ programs was entirely normalized once it was decided, for purely political reasons, that HIV should be marketed as a sexually transmitted infection that heterosexuals were very likely to contract and transmit.

Although the virus mainly infects men who have sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users (IDU) in wealthy and middle income countries, it mainly infects people who are neither MSM nor IDUs in Africa. In fact, the largest demographic infected in most African countries is women from their mid teens up to their late forties.

How could this be so?

Well, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of being treated in an African hospital, given birth there, or even just visited someone you know, you will find it very easy to believe that unsafe healthcare constitutes a huge, but under-researched risk. Less of a risk, but also under-researched, are unsafe cosmetic and traditional practices.

Consider this when reading about some of the experiments carried out in Guatemala: “Prostitutes were infected with venereal disease and then provided for sex to subjects for intentional transmission of the disease”, syphilis was injected into the spinal fluid of some victims.

Children were also subjected to these ‘experiments’, as were orphans, prisoners and mental health patients. Some of those involved were worried about what people not involved might think if they found out, but they don’t seem to have worried about their victims; one woman is reported to have had gonnorheal pus from a male subject injected into both her eyes.

But it’s not only African (or African American) women that are so maligned by wealthy western institutions that massive ‘public health’ experiments can be carried out using public money, often resulting in private gain, with total impunity. The English Guardian article notes two ‘experiments’ carried out on men, aiming to infect them with sexually transmitted infections and then watching the effect this had on them, their families and others around them.

For example, “An emulsion containing syphilis or gonorrhoea was spread under the foreskin of the penis in male subjects” and “The penis of male subjects was scraped and scarified and then coated with the emulsion containing syphilis or gonorrhea”.

This obsession with sex, sexuality and sexual organs continues to occupy publicly (and privately) funded western HIV scientists in African countries. Research into non-sexual transmission of HIV is almost unheard of, except in the form of ‘vigorous denial’ that it ever occurs.

The enormous Mass Male Circumcision programs (MMC), which have attracted several billion dollars, are targeting tens of millions of Africans. And yet they are predicated on the view that HIV is almost always transmitted through heterosexual sex, a view that is entirely based on the prejudice of ‘experts’. (There are over 100 posts about mass male circumcision on this blog).

These circumcision programs are targeted, like Tuskegee, Guatemala and the use of Depo Provera, at non-white, poorer people, often African and female (while the MMC programs must target men, the operation has been shown to double transmission from males to females).

Data collected is often published selectively, to promote funded interests, and anything that suggests the programs are harmful is either uncollected, ignored or remains unpublished. Those criticizing such practices are attacked, branded, ridiculed and persecuted by professional (and often very well qualified) trolls.

In years to come, articles in the English Guardian may describe these appalling practices, that occurred in the past, as if they could never happen in the present. But similar phenomena continue to occur, with funding from western governments, ‘philanthropists’, academic institutions and others, while the public (and the media) look the other way.

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