HIV: Blame the Government

By Cook, Margaret | New Statesman (1996), February 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

HIV: Blame the Government


Cook, Margaret, New Statesman (1996)


Chris Smith, Labour's former culture secretary, had no sooner revealed that he is HIV-positive than the attack dogs were out in force--with Mary Kenny thundering in the Times that the condition "is linked with personal responsibility". Tell that to African Americans. Almost half of them believe the HIV virus is man-made, according to an Oregon University study, and many believe it is being spread within their community by the government. Some fear a form of genocide, while others believe they are being used as guinea pigs, yet denied proper treatment.

Ridiculous? Perhaps not, given what has happened before. In Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1932 to 1972, 400 African Americans assisted the federal government with research into the course of untreated syphilis. Penicillin was available, but it was not given. So people were left to sicken and die while doctors looked on.

As to the idea that the virus was created by scientists, this too is not wholly implausible, given the story of BSE and new-variant CJD. Was it introduced via polio vaccines, which were developed in chimpanzees and tested extensively in Central Africa in the 1950s? In the US in 1978, promiscuous gay men in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles--the cities where HIV/Aids first exploded in the 1980s--volunteered for experimental Hepatitis B vaccines. These were also developed in chimps.

Governments around the world have ignored the ethical standards enshrined in the 1947 Nuremberg Code: informed consent, respect for the individual and first do no harm. …

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