Politics of politics

By Azwihangwisi Mufamadi

You wake up one morning and as your day gets older and better, a giant medical company from Toronto asks you to take part in microbicide (anti-HIV gel) clinical trials. For some reason, which seems like a death wish or a suicide mission to me, you agree to do it although it’s like going out on a date with the devil himself.

Five months later you discover that the anti-HIV gel that you have been using increases the risk of contracting the HI-virus instead of lowering it, as expected by the medical company that approached you. As a result you do an HIV test and find that you are HIV-positive. This is what happened to 20 of the 604 women, all from KwaZulu-Natal, who took part in the microbicide clinical trials that were being performed by Polydex Pharmaceuticals based in Toronto.

The trials were being performed in South Africa, Benin, Uganda and India. Although I am not sure about the criteria used to choose these countries, it seems to me that they chose them because they are all in the third world. If it was because all these countries have people who are HIV-positive, the tests could have been done in Canada, the USA or even Britain, since these countries have HIV- positive people as well.

I am still shocked that South Africa has people who did not only agree to take part in these sorts of trials but also people like the health minister and an organisation like the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), who allowed Polydex Pharmaceuticals to do the tests in South Africa, although they were aware of the dangers. Now the health minister and MRC are talking about an investigation. What investigation? I am not a legal expert or a lawyer, but I think the only investigation that needs to be done should be done by the women who took part in the trials on whether they could file a giant lawsuit against Polydex. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favour of the women’s decision to take part in the trials, but I believe it is only fair for them to be compensated for what happened to them because from what I understand, and disagree with me if I am wrong, the anti-HIV gel was not going to be given to women for free. Polydex Pharmaceuticals and the scientists who discovered what would have been the anti-HIV gel were going to make billions of dollars. However, if South Africa continues to be the play-ground of multi-national companies like Polydex Pharmaceuticals, what some Australians predicted might turn into reality. Everyone in South Africa might be dead by 2010.


2 Responses to Politics of politics

  1. Shivambu Caiphus says:

    I think it’s time we, third world countries citizens, start to declare war against been used as the ‘experiments’ by the First world countries and their multinational global companies.I somehow fail to fathom how can a giant corporation like Polydex,as you indicated,decided choose African countries for its experiment.Is it because African people are best-suited for these so-called research than those in Europe? Or is it because a life of a black African is less valuable to be risked in such deadly experiments? Imagine what would have happened, had those researches been succesful.Who was mainly going to benefit from the success of those experiment?I’m neither a prophet nor am I a son of a sangoma,but I can sense that this medication would only be available to the wealthy European countries as it was probably going to be highly-priced thereby excluding the poorer African countries out of the market.I think It’s time European countries perform their deadly experiments where they belong – in the laboratory – instead of in the human body.Or I suggest they perform it on the so-called death-sentenced dictators.Saddam and his allies would have been a good laboratory to perform that experiment on.What do you think?

  2. Anonymous says:

    As you know, these trials are conducted largely in developing countries because that’s where the highest HIV incidence and prevalences are. We try to do them here in the US but the cost of trying to locate the relatively few HIV seroconversions for a single trial makes it nearly impossible. But this reseach takes place in the US and other economically developed settings, too. You raise many interesting questions about compensation for events that occurred to the participants, despite their receipt of HIV counseling, testing, and free condoms. I would ask you: What would you prefer? No studies that attempt to find something that men and women can use to protect themselves (and seroconversions continue unhindered), or permit studies that may deliver something safe, acceptable, and effective even knowing that some will still get infected? You have to be realistic and honest with yourself and your readers if you truly want to see an end of the scourge of HIV.

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