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.