She's a character, she has opinions.

Third World Women: Not Your Guinea Pigs

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Pap Smears May Soon be Replaced by DNA Testing: An eight-year-study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that a new DNA test may provide a better method for screening for cervical cancer than the Pap smear test. The DNA test is different from the Pap smear in that it actually tests for the human papillomavirus, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. It is so effective at testing for the virus and screening for cervical cancer that many experts are optimistic that women over the age of 30 will be able to drop the traditional Pap smear altogether and simply get the DNA test once every 3, 5 or possibly even ten years.

Sounds good to me. Sounds great to me, actually. I’m all for an easier, better test that will protect me and maybe save my life. There’s only one problem, the women they tested this on: 130,000 Indian women from 497 villages throughout the country. Well, this isn’t looking too good. Thank you, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for funding a study that used women from developing countries as its guinea pigs.

“The control group of participants consisted of those who received the typical form of care in the country, which involves simply telling them to go to the hospital if they wanted to receive a screening. The second group received Pap smear screenings, the third group received flashlight-vinegar visualization for identifying potentially cancerous cells, and the forth received the new DNA testing.”

And then what? And then we took these results and gave them and their benefits to women in developed nations who can afford health care. The New England Journal of Medicine article makes reference to this low-cost test helping women in developing nations and eventually replacing the faulty tests they have now. The problem remains, however, that many women in Indian villages cannot afford healthcare at all so this new test–developed based on their experiences–will remain out of their reach.

I’m uncomfortable with this. I think I should be. It isn’t enough to someday offer this test in Indian hospitals, we need to make sure Indian women (all women) have access to it. Especially since we’re testing it on them.

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Written by tldegray

April 17, 2009 at 3:08 am

One Response

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  1. I think you are very right to be uncomfortable with this kind of testing. It is not the first, nor will it be the last time that poor people or people without freedom of choice are used as medical test subjects without receiving on going benefits.

    In Cincinnati, doctors tested high radiation treatments on African-Americans without informing them that the amount of radiation that could be used without killing the patient was what was being tested. Most died without knowing that they had been lied to.

    Also in Cincinnati, a hundred of so African-American families were paid $100 a year to allow their children to be tested for the impact of ongoing environmental low-exposure to lead, The parents were never told explicitly was the danger of prolonged exposure was to their children and the following generation.

    When vaccines for polio were being tested the Belgian government ordered more than one million people in the then-Belgian Congo that they had to take the shot.
    The second vaccine being tested was tested primarily on about one million Russian citizens, who were also told they had to take the shot.

    Some researchers believe that HIV/AIDS was given a boost in its development later as a pandemic, by vaccine improperly prepared from livers of SIV infected Macaques.

    Ned Hamson

    August 9, 2009 at 2:13 am

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