HIV & Race: What Doctors Know That You Don’t

    A female doctor talking with her female patientFor as good of a country America is, we have some dark patches that are obvious. Slavery is high on the list; But then the disenfranchisement of the freed person in the South that followed from 1876 to 1963 made us liars. I mean it was the United States Supreme Court that declared separate but equal in 1896, after the country fought a war with slavery at the center.

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    So I’m not confused when Black folk come to me with conspiracy theories about AIDS. Well, some of it is ridiculous, like when they say, “There’s a cure in Africa that our government is suppressing. Huh? If there was a cure in Africa, why wouldn’t the African people use it there, to hell with trying save someone else, when you can save yourself. Right?? Right!!! But then there are some half truths in some of what people are saying too; Really! At the end of the day, there are real reasons to mistrust the American government and all of its departments. The Tuskegee study is case in point.

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    Just the other day, I was taking to Bechara Choucair, the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public of Health about this very same topic. I shared with him that the African-American community fear is real and he and his team has to be there every step of the way reassuring us that our best interest is in their heart. But then I got tweeted a link this morning by one of my followers and she said in response, “It reminds me of the syphilis fiasco. Thoughts?,” What a way to start the day right back at the Tuskegee Study!

    I grabbed a cup of tea and read the article. You can see the Full Story Here. I’m not gonna recant everything but rather explore the issue at hand. In a nut shell, during the early period of the AIDS epidemic the National Institutes of Health (NIH) enrolled children who were in foster care into AIDS drug studies.

    No, not without permission, but with the foster care agencies compliance. During this period, there were very few AIDS drugs available to treat anyone! The death rate among children in the United States was high. After the death of parents Foster Care of AIDS children was high and they were left to figure out how to care for these children that no one wanted, not even their families in some cases.

    Many of these foster agencies thought that drug studies was the best way to give children with AIDS access to some of the most advance treatments around.

    So what’s the problem if these were legitimate studies? Well, there is always the overall ethic of whether children should be enrolled in toxic drug studies. All HIV medications are extremely toxic, so the larger question is, do we expose this high level of toxicity to such small bodies?

    But on the other side of the coin, if we don’t enroll children, then we will never know if these medications will work for them. Clearly we have learned that medications not only work differently for children and adults, but even in some cases for men and women.

    Take Hydeia Broadbent for example, a baby born with AIDS and abandoned by her drug addicted mother at birth. She is still alive today because her foster mother, who eventually adopted her enrolled her in NIH studies as a toddler. She had some of the best of the best medical care and now at 27 she is still alive and living well with AIDS.

    The flip side, there is always the potential that these medications will not work for that child and death is inevitable. This is however the case for adults. The overall point, I think is that young people will have to endure side-effects that no little body should have to, but NO little body should have AIDS either.

    This is a tough one, especially back then when there was very little treatment available. I think today I would say HELL NO! But I would have that luxury, there are a plethora of HIV medications approved for treatment. So there was no clear cut answer back then. It really depends on how you view the right and wrong of it, if the means justify the end.

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