Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Women's Lives Remain Expendable

The developing world all over microbicide trials take place designed to test whether various gels reduce the likelihood of women becoming infected with HIV and other STIs. That, undoubtedly, is a noble cause, except the execution is leaving frequently something to be desired. A number of trials have been stopped either because the gel didn't work, or because it actually increased the likelihood of an infection. This itself should make one wonder about the very concept that is underlying these trials. Either way, microbicide trials are a kind of poor sister of AIDS vaccine trials, so unlike HIV infected participants in AIDS vaccine trials, women who become HIV infected during microbicide trials do not receive AIDS clinical care from the investigators. In many developing countries this means in effect that they're left to die. Women's lives clearly remain expendable... no doubt bioethicists (many of whom busy themselves these days creating reasons for why such infected women are owed nothing by the investigators and their sponsors) will eventually condemn such trials as unethical. The question remains whether in that future time we will also see a return of that old 'different values and regulations were in place at the time' argument, that is usually wheeled out to justify such failures of ethicists to speak out.

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