Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Still, “it’s incredibly encouraging,” said Dr. Helene Gayle

Whoever said, prevention is better than cure, was, with no doubt, a white man or woman. Now, you have a good news and a bad news, if I put it in the classical American way of breaking a bad news. The good news here is that the tests of an HIV-preventive pill is announced as a near success. The scientists are not really too happy about it, as what they really want is a single dose vaccine, not a daily dose of oral pills. Oh! I forgot it in my effort to sound elegantly dramatic. No. There’s no bad news, for those who will be benefited by this breakthrough. Others are out the context (and the continent, of course).

The little piece of two-column news appeared on the back page of last Sunday’s (August 13, 2006) Hindu, credited to AP. It filled the gap above the Su Do Ku, and beside Gunter Grass’s much belated confession, made right in time for the next-month release of his memoirs.

The article carefully edited to fit the unsold space for advertisements, read like this:

MILWAUKEE: The first test of a daily pill to prevent HIV infection gave a tantalising hint of success, but a real answer must await a larger study due out next year.

The experiment, done in Africa, mainly showed that the drug Viread is safe when used for prevention. Fewer people given the drug caught the AIDS virus than those given dummy pills, but so few in either group became infected that valid comparisons cannot be made, scientists said.

Still, "it's incredibly encouraging," said Dr. Helene Gayle, co-chair of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, where the results were released on Saturday.
The experiment was conceived in centrally air-conditioned laboratories in Northern America, and is done in the streets of Africa. On a special species, generally referred in other parts of the world as people. I am sure that it has been done in accordance with international guidelines applicable to the testing of clinical drugs. So, I must agree with Dr. Helene Gayle. It’s incredibly encouraging. And, yes. There were some 400 participants were planned to include from two US cities, apart from nearly 5,000 from Africa, Thailand and Peru. A little more elaborated version of this AP news piece is found in The Washington Times site. It explains the test procedure, little more specifically.

A study by Family Health International, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, tested it on women in Africa at high risk because of multiple sex partners. None had HIV at the start of the study. They were randomly assigned to get either daily Viread or placebos, and all were counseled and given condoms.

No safety problems emerged – an important first step, said Leigh Peterson, project manager for Family Health International. After an average of six months, only two HIV cases developed among the 427 women on Viread, compared with six infections among the 432 given the fake drug.

"We really would be irresponsible to draw conclusions at this time," because those are too few cases to make judgments on, said Dr. Ward Cates of Family Health ternational, "but it does underscore the importance of moving forward very quickly now on the other studies on the drawing board."

I agree completely, Dr. Ward. It was very irresponisble; and it’s the African gods that played the spoilsport. All the 432 who were exposed with the protection of fake drug were supposed to be get infected, like dependable guinea pigs. Those who received the actual drug, also received its side effects. FDA has approved the drug, which is already in use to treat the HIV infected, as an effective preventive pill. Statistics has nothing to do with commonsense, if you already don’t know. The article also assures that no safety problems had emerged, and it was an important first step. Yes, no body threw an infected needle at Leigh Peterson, the project manager.

Meanwhile, Institute of Medicine, another offshoot of National Academy of Medicine as the FDA, has submitted a proposal to restart the practice of using jail inmates for clinical trials of developing drugs. With a humanitarian clause, of course. It is proposed where the experimental medication ‘could benefit’ the participants. The practice was ‘almost’ discontinued after the notorious 40-year research titled ‘Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male’ that began in the 1930s. In 1972, 400 of the ‘participants’ were diagnosed with syphilis but never told them of their illness or provided any treatment for it – even after a cure was discovered. Instead, the researchers used the men to study the progress of the disease. They all eventually died from syphilis. What could, at times, is might not.

Now, I shouldn’t be a non-progressive, self-centric, idealist. I should look at the big white picture. And understand the good of the cause. ‘Good of the cause’, never was an exclusive excuse of the Communists. Africa is the one continent worst affected by the HIV. And it’s a fight people of the world should fight together to survive, with each one in his and her own mite. Now, you can’t expect brilliant scientist from Africa. And one should understand, patient research endeavours are too much to ask from them. For that we have shiploads of philanthropic white men and women. And the Africans can at least help the cause by being the test partners. Let me remind you, it’s for the good of the cause, and it’s a fight we have to fight together. “It is incredibly encouraging,” Dr. Gayle had said.

NGOs in many parts of the world have done routine, well-organised protests against using animals for drug testing. Some have protested against using humans too. We can’t forget that development of new, more effective, life saving drugs are not just the necessity of pharmaceutical companies, but are important to each one of us too, who are prone to deadly deceases. What the world now need is not groups of people with any other intentions than blocking the progress of human kind; but a more pro-human, pro-progressive, and incredibly encouraging society.

Why can’t the nations of the world deal it with the same stupid, yet effective, method they adopt to fight against each other? After all, drugs are ammunition to fight against deadly microorganisms. And it’s too a fight human kind has to fight to survive. Wouldn’t it be great to have an army exclusively to test new drugs up on?

This new army of proud, philanthropic men and women can have immaculate white uniforms with blood-red epaulettes. They can have distinctive decorations for victories over viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. The existing red ribbons and yellow wristbands too can be made exclusive, with specific regiment monograms on them. The selection procedure should be scientifically designed; and there should be ample advertising budget to promote it as the noblest of the careers, which demands physical, psychological and intellectual superiority.

The selected candidates should be rigorously trained to walk with synchronised steps in mirror-polished boots, preferably with some medical equipment in their hands. Higher-grade personnel should also be trained to play golf, use cutlery, and dance in ballrooms. Surgical masks could be made mandatory in the dress code for ceremonial balls. Mortality rates can be expected only as good as the regular fighting forces. So that it shouldn’t affect the image of the existing forces. In due course, Bacteria Crosses and Viral Chakras too can be introduced. And in non-testing times, they can be of great help to the nation on occasions of gas leakage tragedies and the like.

Isn’t the thought incredibly encouraging?

This proposal cannot be implemented immediately. It might take more time than my remaining lifetime. I am not being prudishly ethical. I don’t want this to happen to me, my family, or friends. If a preventive pill or vaccine is made available in the market for a terminal decease, like AIDS, me too will be standing in the queue to buy it. But, I wish that wouldn’t happen at the cost of thousands of guinea humans. I would rather be alright with contracting a deadly virus, if it’s not from a blood bag, through a needle, or at a razor’s edge.

You can read here the article appeared in Hindu. And here is the one seen in The Washington Times site. And when you are comfortably numb, you can click here and it will take you to the news item about a proposal to make better use of jail inmates as drug testing personnel. You can read more about Viread and its side effects here. Here is the news about FDA approval for the drug. And read this blog, posted when the drug trials began a year ago.

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At Sun Aug 20, 11:22:00 am, Blogger jm said...

some lives are less valuable than others, huh?

At Mon Aug 21, 02:27:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

That's not a new thing, it has been like that from the day there were more than one life.

What interests me in this whole drama is the view of the company who develops the drug. For them, the efficient scients and the prostitutes in Africa are 'equally' important inventory. An equality redefined by capitalism, maybe.

At Thu Jun 28, 11:09:00 pm, Blogger Ridwan said...

Hey Jubin George:

I like how you tore up their pretenses.

Even the pro-testing crowd would have to read your argument carefully to know they were severely being, as the kids say, dissed.

I am so tired of their crap. When I taught regularly in the states I used come across students, mostly white women, who were adamant about going to save the hoardes from themselves.

Each one wanted to raise consciousness and do work on AIDS and its associated celebrity causes.

They wanted to write theses and dissertations and do research ...

This they would do in Africa, the country of course, and for Africans, the faceless beggars who need white intervention.

I tell you that my thinking has advanced to see this posturing for good to be no less than residual racism.

Not even the other side of the coin racism. It is the same kind and the same side.

Save the heathen's from themselves. Carry the 'white burden' for humanity.

Treat Africans like children (like is the case in Australia).

And they want to find pliable people "over there" ... the
ever-present generality.

And then they come back to the US and talk at dinner parties about their "work" with Africans.

All a pretense to get laid or further connected in the heirarchy that screws Africans in the first place.

In a more extended sense the condition of disease is fermented to be an African pathology ... and in the case of AIDS/HIV it is also a sexual deviance. (I think this is much of the underlying thinking of Howard's ban - Aboriginals are deviant sexual beasts ... they need an intervention ... for their own good of course.)

No matter the contexts, whiteness can't in any terms distance itself from its preordained prejudices.

The Western medical fraternity works on the supposition that advances are their ingenuity and disease is just another frontier to be conquered. This is a colonial mindset.

Who benefits when the trials arrive and leave ... and the infection rated grow and grow?

Millions die and Bono and Geldof and Gates and every other saviour stand there as if they carry the burden.

AIDS is a racist disease. Not because white people created it, but because powerful white people in the West and elsewhere administer/manage it.

Drug companies are looking to make a huge profit here ... the fly in the ointment is that Africans are too poor to pay.

So, much of what is done comes in terms of making the disease a primary research area for western experts.

These 'saviours' get huge grants from the Gates, the Ford Foundation, and others, to 'engage' themselves in eradicating this scourge.

Meanwhile, the issue is much more layered. Poverty and dependence are the causes that define the entire issue in the continent and elsewhere.

AIDS and HIV are intricately linked to poverty. The highest infection in the late 80s was among gay white men (in the US).

Not so anymore. The highest rates of infection is among poor Black men and women. The second highest being among Latinos.

The fasterst area of infection: Prisons. Yep there is where you will find poor people of color.

So, to do testing there would be like Tuskegee all over again.

These are disposable people. Like Africans are disposable people. Drug companies and researchers need disposable people.

Rich people make too much of a fuss. They own newspapers and have other mouthpieces. They will tell of unfair testing and trials.

Africans and the poor anywhere have no such avenues. They are voiceless victims of a machinery that does not care about their well-being.

Race and medicine, poverty and medicine, it is a long and oppressive story you have eloquently laid your hands on.

Sorry for the long post. Just a few of my thoughts.

Be well brother.

Peace and struggle,

At Fri Jun 29, 12:25:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

Thank you very much Ridwan, for reading it with due attention, and sharing your thoughts. And it’s my pleasure that your post is long. That’s the only possible use of this space, which is at our disposal for the time being.

I agree with you almost completely. What you called residual racism is more than it may sound like. That benevolent, patronising, white attitude comes exactly from the same place their atrocities came from – their illusion of superiority. This residual racism is the very foundation of racism. You are very right in saying it’s on the same face of the dirty coin.

Now this attitude of superiority is very much mutually exclusive with the inferiority of the oppressed races or classes or castes. White skin gathers ‘respect’ and dark ‘contempt’ by default. Not just among the whites, that’s the worse part. Or in other words, this white/upperclass supremacy is accepted, acknowledged, and even looked up to by the bourgeois among even the oppressed population. Racism starts with looking down, and is maintained by looking up to the oppressor. And the standards are always white. Presumed economical, political, and intellectual superiority. Presumed, because there’s only one standard to evaluate and all alternatives are ignored.

To illustrate an example, a whitey, who wets the pants seeing a cockroach doesn’t bother to acknowledge being inferior to a lion hunter, but asserts the superiority of having the ‘ability’ to read, or even ‘the knowledge’ to wipe their ass. The same is true with economical and political power. And the equations are always kept intact. If 50 years back, literacy was the bar, today it’s computer literacy, and it would be something else tomorrow. If 50 years back, one nuke was the bar, today it’s the carriers that count. First they set the rules, and then they win the game.

That's why most of things ethically wrong are still emotionally and rationally acceptible by their standards - as in the case of prisoners, or any other 'anti-social', 'uncivilised' group of people.

What I described is the very foundation of racism, and it’s the inertia of that dirty ignorance that prevents one from escaping from it even under ‘equal’ environments.


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