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Ugandans not being used as guinea pigs

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th December 2009 03:00 AM

EDITOR—I have read with concern the letter by Amon B. Mbekiza entitled, “Africans are not guinea pigs” published on December 17. Mbekiza points out several issues regarding HIV prevention research that are very misleading.

EDITOR—I have read with concern the letter by Amon B. Mbekiza entitled, “Africans are not guinea pigs” published on December 17. Mbekiza points out several issues regarding HIV prevention research that are very misleading.

EDITOR—I have read with concern the letter by Amon B. Mbekiza entitled, “Africans are not guinea pigs” published on December 17. Mbekiza points out several issues regarding HIV prevention research that are very misleading. Please note:
  • Recent reports of an unsuccessful HIV trial conducted among women was testing a microbicide gel - PRO 2000, NOT a vaccine as stated in the letter.

  • In science, even if a study does not successfully meet its objectives, it is not necessarily regarded as a failure. Every study provides new scientific data that informs further design, discovery and development of new HIV prevention tools.

  • Ugandans are not being used as “guinea pigs” by Western pharmaceuticals. Many countries around the world are participating in HIV clinical trials, including the US and Europe. Africa is home to 67% of the global total HIV epidemic. It is therefore imperative that Africans should be central/key partners in the global search for new prevention tools against HIV.

  • Participation in HIV clinical trials is voluntary. Safety is of the utmost concern, and potential volunteers are provided detailed information about the trial to empower them make informed decisions about their participation. They are free to withdraw from the trial at any time.

  • HIV clinical trials undergo rigorous ethical reviews by both national and international regulatory bodies to ensure research that meets international standards and the highest ethical principles. Some of the organs in Uganda responsible for such reviews include; Institutional Review Boards, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and National Drug Authority. In addition, trial sites work with Community Advisory Boards that constitute an active link between researchers and research communities. Trials are continuously monitored and can either be paused or completely stopped if there are any potential safety concerns.

  • All drugs licensed for use in the general public today, such as malarial drugs, cancer treatment therapies, polio and measles vaccines, were tested in clinical trials on humans. Although not all countries participated in these clinical trials, all of us are now beneficiaries of these products. There are thousands of people around the world who volunteer to participate in clinical trials testing products of diseases that might not even be afflicting their societies, but do it for the good of improving public health!

  • It is also important to note that the biggest funders of biomedical HIV prevention research are government partners and philanthropists and NOT pharmaceutical companies as Mbekiza stated.


  • We encourage Ugandans to learn more about how they can help develop effective ways to prevent HIV. There are various Institutions in Uganda that conduct biomedical HIV prevention research, where information regarding clinical trials is accessible and freely available. A research literate and informed community is an empowered community.

    Dr. Hannah Kibuuka
    Director Clinical Programmes
    Makerere University Walter Reed Project

    Ugandans not being used as guinea pigs

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