Controversial experiments

Published: Wednesday 15 October 1997

the us has been conducting experiments for the past two years on pregnant women infected with hiv in Africa, Thailand and the Dominican Republic. These women were given drugs that can prevent transmission of the deadly aids virus to their babies. Some of them received dummy pills only. The studies are so controversial that even some government scientists have questioned whether they are ethical.

The aids studies, which involve 12,211 women in seven countries, aim to help the developing world find a cheap and effective method of preventing transmission of hiv to babies. The research is based on one of the most dramatic discoveries of the aids epidemic: that women who take the azt drug during pregnancy can cut the risk of transmission by two-thirds. In the us , the treatment costs about us $1,000 per mother. Health officials wanted to know if there are less expensive ways to use the azt drug to achieve the same benefit. Half the women in these experiments received azt at varying levels that differ from amounts used in the us . The other half received the dummy pills. Scientists say that due to this more than 1,000 infants will contract the aids virus. Federal officials counter that the use of dummy pills is the only way to get a quick, reliable result.

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