U.S. News

U.S. Apologizes to Guatemalans for 1940s STD Experiment

October 5, 2010

Guatemala reacted with shock to Friday's revelation that that US scientists infected Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers and sex workers with STDs in the name of public health research in the 1940s.

"These should be considered crimes against humanity, and Guatemala reserves the right to petition the relevant international court at an opportune time," said President Alvaro Colom.

Concurrent with the US disclosure came apologies from President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The State Department included with its apology a link to a synopsis by Wellesley College historian Susan Reverby, whose research on the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiments unearthed the Guatemala studies, which were conducted from 1946 to 1948. "The men and women in Guatemala were infected and treated, even if not always successfully," Reverby wrote in an article to be published in the Journal of Policy History.

The Obama administration disclosed the experiments, in which the US Public Health Service assessed how some 1,500 Guatemalans responded to penicillin after being exposed to syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid.

Human rights groups called for compensation for the victims' families, assuming those infected with STDs had already died. "The family members who are still living ... deserve some kind of reparation that treats the victims as individuals," said Mario Polanco from Mutual Support Group, which advocates for the rights of civil war victims.

Back to other news for October 2010

Adapted from:
Miami Herald
10.01.2010; Sarah Grainger, Carol Rosenberg

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
U.S. Infected Guatemalans for STD Tests

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