LatinX History: US infects Guatemalans with STD’s
As part of our review into the United States’ history of meddling with Latinx American countries throughout history, I present the case of intentional infection.
In 2010, then President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly apologized for the intentional infection of unknowing Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis in an inoculation study conducted by the US Public Health Service from 1946- 48.
“Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices,” said Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a joint statement released in 2010.
The Guatemalan inoculation project was co-sponsored by the United States Public Health Service, the National Institute of Health, the Pan-American Health Sanitary Bureau, and the Guatemalan government. 696 Guatemalan patients in the National Mental Health Institute were infected with syphilis bacteria.
Researchers, in an attempt to determine whether penicillin could be used not only to treat syphilis but also prevent it, intentionally made people sick in order to determine whether they had a cure. It’s unclear whether those that were intentionally exposed to the bacteria were given proper care after infection.
The United States had a strong military presence in the area at the time, in order to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company. The powerful influence of the state on Guatemalan governance may have played a role at the time.