Lifespans: Americans 80 years and rising; Africans 40 and falling

esc-cover.pngMedical Research Hits Cultural Roadblocks
By Stephen Leahy

The lifespan of a U.S. citizen is 80 and rising while an African’s is 40 and falling.
“That is the mother of all ethical challenges for the world to grapple with,” said Peter Singer of McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Toronto.

Sep 11 (IPS) – Many new medical technologies to improve the lives of people in the global South fail to be adopted not because of the costs but because of ethical, social and cultural issues, a new study reveals.

These issues include community and public engagement, cultural acceptability and gender, according to the comprehensive study featuring interviews with leading health experts in developing countries and published Monday in the U.S. peer-reviewed online journal PLoS Medicine.

Improper consultation with affected communities resulted in public pressure to end to medical trials of tenofovir, an antiviral medication used to treat HIV, in Cambodia, Cameroon, and Nigeria. In that instance, the community was commercial sex workers who weren’t properly consulted and would not benefit from the trials.

“Those trials represented an investment of more than 100 million dollars and we never completed,” said study co-author Jim Lavery, a scientist at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health and Centre for Global Health Research in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto.

There were also issues with governments over the trials because sex workers were involved, Lavery told IPS.

“This failure revealed the complexity of advancing medical research even if it is well-intentioned,” he said.

Lavery also acknowledged that there is a growing perception that drug trials and other medical research being done in the South will only benefit those in the North.

“We can eliminate that perception by changing the reality by sharing the benefits of this research with local communities,” he added.

The report, “Grand Challenges in Global Health: Ethical, Social and Cultural Issues Based on Key Informant Perspectives“, is the first of its kind to provide advice in a systematic way on these issues in a developing world context, according to study co-author Jerome Singh of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research (CAPRISA) in Durban, South Africa.

For full article see Medical Research Hits Cultural Roadblocks

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