Blood test and unidentified subject (National Archives, Atlanta, GA)

If you haven’t heard of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, it is basically an infamous clinical study which was carried out between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service which under the guise of offering free health care from the United States government had been studying the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama.

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A total of 600 African-American men were enrolled in the study from Tuskegee, Alabama, 399 already had the disease beforehand and 201 did not have the disease. The men were offered free medical care, meals and free burial insurance for participating in the study. They continued the study even after the funding was lost neglecting to inform the men that they would never be treated. Not one of the men was told that they had the disease, the Centers for Disease Control states that they were told that they were being treated for bad blood, a general terminology that could have included any of syphilis, anemia and fatigue. Even after the antibiotic Penicillin was proven to be a treatment for syphilis, the men were never treated. photojoiner (6)

When these findings were revealed finally in 1972 by a whistle-blower, major changes in U.S law and regulations regarding clinical studies were made, but the African-American residents of Tuskegee, Alabama and surrounding small towns in Alabama, were already understandably scarred. It’s not much of a wonder then that despite the reported 253 per 100,000 rate of tuberculosis cases among residents of Marion, Alabama; a rate worse than some developing countries; general suspicions of medical professionals have hindered the towns people from seeking appropriate intervention.

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Marion, Alabama is only two hours from Tuskegee and all the efforts made by the government has not been able to clear away the general atmosphere of distrust. It is so bad that despite the state of Alabama offering them money; $20 for a screening, $20 dollars if they come back for results, and $20 dollars for a chest x-ray with the possibility of getting $100 for finishing the treatment, the people were hardly moved.


We do hope that Marion residents do get more concerned about Tuberculosis, more so above their sad and unfortunate past as the disease is still claiming lives. The World Health Organization states that TB kills more people than HIV/AIDS and was responsible for 1.5 million deaths in 2014, these statistics along with new drug-resistant strains of the disease that are emerging paints a pretty bleak picture.