Explaining Brazil #171: Brazil’s own Tuskegee Study

Between the 1930s and the 1970s, hundreds of black men were unknowingly used as subjects in an American syphilis study. In 2020, a Brazilian HMO allegedly used elderly citizens for Covid experiments without their knowledge or consent

The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” was an infamous syphilis study conducted by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) — and one of the biggest health scandals in modern history. Its goal was to “observe the natural history of untreated syphilis” in black populations, but the subjects were completely unaware of the study’s purpose, being told instead they were receiving treatment for “bad blood” when, in fact, they received no treatment at all.

In Brazil, two major HMOs are accused of doing a similar thing with Covid patients — treating them with unproven medicines touted by President Jair Bolsonaro and his allies. Doctors say they were forced to peddle chloroquine to patients, and claim that the government was interested in using the study to bolden its anti-lockdown stance.

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  • Amanda Audi is one of The Brazilian Report’s Brasília correspondents. She is the former executive director of Congresso em Foco and worked as a reporter for The Intercept Brasil, Folha de S. Paulo, O Globo, Gazeta do Povo, Poder360, among others. In 2019, she won the Comunique-se Award for best-written media reporter and won the Mulher Imprensa award for web journalism in 2020

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