The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, 1932 to 1972: implications for HIV
education and AIDS risk education programs in the black community.
Thomas S.B., Quinn S.C. American Journal of Public Health.
The Tuskegee study of untreated syphilis in the Negro male is the
longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.
The strategies used to recruit and retain participants were quite similar
to those being advocated for HIV/AIDS prevention programs today. Almost
60 years after the study began, there remains a trail of distrust and
suspicion that hampers HIV education efforts in Black communities. The
AIDS epidemic has exposed the Tuskegee study as a historical marker for
the legitimate discontent of Blacks with the public health system. The
belief that AIDS is a form of genocide is rooted in a social context in
which Black Americans, faced with persistent inequality, believe in
conspiracy theories about Whites against Blacks. These theories range
from the belief that the government promotes drug abuse in Black
communities to the belief that HIV is a manmade weapon of racial warfare.
An open and honest discussion of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study can
facilitate the process of rebuilding trust between the Black community
and public health authorities. This dialogue can contribute to the
development of HIV education programs that are scientifically sound,
culturally sensitive, and ethnically acceptable.
Return to Select Bibliography on the Tuskegee