Saving the world from small pox with dirty needles

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: October 2003 Peace Corps Headinlines: October 2, 2003 - All Africa: Floor Statement of US Senator DeWine About Recent Trip to Africa to assess the HIV/AIDS crisis : Saving the world from small pox with dirty needles

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) ( - on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 2:18 pm: Edit Post

As an RPCV who worked in Health Education, I would like to commend Senator DeVine for his excellent analysis and to add one more historical fact. We saved the world from small pox with dirty needles. I worked in immunization campaigns prior to the onset of HIV/AIDS. We introduced the concept of inoculation and taught that it was good and healthy. The lack of sterilized needles was a fact of life. The medical judgment was made that the risk of dying of small pox or other diseases was greater than the risk from a dirty needle There was not then, and I suspect, is not now sufficient energy sources universally available in the developing world to sterilize needles. Nor, is there anywhere near an adequate supply of disposable needles. This means that dirty needles, used for legitimate medical purposes, are also a vector for blood borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Inoculations may also be sold in market places by non medical people in unsanitary conditions for a variety of aliments.

For an example of these Hobson choices, I was traveling during one of the last small pox epidemics. Public Health set up emergency immunization stations at airports and main roads leading into capitols. I f one could not show a new vaccination; one was vaccinated or denied entrance. I needed to be back at my site, so I was vaccinated twice; the needles were not disposable nor sterilized, as far as I could tell.

These historical circumstances should be part of our understanding of all the different ways that HIV/AIDS is transmitted. It is essential that insuring safe needles and medical instruments be included in any plan to deal with HIV/AIDS.

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