Sanitizing Interventions : PHS VD Research in Guatemala and the rise of public health



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The U.S. Public Health Service led human-subject experiments in Guatemala during the late 1940s in which the researchers intentionally infected prisoners, soldiers, and psychiatric patients with venereal disease to study prophylaxis and treatment for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid. The U.S. doctors also conducted a serological study in an attempt to standardize blood testing methods for venereal disease in Central America. This thesis argues that the PHS went to Guatemala not just for the opportunities it presented for research, but also because the organization was seeking to expand its influence in Latin America during this time period. Through experimentation and serological testing in relation to venereal disease, this thesis suggests that the U.S. doctors sought to produce knowledge about venereal disease in Central Americans as part of their goal to augment their role as medical authorities in the region.