The World Health Organization (WHO) has paid tribute to Henrietta Lacks, for recognizing the world-changing legacy of a Black woman whose cancer cells have provided a basis for changing medical care but who took her without her knowledge or consent.
The researchers took the nerves out of Lacks’ body when they went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in the 1950’s, and developed the HeLa cell that became the first ‘immortal line’ of human cells to be distributed continuously in the laboratory.
Recognizing Henrietta’s disappearance, the WHO said it wanted to address the “serious misconduct”, recognizing that scientists around the world had hidden its nature and its true nature.
“WHO recognizes the need to take into account past scientific inaccuracies, and to promote the similarities between the health and the sciences,” said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It’s also an opportunity to get to know women – especially black women – who have done amazing things but are not seen in medical science.”
Lacks died of cervical cancer at the age of 31 in October 1951 and her eldest son, Lawrence Lacks, 87, received the award from WHO at their world headquarters in Geneva. He was accompanied by his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a number of other relatives.
“We are honored to receive the discovery of this story of my mother, Henrietta Lacks – in honor of the wonderful mother and the long power of her HeLa cells.
“My mother was a pioneer in life, rehabilitating her community, helping others live a better life and caring for others. In death she continues to help the country. Her legacy remains in us and we thank you for calling her by her name – Henrietta Missing.”
Tedros realized that black people like Henrietta Lacks were discriminated against because of their treatment, as well as the problem remained in many parts of the world today.
“She is missing Henrietta. She is one of the few black women whose bodies have been misused by science, “she said.” She relied on health care to get treatment.
They change lives
The World Health Organization (WHO) says black women continue to be affected by cervical cancer, and that the COVID-19 epidemic has revealed a growing number of health problems affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations. International studies show that black women are more likely to die from cervical cancer than whites, while 19 of the 20 countries with the highest incidence of cervical cancer are in Africa, he said.
The HPV vaccine, which protects against several cancers, including cervical cancer, is now being given to more girls around the world and there is a hope that the disease will be eradicated.
However, WHO estimates that by 2020, less than 25 percent of low-income countries and less than 30 percent of low-income countries have access to the HPV vaccine as part of their global program, compared to more than 85 percent of high-income countries.
“It is unacceptable that a life-saving HPV vaccine can be developed based on your race, ethnicity or place of birth,” said Dr Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela, Tedros’ special adviser.
“The HPV vaccine was developed using Henrietta Lacks cells. Although the cells were taken without his permission, he left behind a legacy that could have saved millions of lives. We owe it to him and his family to have equal access to the vaccine.
Lacks, who lives near Baltimore with her husband and five children, went to Johns Hopkins after a serious illness, where she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
The HeLa string was made from his tumor and the cells were made in large quantities, to make a profit, unbeknownst to his family who only knew he had been used as a scientist in the 1970s. , which was later made into a film.
Earlier this month, the Lacks site moved to file a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company that used a HeLa phone. That said the company chose “wisely” to make more cells and benefited from “unfair medical practices”, Reuters reporters said.
More than 50,000,000 tons of HeLa cells have been distributed worldwide since they were taken from Lacks, according to WHO.
In addition to HPV, these cells have been instrumental in the development of polio vaccines and drugs for HIV / AIDS, hemophilia, leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease. It has also led to the study of reproductive health, including in vitro fertilization, and has been used in thousands of studies, including COVID-19.
“Fighting cervical cancer is part of the human rights struggle,” said Dr Groesbeck Parham, who participated in the human rights campaign as a teenager in Alabama and is now a medical expert at the WHO cervical cancer prevention program.
“Through her immortal cells, Mrs. Henrietta Lacks speaks to us, reminding us of the millions of young women and women in low-income countries who continue to die from cervical cancer because they can’t afford to buy life-saving drugs, technologies and treatments. high-income countries The questions asked by the spirit and legacy of Mrs. Henrietta are missing: ‘Why is this happening?’, ‘What are the options?’