A French doctor apologised for suggesting a possible treatment for COVID-19 should be tested on African prostitutes after the remarks sparked an outcry on social media. Two highly respected French doctors discussed on live television how a new COVID-19 vaccine under development should be first tested in Africa, “where there are no masks, no treatment, nor intensive care.”

One of them, Jean-Paul Mira, even compared Africans to prostitutes who were the focus of past AIDS studies. “We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves,” he said.

A discussion between two top French doctors on live TV left viewers horrified when they proposed that Africa should become a giant laboratory for coronavirus vaccine testing because the continent lacked the resources to defend against COVID-19.

In the segment broadcast on the French TV channel LCI, Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht raised the idea of testing new vaccines on impoverished African populations.

Mira is head of the intensive-care department at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, while Locht is the research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, known as Inserm.

“If I can be provocative,” Mira said, “shouldn’t we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care? A bit like we did in some studies on AIDS. We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves.”

Locht agreed, saying: “You are right. We are actually thinking of a parallel study in Africa to use with the same kind of approach with BCG placebos,” referring to vaccination against tuberculosis that Inserm says has appeared to protect children against infections, particularly respiratory ones. “We will in fact think seriously about it,” he said.

Several of Africa’s leading soccer players, including the former Chelsea star Didier Drogba and the former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o, also tweeted their anger.

Drogba, who is from Ivory Coast, tweeted: “It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this. Africa isn’t a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words.”

“Welcome to the West, where white people believe themselves to be so superior that racism and debility become commonplace,” tweeted Ba, who is from Senegal. “Time to rise.”

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