Saturday, October 23, 2021

UN Honors Henrietta Lacks, whose cells transformed medical research around the world |

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‘Reckoning’ with injustice  Shockingly, as WHO points out, the global scientific community once hid her race and her real story, a historical wrong that Wednesday’s recognition hopes to help redress. 

For Tedros, in honouring Mrs. Lacks, the UN agency “acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past scientific injustices and advancing racial equity in health and science.”  He is one of the last living relatives who personally knew her. Mr. Lacks was accompanied by several of Henrietta Lacks’ grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other family members. 

The award was received at the WHO office in Geneva by Lawrence Lacks, Ms. Lacks’ 87-year-old son.   Mr. Lacks said the family was moved to receive this historic recognition, honouring “a remarkable woman and the lasting impact of her HeLa cells.” 

Legacy  He said the award was also “an opportunity to recognize women, particularly women of colour, who have made incredible but often unseen contributions to medical science.” 

“My mother was a pioneer in life, giving back to her community, helping others live a better life and caring for others. In death she continues to help the world. Her legacy lives on in us and we thank you for saying her name – Henrietta Lacks.”   “My mother’s contributions, once hidden, are now being rightfully honoured for their global impact,” he said.  

Studies in various countries consistently document that Black women are dying of cervical cancer at several times the rate of white women. Today, 19 of the 20 countries with the highest cervical cancer burdens are in Africa.  Cervical cancer strategy  According to WHO, women of colour continue to be disproportionately affected by cervical cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the many health inequities that persist among marginalized communities around the world. 

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