From this Op-Ed.
The Institute of Medicine has recently released a report outlining the ominous public-health threat of chronic hepatitis C, much of which is the result of unwitting infection through medically-necessary blood transfusions, leading to 350,000 deaths worldwide each year and infecting more than three to five times as many people in the United States as HIV.
Narsty isn't it? We should get right on that, don't you think? Any decent models for research?
Currently, chimpanzees are the only experimental animal, except for humans themselves, susceptible to infection with hepatitis C. The Great Ape Protection Act would end the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, grinding promising studies to a halt and unconscionably delaying the release of anti-viral therapies and a vaccine for chronic hepatitis C.
Of course this isn't really any different than any other debate over whether the medical / health problem in humans is sufficient justification for a given type of animal research. Sure, we're talking Great Apes here and this is a very special species indeed when it comes to considering costs and benefits.
Nevertheless what I really focused on here was the Congressional idiocy.
You may have heard there is a bill afoot which will ban all research on Great Apes. ( Or, I should say "may". It is just a bill at this point, after all, and as we've just seen in the Health Care Reform debate, bills in the US Congress can be significantly modified prior to passage.)
The Institute of Medicine report did not go unnoticed by Congress: its release stimulated a press release from the Congressional Tri-Caucus promoting the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act (H.R. 3974) which, among other provisions, calls for additional research on a chronic hepatitis C vaccine. Ironically, nearly every sponsor of this legislation is also a co-sponsor of the Great Ape Protection Act, including Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill and has been a strong advocate for hepatitis research.
Now this is the real and actionable problem. Congressional decisionmaking that selects each bill for support/opposition based on how it looks in isolation. Great Ape Protection! Who can't get behind that? Cure Hep C? Big w00tangs all around! Congress is working for you, American people.
So who is going to point out that support for the one goal seriously undermines the success of the other goal?