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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Tuesday, August 03, 2004  

Can we take some lessons from Cuba on AIDS prevention and treatment?

So yes, it's true that in the 1980's, Cuba placed many of its HIV-infected patients in "sanitoriums" for extended periods of time, and that's not cool, but I was impressed by an article in the Toronto Star about Cuba's more recent innovative methods of prevention and treatment of HIV+ residents.

Cuba's right smack in the middle of an area hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, yet the infection rate in Cuba is less than 0.1 percent. Until recently, the country had a mandatory HIV testing program. And now, with voluntary testing, if you are HIV+, you are required to spend 8 weeks in a sanitorium to receive education and drug support (as compared to the "five minutes' worth of education" that Dr. Barksdale of the American charity Cuban AIDS Project states).

Waaaaaay back in 1983, before Cuba even HAD any reported cases of HIV+ people, the country set up a National Commission on AIDS that discussed strategies and started an educational program for its 11 million residents. In comparison, as we in the U.S. were dealing with a raging epidemic, former President Reagan only started talking about the issue near the end of his 2nd term in office (and only after much pressure by Congress).

What I find really striking is the fact that Cuba was not allowed access to HIV drugs that the U.S. manufactured because of the economic embargo we have on Cuba, but by 2001, Cuba was producing its own generic versions of these drugs! Unlike our wealthy country with our private pharmaceutical interests, Cuba is offering its drugs at much cheaper prices than market costs, to other Latin American countries. The country is sending doctors and nurses around the world to treat AIDS. In addition, Cuba's offering to train doctors and nurses from Latin American countries at no cost! (similar to the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba that's training several hundred American students FOR FREE).

As I mentioned above, not everything Cuba did in its efforts to contain HIV was ethical. But that doesn't mean we can't learn something from this "developing" country that's a hop, skip, and a jump away from the coast of Florida.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 8/03/2004 04:25:00 PM | |


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