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5853: Group Sends AIDS Medication to Haiti (fwd)




From: nozier@tradewind.net

Group Sends AIDS Medication to Haiti
 The Associated Press, Sun 19 Nov 2000 

 CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP)  The jars of leftover AIDS medications Moses
Alicea plucked from his stash of pill bottles and vials were bound for
the dump. Alicea no longer uses them, and reselling them in the United
States would be illegal.But the work of two Cambridge groups has changed
their course, and that of dozens of AIDS medications like them, to
Haiti, where the drugs are priceless. If I can't use them, somebody else
can. There's a lot of stuff out there that's just being dumped,'' said
Alicea, 36. For the past year, Cambridge Cares About AIDS has been
collecting the pills, most of them left over when a person switches drug
regimens because of debilitating side effects.So far, the group has
delivered some $200,000 worth of medications to Partners in Health, a   
Boston-based organization with a clinic in Haiti that distributes the
drugs to people with AIDS and HIV.Between 50 and 100 people who would
otherwise never receive treatment are regularly receiving the
medications there. At the root of the salvage effort is the vast gulf
between availability of the medications in affluent countries like the
United States and developing countries like Haiti. Some 95 percent of
the more than 33 million people with HIV and AIDS in the world are in
poor countries, according to the World Health Organization. In Haiti,
considered the hemisphere's poorest country, just over 5 percent of the
adult population is living with HIV.In poor countries, the so-called
drug ``cocktails''  which can cost upward of $20,000 per year in the  
United States  are about 30 times the average monthly income, according
to the group Doctors Without Borders.Partners in Health executive
director Dr. Jim Yong Kim said there's an enormous unmet need that his 
group's effort cannot even begin to solve without global attention  and
a global solution  to the drug crisis, he said.``This is now an
absolute disaster and an absolute crisis,'' Kim said. ``It's a moral
problem, but it's also an economic and political problem.'' 
Only a handful of groups send unused AIDS drugs overseas. There is no
agency overseeing the practice,no way of knowing how common it is or
whether groups are adhering to WHO guidelines for drug donations, said
Michael R. Reich, acting chairman of the Department of Population and
International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. 
But he said that while donations will never fill the need for drugs in
poor countries, the effort highlights the problem.``Troubling questions
arise from gaps in access,'' he said. ``Haiti is a country with
extraordinary needs for good drugs, and donations provide a mechanism
for trying to address the gap.'James Russo, spokesman for the
Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, an organization made up of
drug companies and non-governmental groups that distribute free drugs
overseas, said it is a ``perfectly reasonable and understandable and
decent thing to do.'' Such donations may not technically be legal,
because the recipient is not the person for whom the drugs were
prescribed, he said. But if the drugs are properly used and distributed,
then public health benefits override such legal issues. 
``The fact that it needs doing is, to me, a tragic observation about the
state of public health policy,'' he said. ``Nothing but good can come
from something like this.''