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In Argentina, shortages of antiretroviral medicines to treat the infection and preventive and diagnostic supplies for HIV, hepatitis and STIs, as well as in the sexual and reproductive health program have intensified.
Today, the GEP Foundation published a press statement with specific details about the lack of antiretrovirals for the rest of 2019 and the risk related to budget allocation for 2020. This Foundation conducts constant monitoring through the Observatorio de Acceso y Compras Públicas (Access and Public Procurement Observatory), which allows to supervise antiretroviral stocks. Along with today’s news brief, they published a detailed report of what is lacking and what will lack in the future. The information can be found here.
After asking some sources close to the Dirección Nacional de Lucha contra el Sida, la Tuberculosis, las Hepatitis Virales y Lepra (National Directorate to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, Viral Hepatitis and Lepra) about the situation, they have confirmed the numbers are real, and they could be worse, since there is no precise information on inventories and pending purchases.
Claudia Rodríguez, National Director of the Program, and her superior, Miriam Burgos, Assistant-Secretary of Prevention and Control of Communicable and Vaccine Preventable Diseases, are the ones who have to respond to this situation. They are more focused on blocking any information leak about shortages than solving the crisis. Both officials of this austerity and firm hand regime report to the degraded Minister and Vice Minister of Health, who are suggesting a significant budget reduction for the health sector for second year in a row.
Purchases are delayed because of the chronic calamities of bureaucracy, which has always been useful for hiding the extent of that reduction. In several occasions in the past, the Directorate has opted for expensive emergency purchases to exceed its sleeping bids. It is very likely this will happen again this year, and savings made thanks to the purchase through the PAHO Strategic Fund–which has allowed the country to save hundreds of millions in the past by having access to generic versions of antiretrovirals–will be lost.
We quote word by word today’s statement by Lorena Di Giano, CEO of GEP Foundation: “Unfortunately, we have confirmed what we had foreseen when he heard about the government’s budget reduction for the health sector in 2019. People with HIV are not receiving their medicines at hospitals and health centers in different regions of the country. The reduction is unacceptable and violates the fundamental rights of citizens who need an active State to cover their needs. The actions of this government are criminal and deliberate.”
When the Ministry of Health was downgraded to a Government Secretariat, when the former National Director quit, he had stated there were medicines for a year. That year is over. What has his successor done?
They are planning something by delaying ARV and supply purchases, and hiding it from civil society and media companies. Even worse, they are telling health professionals in the public system to make patients switch to other available medicine schemes, such as dolutegravir. When the medicine is out of stock, at least two treatment options will be ruined for many people with HIV due to a poor management of programs and resources. The Secretariat does not purchase nor distribute milk formula or condoms, and soon there will be a shortage of supplies for viral load testing.
People with HIV who leave hospitals empty-handed or with staggered deliveries confirm the crisis. Likewise, organizations related to HIV and AIDS receive dozens of shortage complaints every day. The administration of the former Directorate had required around five billion pesos for 2019, yet it is estimated that only three billion were allocated on paper. With the current devaluation and inflation, it was pretty obvious that crisis would become worse. The immunization program has the same problem, as well as that of sexual and reproductive health, and many other areas which depend on the health sector.
The constitution states that health is a right, so a body of historic laws and appeals demand the Executive to make decisions to ensure full access to prevention, treatment and health care for people with HIV or people vulnerable to the infection. It is clear that program leaders are not suitable nor responsible, but this is not casual, as it is part of a savage reduction policy in various sectors, such as health.
Those who are to blame for it, Rodríguez and Burgos, prefer to be silent, and we know that silence equals death when it comes to HIV and AIDS.
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