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Venezuela’s Economic Crisis Leads to Shortage of HIV Meds

Venezuelan Julio Mantilla grimaces while a nurse draws blood to test for HIV.

For the past three years, Venezuelans have been facing one of the worst economic crisis in the country’s history. The plummeting price of oil, the country’s prime profitable export, in combination with failed economic policies by its government, has led to major shortages in food, basic living supplies, and medical supplies in Venezuela — including medications for those living with HIV.

In addition to the shortage of HIV meds, Venezuela is also lacking condoms, HIV test kits, and testing/treatment supplies for tuberculosis, reports Science, whichfor those with advanced stages of HIV is a serious risk factor.

But thankfully there are organizations trying to change all that.

Feliciano Reyna Ganteaume runs the non-profit organization Acción Solidaria, which supplies HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs. Currently there are over 110,000 people living with HIV in Venezuela. Of that number, 63,000 have started ARV treatment, thanks to organizations like Acción Solidaria.

But according to Ganteaume, the situations is “much worse than one can describe.” Even when the government does attempt to help, there are constant interruptions for months at a time because of late responses to drug orders and payments.

In June 2016, a network of people living with HIV in Venezuela appealed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS for help. Six months later, the fund denied their request, saying the World Bank classified Venezuela as a high-income nation.

Executive director, Mark Dybul, and chair of the board, Norbert Hauser, responded at the time, “As an agency relying itself on donations from multiple stakeholders, the Global Fund is not in a position to grant any exceptions from its rules.”

A petition later began on Change.org petition urging the Global Fund to reconsider its policy for high-income nations, especially under the extreme circumstances that Venezuela is experiencing. The Fund had previously come under fire by HIV advocates when funding for several Eastern European countries were cut due to the same policy.

“This is not a political petition and does not seek to establish a position on the current status of the government," the Change.org petition reads. "This is a humanitarian call to avoid the genocide of Venezuelans living with HIV.”

Since the petition began, Global Fund leaders stated they have “liaised with our partner network to see who might be in a position to help.”

But to the tens of thousands of people currently living with HIV, can they really afford to wait? 

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