I just mailed my leftover HIV medications, Reyataz, Prezista, and Norvir to Action for Solidarity in Miami, Florida, to be used by a person living in Venezuela who would not otherwise have their HIV medications available to them every day due to the magnitude of the health crisis in that country. Many of those living with HIV in the U.S. have access to medication with little more than filing the correct paperwork and providing proof of diagnosis to open them up to a plethora of options in the treatment and management of their HIV illness. Access in Venezuela is much more difficult, barely trickling into the hands of those infected and dealing with HIV on a day to day basis, and, recently, not even trickling. If not for Action for Solidarity and other organizations, access would be almost non-existent.
I became painfully aware of the Venezuelan health crisis during another recent campaign by AIDS activist Mrs. Maria Mejia-Laing. Maria, who issued a plea to those living with HIV to send any unused or expired HIV medications or HIV prophylaxis medications to: Action for Solidarity, Inc., Medicine Donation Collection Center, 8261 NW 64th Street, Miami, FL 33166. She also mentioned that any person can e-mail [email protected] to request a USPS prepaid shipping label and instructions on how to ship your donations confidentially and safely. Instructions like: how important it is that people tear off or mark off the patient identifying information such as name, date of birth, and address. Same for the prescriber/doctor’s information and the dispenser/pharmacies, without damaging, of course, the medication information: name of medicines and doses, as well as the expiration date. (If you live in the Miami area, Action for Solidarity also has drop-off sites where you can make your donations in person.)
The collected medications are then shipped from the organization’s Medicine Donation Center in Miami directly to the Community Health Center ACCION SOLIDARIA A.C. in Caracas, Venezuela. (Your donation is tax-deductible.)
HIV drugs are not the only medications that can be shipped to the region at this time. Any and all medications are being accepted, and, between the months of May and August of 2016, more than 1,000 people were helped with issues that were non-HIV-related. Fueled by an economic crisis, the healthcare crisis extends well beyond HIV. There is currently a shortage across the board. There are people dying in hospitals with little to no medications available to them, or physicians to treat them.
The tragic situation related to the care of individuals living with HIV/AIDS all began because the Venezuelan Health Minister, Luisana Melo, did not make the purchases of antiretroviral treatment medications in 2015, which had been earmarked at $32 million by the Strategic Drug Fund (FEM) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for the 2016 year. Finally making the purchase, but forgetting to pay $2.5 million to FEM/PAHO, in June of 2016, has resulted in the medications sitting in an office, waiting to be delivered to the pharmacies of the Venezuelan health system. The World Health Organization helped, but their assistance, and any foreign medical aid, was only allowed after a special law was passed.
By August 2016 there are reports of more than 14,000 people off their lifesaving HIV medications and more than 63,000 at risk of losing theirs in the coming months. Also not helping is the six to nine-month process it takes to file a request through PAHO for medications. A negotiation being made between Venezuela and India for medication was delayed by Bristol-Meyers Squibb because Venezuela is not allowed to receive generic meds, which are priced much, much lower than the brand names, from India. This sort of red tape will need to be strategically held aside in situations such as this because human life is so much more important than rules.
Venezuela is having one of the worst health crises of this century and the only way to combat it is for humans to take action and get ahead of this disaster while we still have this opportunity. A disaster that world leaders and an arguably corrupt government have allowed to happen due to greed and oppression, and it is time for we the people of this world to prove that, even when our leaders fail us, we will not fail ourselves. Once again, help will come through a collective humanitarian action, and we are going to soon see an end to this ongoing health crisis in Venezuela if more people know about how to send lifesaving medications or supplies to the listed address for Action for Solidarity. It is only through choosing to rise above a crisis and overcome it so that we may help those living in it also rise above it and become the change we want to see throughout the world.
Simply said in the wise words of our First Lady, “When they go low, we will go high.” We will rise above this health crisis; we will come together as a collective and find a way to help those in need while finding a way to right the wrongs regardless of the rules we must bend, regardless of the laws we will fight to change. We will not stand idly by and watch our fellow humans die by the thousands ever again; we will have no shame being who we were either born to be or being who we were lucky enough to become because all lives do matter when we prove that by putting all others above ourselves.
Connie Rose acquired HIV at nineteen years of age from her husband because she didn’t ask for an HIV test before they married and if he did know he didn’t tell her. Forty-one, Connie Rose is a mother and grandmother living in Las Vegas, Nevada, changing the world one blog at a time. When she is not writing for multiple ticket venues, including the Vegastickets website, she is manages and writes for her own website, livingpos.com, an information and blogging site dedicated to the four H’s in the STD community. She also is an advocate in her local community and on social media. Follow Connie Rose on Twitter @Cricketlv.