Massachusetts Groups Send Unused HIV Medications to Haiti
Two Boston groups are helping to route unused antiretroviral drugs left over from U.S. HIV/AIDS patients are being routed to Haiti, where 5% of the adult population is infected with HIV and where the medications are "priceless," the AP/Los Angeles Times reports. Over the past year, Cambridge Cares About AIDS has collected about $200,000 worth of drugs, most of which are "left over when a person switches drug regimens because of debilitating side effects," and delivered them to Boston-based Partners in Health, which in turn distributes the drugs to patients in its Haitian clinic. As a result, "50 to 100 people who would otherwise never receive treatment are regularly receiving the medications there." The World Health Organization estimates that 95% of the 33 million people with HIV/AIDS across the globe live in poor countries, and Doctors Without Borders notes that the cost of drug "cocktails" is about 30 times the average monthly income in these nations, illustrating the "vast gulf between availability of the medications in affluent countries like the United States and developing countries like Haiti." Dr. Jim Yong Kim, executive director of Partners in Health, notes a need for global attention to the "drug crisis," calling it "an absolute disaster and an absolute crisis ... a moral problem, but it's also an economic and political problem." Donating drugs overseas "may not technically be legal because the recipient is not the person for whom the drugs were prescribed," Partnership for Quality Medical Donations spokesperson James Russo said, but he added that so long as the "drugs are properly used and distributed, the public health benefits override such legal issues" (AP/Los Angeles Times, 11/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.