Subject: Brazil to assist HIV patients in Lusophone states


Brazil to assist HIV patients in Lusophone states

Praia, Cape Verde, 08/14 - Brazil will offer provide anti-AIDS drugs to all people living with HIV in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and East Timor by 2005,a health source told PANA in Praia.

This was announced here Thursday by Pedro Chequer, the co- ordinator of Brazilian health ministry`s programme against sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS (STD/AIDS).

"Brazil will assume the responsibility of providing universal treatment for all patients in these Lusophone countries," Pedro Chequer revealed, adding that negotiations on the project were underway for the supply of the drugs to begin next year.

He clarified, however, that an initial step will be taken to train health workers and create conditions for diagnosing people living with HIV within the beneficiary countries.

Brazil currently manufactures eight of the 16 drugs used in the treatment of AIDS.

Pedro Chequer explained that the required amount to finance the project has not yet been determined, adding that the project was at the phase of estimation of needs.

According to the epidemiologist and initiator of the Brazilian STD/AIDS programme, Brazil could enter into close partnership with the four Lusophone states with high prevalence rates of AIDS.

The government in Cape Verde, which has a prevalence of 1.7%, had promised to provide free anti-retroviral to people living with HIV before the end of the year.

Brazilian assistance in combating the scourge was among issues discussed during the recent visit by the country`s president to the archipelago from 28-29 July.



August 9, 2004 7:28pm

By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Aug. 6, 2004 (IPS/GIN) -- Cuba's socialist government has sent thousands of health professionals on a crusade to other developing countries, with high points like the 10,000 doctors actively in service in Venezuela. But complaints have been heard back home over the months-long absence of healthcare specialists.

Public health has been one of the mainstays of the political and social system that 77-year-old President Fidel Castro has headed in Cuba since 1959. This Caribbean island nation currently has 68,155 doctors -- one for every 165 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, the health system has more than 260 hospitals and 70,000 beds, and 6.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on health in 2003, according to the National Statistics Office.

As a result of 45 years of building the public health system, Havana is in a position to offer strategic help to nations plagued by insecure socio-economic conditions or where emergency response is needed, mainly in cases of natural disaster.

According to official figures, over the last 40 years, the Cuban health support programme has sent more than 52,000 doctors, nurses and support workers to 95 countries.

This year, more than 17,000 health professionals are deployed in 65 countries. About 3,100 of these are taking part in the Integral Health Programme (PIS) in 22 nations, while more than 10,000 doctors are currently working in Venezuela.

PIS was created in 1998 in response to a call for help from Central American countries affected by hurricanes George and Mitch, which left more than 30,000 people missing or dead, and caused damages to the health systems as well as substantial economic losses.

The Programme offers support in educating and training human resources in the nations involved. It is backed by 85 non-governmental organisations and official sources say it has channeled around 2.9 million dollars in funds.

Under PIS, all health professionals and support workers are loaned free of charge for as long as is necessary. Most of them are involved in primary health care and services in rural areas. All services are provided free of interference in the internal affairs of the nations involved.

To date Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe have all benefited from the plan.

Over the five years the Programme has been running, 620,000 lives have been saved, infant mortality rates have fallen considerably in the areas where the Cuban health professionals have been lending their services, and almost 200 new hospital services have been opened, according to official reports.

The official statistics show the Cuban programme contributed to a drop in infant mortality in Equatorial Guinea from 131 to 35.5 per 1,000 live births, in Honduras from 80.3 to 30.9 per 1,000 and in Venezuela from 17.6 to 1.5 per 1,000.

During the worst of the political crisis which hit Haiti early this year, Cuban staff remained in their posts and provided healthcare for 75 percent of the 8.3 million inhabitants of that neighbouring Caribbean nation.

The international expansion of Cuba's medical services has also included the provision of medical treatment to people from other countries around the world in clinics in Cuba specially adapted to this purpose.

That is the case for thousands of patients from Venezuela and the more than 18,000 children struck by the Apr. 26, 1986 nuclear disaster at the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl -- in the then Soviet Union -- who received or are still receiving specialist care in Cuba.

An important keystone of the Cuban system has been the development of the pharmaceutical industry since the 1980s, with a network of institutions created to work on research and the production of vaccines and drugs.

The local pharmaceutical industry covers 67 percent of the basic stock of medicines, according to the National Statistics Office, although in recent months the scarcity of some drugs appears to have worsened due to a lack of raw materials.

Internationally renowned Cuban medicines include Melagenine, to treat vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), epidermic growth factor, for rebuilding burnt skin, PPG to reduce cholesterol, and the meningitis B vaccine.

But the exportation of medical services is not always understood by a Cuban population accustomed over the years to a quality system of specialist services as well as primary health care.

As a result, complaints are often heard about the lack of experienced specialists in hospitals, as they are sent on "missions" abroad for months at a time.

"My doctor was sent to Venezuela. He knew my medical history for the last three years and was the only one who came up with an effective treatment," complained 63-year-old Elia Rivas to IPS, while waiting to be seen in a Havana hospital.

Next to her, a man who preferred not to give his name, complained that his family doctor -- from the primary health care programme which guarantees one doctor for every 120 families -- was sent to Africa and his replacement took a long time to arrive.

Castro himself is aware of the complaints.

"It could very possibly be true that in the midst of so much movement there is no doctor in a certain place for a short time. These situations must be immediately resolved," he said in a speech in September last year.

Other frequent complaints are the scarcity of certain medicines, and the deterioration of health facilities over the last ten years -- a result of the economic crisis which followed in the wake of the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the east European socialist bloc in the early 1990s.

"My daughter was ill and we had to bring everything, bedclothes, towels and hygiene materials. Now they say they are going to close this hospital to repair it," said Rivas.

In 2003, repairs and extensions were made to 27 health centres in the Cuban capital and 1,927 pharmacies thoughout the country as part of a vast renovation programme which will continue in 2004.

Analysts say this reinforcement of health services for the population coincides with plans to expand the number of visitors drawn by "health tourism" each year.

They say that aim was reflected in Castro's choice for health minister in May. The president appointed Jos‚ Ram¢n Balaguer, one of his veteran revolutionaries and a man who has held strategic posts in leading the nation.

Official announcements of Balaguer's appointment cited "the importance and intensity of effort required at this moment by the Cuban public health service both within and outside the country."

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