Photo: The Global Fund, retrieved

The Global Fund, an international financing agency created by Kofi Annan and funded by luminaries like Bill and Melinda Gates, has made a big difference addressing AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in many countries, yet it has failed to do so in Venezuela, a nation with a years-long healthcare crisis, because, on paper, the nation has the income to fund health services. There’s a chance for the Global Fund to reconsider that position at its upcoming board meeting, on May 9 and 10. And it should.

Consider Aliyoner Rodríguez, for example. In tears, she told me her greatest fear was having to look into her children’s eyes if her health deteriorates.

Rodríguez, 42, has been HIV positive for 18 years. She remained in good health since her diagnosis in 2000, thanks to antiretroviral drugs, but things are increasingly difficult with the food and medicine crisis. She hasn’t had her full treatment since August.

Artisan by trade (she makes sandals in the town of El Tocuyo), food shortages have driven up prices up to where she can’t feed herself or her family properly. She has lost almost 30 pounds and now, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, she’s an emaciated 88 pounds. Her 21-year-old daughter recently moved to Colombia and sends her money, but it’s not enough for medicines.

A survey by doctors in hospitals nationwide found that 88% of hospitals lack basic medicines and 79% lack basic medical supplies.

UNAIDS, the UN agency fighting AIDS and HIV, estimates that between 110,000 and 130,000 Venezuelans lived  with HIV in 2016 —and local groups estimate the real number is much larger. Some 77,000 Venezuelans are registered with the Health Ministry’s National AIDS Program to receive antiretroviral treatment.

In the past, HIV patients got their medications from public health institutions. Today, shortages are so widespread that full antiretroviral treatments are unavailable and, according to UNAIDS, supplies for HIV testing and prevention are also in short supply.

Situation with malaria and tuberculosis is equally bleak. The World Health Organization estimates that Venezuela had more than 406,000 malaria cases in 2017 —an increase of 69% from the previous year, and the highest annual average in almost three decades. The New York Times reports that the proportion of new patients at two tuberculosis clinics who tested positive increased by 40% over the past year, while a survey by doctors in hospitals nationwide found that 88% of hospitals lack basic medicines (79% lack basic medical supplies). This makes treating any complication from HIV, malaria or tuberculosis much harder.

It is high time for a more robust response. The health of tens of thousands of Venezuelans living with HIV and TB is at grave risk.

Some UN agencies, including UNAIDS and UNICEF, and the Pan American Health Organization, have sent medicines, but the patients and activists I interviewed all reported that the aid entering the country is falling short of patients’ needs. Local groups have received private donations, but that can reach only a limited number of people.

Last year, The Global Fund’s board recognized Venezuela’s health crisis, but it said Venezuela was still ineligible for Global Fund financing and called for a coordinated regional response and said it would support such efforts.

It is high time for a more robust response. The health of thousands of sick Venezuelans is at grave risk; surging malaria is a real threat for the region and, while Venezuela may have been a middle-income country years ago, today it faces an emergency that requires a flexible approach focused on saving lives, including investing in community-led responses.

“As long as I’m healthy, the rest will come together” Rodriguez told me. She, and many others, need help to stay healthy —and the Global Fund board members have a chance to do something about it very soon.

Please, seize the moment.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but does not the Global Fund work through the target country’s government health agencies?

    How will you ever get the leaders of XXI Century Socialism to accept charity, with strings attached and assurances that funds are used as intended, from the hated Imperio’s richest gringo capitalist?

    And I think the Global Fund helps in LatAm countries that are far richer than Vz, (Chile ?). If that is the case, then it would suggest that the problem with Vz is political rather than financial.

    • <b<How will you ever get the leaders of XXI Century Socialism to accept charity, with strings attached and assurances that funds are used as intended, from the hated Imperio’s richest gringo capitalist?
      As you well know, thus far they have prohibited international charity from most sources, as they don’t want to relinquish an iota of control. Certainly they refuse charity from the Evil Empire, a.k.a. USA. This is old news. But for some recent news on the issue.
      May 8 Issue of WSJ: Venezuelans Die as Maduro Government Refuses Medical Aid.
      Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s cash-strapped Socialist regime prohibits most international humanitarian donations—including contributions of lifesaving medicines—except from a few remaining allies such as Russia. The authoritarian leader and his lieutenants have denied the country is in a humanitarian crisis and they consider international aid part of a ploy by the U.S. and political rivals to besmirch the government and open the door to foreign intervention.

      “No way are we going to allow this right-wing to impose a supposed humanitarian aid when our people are already being tended to by President Maduro,” Venezuela’s Health Minister Luis Lopez said in December.

      More at the link.
      This was the first hit on a Bing search.
      Bing search: Maduro refuses aid.

  2. “Some UN agencies, including UNAIDS and UNICEF, and the Pan American Health Organization, have sent medicines, but the patients and activists I interviewed all reported that the aid entering the country is falling short of patients’ needs.

    Activists! You bastards. There are thousands of cubic yards of supplies in Florida alone waiting for the insects to let it in. Of course the aid entering the country is falling short of patient’s needs. Thanks to the corpse who still rules el cementerio de San Hugo, aka Venezuela.

    I read this post 3 times to try to calm the F down, but it’s hopeless.

    “Consider Aliyoner Rodríguez, for example. In tears, she told me her greatest fear was having to look into her children’s eyes if her health deteriorates.”

    Yeah, I fear having to look into my children’s eyes if my health were to deteriorate too, Aliyoner. I would never look into my children’s eyes if I had voted for Cuerpez, and I know you did, Aliyoner. (Cute fing name, BTW, Aliyoner)
    The fing imperio cares more about you than Mafingduro, but, as you know…el imperio wages war upon the poor, el imperio uses its power to crush the honest, brave people of Venezuela and of Bolivia, but not the squalids of Chile, of course, because they are part of the whole fing plan. I am sure you have a Castro textbook somewhere that explains it all.
    God, it’s tempting to say, “FUCK YOU, ALIYONER,” but I won’t.
    I still care about you, God know why.

    • Bravo. I’m sick to death of explaining to USA friends who have not read a whit about Venezuela for years why their citizens are dying everyday of easily preventable diseases. They assume that the reason is due to America’s political issues rather than the Chavista’s refusal to accept aid that doesn’t somehow line their pockets.

      Then there is the whole other conversation about food as a weapon of control. I won’t give one bolivar to any NGO such as the one championed by Ms Broner.

  3. The problem is this government has no reason to care about the plight of Aliyoner Rodríguez or the countless people suffering like her. They blame a phantom menace for all that is disfunctional under 18+ years of chavista rule. CC should run these biographical stories continues to keep things boiling at the surface. Recording the dictatorship words and actions. There has been a consorted effort in the OAS and UN to de-legitimize the fraud of the 5/20 “elections”. The sad fact is…2 weekend’s when when you’re hungry and dying might prove impossible to survive. Who knows that kind of misery?

  4. As per Lorenzo above, aid hasn’t/wont arrive to destination in Venezuela anyway due to the Regime stoppage/theft (“What, me (Venezuela) worry?”–i.e., “Nothing wrong here” (Delcy, dixit, with the same simpleton “Mad”ening grin on her face). Tamara, as for justification, just quote Nikki Hailey’s recent U.N. statement–S.A. has 30% poverty, Venezuela has 90% poverty.

  5. If the needed medicines and medical supplies started pouring in today I suspect a large percentage of it would somehow find it’s way into the hands of regime members and loyal supporters. Probably very little would make it to patients based on need but rather on politics. A lot of it would probably end up being sold to highest bidder as well.

    • Most of it would be resold for black markets outside of Venezuela where there are people who have money to pay for it. Unless the distribution was supervised by the agencies and NGOs, which the regime will not permit, virtually none of the aid would get to the people who need it.

      This is a silly article written by someone who does not understand the political reality of Venezuela.

  6. From the article:
    ….while Venezuela may have been a middle-income country years ago, today it faces an emergency that requires a flexible approach focused on saving lives, including investing in community-led responses.

    A “flexible approach” by a government which, even in the face of unprecedented disaster, refuses to relinquish one iota of control?

    Roy’s last sentence sums it up.

  7. So the thing is: GF’s support isn’t charity. In order to get this money, a country needs to produce a thoughtful, well-organized application about how the funds will be spent and on what, who will manage the funds, monitoring plan, etc. etc. It also requires a Country Coordinating Mechanism that has seats for gov’t, civil society, patients, health workers, donors. Plus, depending on your country income status (which obviously is debatable in Vzla), the country may need to pledge co-financing sooooo….let’s be clear: Venezuela is not in a position to do any of that *even if* there was political interest to do so.

    As for a black market for these drugs, vamos a aclarar. Antiretrovirals for HIV are only useful to those who have HIV (they aren’t used for anything else) so while a black market could emerge, your demand is going to be quite limited. Drugs for TB, same (more or less). Malaria drugs and commodities may be more widely needed so more market but honestly, it’s hard to know without hard surveillance data. Obviously the health system is fully collapsed and could use additional supplies, but that’s not usually what GF money is for.

    The broader point, though, that GF as a multilateral that is meant to be helping countries with the worst epidemic conditions for HIV, TB and malaria and is all “peo tuyo, huevon” to Venezuela still stands.

    • You really don’t get it. The corrupt Venezuelan officials and generals would confiscate all of the drugs and hold them for sale even if they can’t sell them all. They would rather see them go bad, then let them enter the market free and damage their sale value. And, no, they don’t care if people die because of their actions. All you will achieve will be to provide more sources of income for the regime and permit them to remain in power longer, at the cost of more lives lost to malnutrition, poor natal care, and diseases of all types. That sort of help Venezuela does not need.

      • The part you missed, Roy, is that there’s no chance they get GF support because they can’t even apply for it. I agree that any donations/charity/NGO would certainly be diverted for regime-friendly benefit.

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