Over 70,000 Venezuelans with HIV have little to no access to treatment, the Venezuelan outlet Runrunes reported Sunday, citing a recently published report.
The report, first presented last month by the head of the National AIDS Program at the Venezuelan Ministry of Health of Venezuela, Raúl Leonett, found that 72,893 people with HIV have tried to access treatment over the past year from the country’s crumbling healthcare system.
As part of late dictator Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” state-provided health care was enshrined in his personal version of the constitution. Yet amid the collapse of the country’s economy, the Maduro regime has made drastic cuts to every form of public service.
As a result, many sufferers are living in fear as the regime fails to regularly deliver the antiretroviral drugs required to treat the illness. Last year, the United Nations Human Rights agency reported that around 7,700 Venezuelans living with the virus had left the country to seek treatment elsewhere.
According to one AIDS specialist, Mario Comegna, around 120,000 people in Venezuela are HIV-positive, just under one percent of the population.
“It is difficult to get accurate data because there is still discrimination,” Comegna told France 24. “The reports of patients who die of AIDS-related illnesses often don’t mention they were positive. So, the data is scarce, but it is clear that an irregular supply of medicine increases the mortality rate.”
Although there are no official statistics, the humanitarian group Acción Solidaria (Solidarity Action) estimates that 3,200 people died from HIV-related illnesses in 2017, equivalent to eight or nine people a day. In 2018, that figure skyrocketed up to 24 to 25 deaths a day, while there are no published figures yet for 2019.
A few countries, including Mexico and Peru, have recognized some cases of Venezuelans with HIV as refugees, although there is no regional response in Latin America guaranteeing access to antiretroviral medication for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
As the world slowly wakes up to the reality of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, funding for medication has started to come in. This year, the Pan American Health Organization and UNAIDS sent money and medicine to the Maduro regime in the hope that it would increase distribution. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has provided $5 million for treatment this year, which helped to reduce the shortage of treatment to 65 percent for the past ten months.