The route of Venezuelans living with HIV, another priority drama for Latin America

Nearly 8,000 Venezuelans living with HIV have left their country due to the crisis in search of urgent antiretroviral treatments, a drama that, according to experts warned Efe, requires roadmaps for their attention as part of the migratory challenge that Latin America is experiencing.

It is estimated that nearly 80,000 of the 120,000 Venezuelans living with HIV do not receive treatment in their country. Photo: Agencies
It is estimated that nearly 80,000 of the 120,000 Venezuelans living with HIV do not receive treatment in their country. Photo: Agencies

The situation in Venezuela has led those who suffer from HIV to have to seek help outside or wait on a list for the health system to give them antiretrovirals, which do not arrive due to lack of supplies.

Miguel Subero, originally from Valencia (Venezuela), who now resides in Mexico and who 6 years ago was detected with the virus, says that the protocols for informing and advising patients are not adequate.

"I went to a consultation for a skin problem and they told me I needed more tests. In a laboratory at my university I had them done and when they read the result, very coldly and in front of a lot of people, they told me I had the virus," he said.

Subero, who now provides psychological care to people with HIV and is a coordinator of the Regional Network of Young People with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean, had to travel to Caracas, where he was only guaranteed four months of treatment.

"After that, the doctor told me that he could only give me three boxes of the drug that had expired and could only work for a while longer because the molecule was degenerating. They tell you: it's what it is," he lamented.

Many Venezuelan patients with HIV don't get medical consultations because the system doesn't have the treatment and that's why Subero left for Colombia and arrived in Medellín, where, lacking residence papers, the difficulties in accessing the antiretroviral increased.

"A friend helped me get them and I had to pay 200,000 pesos (57 dollars) to buy them. Whoever sold it to me also had HIV, but he had decided not to take the treatment. That made me feel so bad, but at the same time I was thinking about my life," Subero said.

After a time in Colombia, working in a geriatric hospital, he was able to get the money to travel to Mexico, where through the Sanctuary Program of Clínica Condesa he had access to medicines.

"In Mexico I was able to get the antiretroviral, but I also needed to work and eat, so when I got married everything was solved," said this Venezuelan, who at the age of 25 has a degree in clinical psychology and today seeks to make visible not only his case but that of all young people living with HIV in the region.

It is estimated that nearly 80,000 of the 120,000 Venezuelans living with HIV do not receive treatment in their country.

Manuela Bolívar, deputy in the Venezuelan Parliament for the opposition party Voluntad Popular, told Efe that for the past four years there have been no reagents to check and know the status of the viral load.

"They have to resort to private laboratories, where it is highly expensive to carry out these tests. Only 40% of the treatment provided by the Global Fund is available," which represents a 60% shortage of HIV care.

Subero also indicated that the vulnerability is very high because it is calculated that "16% of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 in Venezuela have HIV".

The NGO Stop HIV estimates that between 300,000 and 1,200,000 Venezuelans could be infected without knowing their condition or hiding it.

Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Mexico are some of the countries receiving Venezuelans, including those seeking antiretroviral treatments.

The NGO Stop HIV estimates that between 300,000 and 1,200,000 Venezuelans could be infected without knowing their condition or hiding it.

In Peru, there are 1,500 Venezuelan migrants who receive free treatment from the state for HIV carriers, while in Brazil, although exact data are not known, any migrant or refugee can access public attention.

According to figures from the Ministry of Health in Colombia, there are 147,000 people with HIV, of whom 1,400 are Venezuelan migrants.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, where there are no consolidated data on the Venezuelan population, the government estimates that there are about 500 foreign citizens living with HIV who are on treatment.

The Clínica Condesa in Mexico, which specializes in treating HIV patients in Mexico City, treated 941 patients reported as foreigners, of whom 26.3% are Venezuelans.

"Today those who have HIV and are outside these borders need help and it is necessary to understand that Venezuelans are not mere migrants, but refugees," Bolívar said.

The need to generate health care routes for migrants led the Colombian government to invite the private sector to participate with medicines and other supplies.

Former Colombian Minister of Education and now Executive President of the Association of Pharmaceutical Laboratories for Research and Development (Afidro), Yaneth Giha, expressed the need to join efforts to help the migrant population, especially with the issue of health in the presence not only of HIV but other diseases.

She agrees with UNAIDS in its report Responding to the Flow of Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela in Latin America and the Caribbean, which states that a Regional Response Plan was developed to address the health situation of Venezuelans and HIV carriers.

According to the UN, 37.9 million people worldwide are living with HIV and this year on World AIDS Day, 1 December.

Source EFE

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