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Guatemalan AIDS Patients
Face Drug Lottery

By Rex Wockner
International News Report

aidslottery2.jpg - 15.70 K Ninety people with AIDS (PWAs) gathered in Guatemala City's Luis Angel Garcia Clinic at San Juan de Dios Hospital June 29 to find out which four of them would get a year's worth of anti-viral treatment.

The clinic had secured enough donated drugs from the U.S. to treat four people for one year and held a lottery to determine which patients would receive them.

"It was the most depressing lottery I have ever seen. In fact to call it a lottery is really a misnomer, because one envisions cash prizes and television sets handed out to gleeful winners," said Costa Rican AIDS activist Richard Stern, who attended the event.

"I told them that I hoped this would be the first and last lottery of this kind, and I encouraged them to commit themselves to the kind of activism that has brought stunningly successful results to people with AIDS in two of the region's six nations: Costa Rica and Panama, where all people with AIDS can now receive retroviral treatment provided by their government," Stern said.

PWAs won access to drugs in those nations via Supreme Court cases.

Only 15 percent of Guatemalans are covered by the health- insurance system, the Guatemalan Insurances Institute, which provides three-drug anti-viral treatment to 200 PWAs who live in cities.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
The Politics of Life and Death: Global Responses to HIV and AIDS

Mbeki's Challenge: The HIV Epidemic Consuming South Africa

AIDS Treatment Access in Developing Countries

Related Sites:
HIV Meds for Guatemalans

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The drugs are not available to rural PWAs, even if they have paid into and are covered by the system.

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