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About 200 HIV-Positive Venezuelans Protest at Social Security Offices Over Access to HIV/AIDS Medicines

August 8, 2003

Approximately 200 HIV-positive people in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday protested at the country's Social Security Institute (IVSS), calling on the agency to use donations for the importation and domestic production of some HIV/AIDS medicines, EFE News Service reports. Carlos Quintero, president of the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Accion Solidaria, said that the agency has not paid any of the $4 million it originally pledged to use for the importation and production of HIV/AIDS medicines. In recent weeks, more than 3,500 HIV-positive individuals have registered with groups in Venezuala that donate medicines because of a shortage of available treatments at the IVSS and a "delay in obtaining funds to import them," according to EFE News Service. Since a May 2002 Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling, the IVSS has been required to cover the costs of treatment and medicines for its members living with HIV/AIDS. IVSS also makes voluntary donations to nongovernmental organizations treating HIV-positive people who do not qualify for treatment under the public health system. Quintero said, "I have had to turn some patients away because we don't have enough medicines," which he said could negatively affect patients who stop taking their medications. The Venezuelan Health Ministry, which began registering HIV-positive individuals in 1987, estimates that there are approximately 100,000 people in the country living with HIV/AIDS (EFE News Service, 8/6).

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