Venezuelan HIV Positive People Running Our of Meds Soon

Question

Nelson, I was reading the paper and they said the government in your birth country has made it difficult to import HIV meds and that 63,000 people will be without them in May. Is that true? Anything I can help? My best friend used to be from Venezuela and I love that country. Too bad it is in ruins after 17 years of Chavismo.

Answer

I was born in Venezuela, a oil-producing country that used to enjoy a booming economy, free education, a lot of foreign investment and a stable middle class. But as income inequality grew, a new ex-military politician called Hugo Chavez started promising the poor a better life as part of his "21st century socialism". He won elections 17 years ago and was reelected again. His government went through the oil price bonanza as he gave free housing to thousands. He also gave free loans to several countries in Latin America that had leftist leaders. He nationalized many private companies and took over most TV and radio stations. He assumed the oil bonanza would be eternal and neglected to save funds as he confronted the crash in oil prices in 2008. He died in 2013 and left his protégé Nicolas Maduro in power. Things only got worse from there.

Due to restrictions in exchanging the local deeply devalued currency into U.S dollars and price controls imposed by the government, imports have ceased and many businesses related to imports have shut down as they accumulated big debts with providers abroad. Venezuela imports most of its food and medications. Food and medication shortages are now common as people stand in long lines to get them.

Feliciano Reyna, a leading HIV activist in Venezuela and founder of Acción Solidaria, a non-profit organization in Caracas, recently told me that over 60,000 people will HIV will be left without their medications in June of this year.

I am a board member of Action for Solidarity, an all-volunteers 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit organization based in Miami that is spearheading a medication collection and shipment effort. We ask for your help in sending us any unused and unexpired medication (prescription or over the counter) that you no longer use by clicking on the following link. We will pay for shipping, so please follow the instructions to print a shipping label.

The current opposition-led congress in Venezuela is trying to impeach Maduro and re-establish food and medication imports. But this process will not be an easy or fast one, so your donations are extremely important. No foreign aid is allowed by the current regime but Accion Solidaria in Caracas has a good distribution network operated by volunteers in Venezuela.

I hope I can count on readers of TheBody.com to help our peers in Venezuela.

Donate your medications

Hopeful and worried,

Nelson Vergel