The Guardian August 1, 2001


Cuba offers help for HIV/AIDs sufferers free of charge

The recent meeting of G8 countries in Genoa pledged to create a global 
war chest to help fund the fight against AIDS and other diseases. In 
practical terms, however the financial support pledged is far short of the 
UN's target of US$10 billion for this year. The UN General Assembly 
discussed the world-wide AIDS crisis recently.

The following is the speech on AIDS by the Cuban representative to the UN, 
Mr Lage:

No country is free of AIDS. Some  the privileged and rich  have managed 
to reduce the mortality rate with medicines sold at high, unreasonable 
prices. Others  unfortunate and poor  are experiencing a terrifying 
reduction in their population's life expectancy and a demographic decline 
that could lead them to extinction.

In many African nations, the number of teachers who die from AIDS each year 
is greater than those graduating.

The deaths in sub-Saharan Africa to date are equivalent to those that would 
result from the area being attacked by 70 bombs like those dropped on 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is a dramatic paradox that the same continent that saw the appearance of 
man six million years ago is starting to witness our disappearance this 
millennium.

Cuba also suffers from this disease; our country has 2,565 cases of 
HIV/AIDS, 388 of whom have contracted the disease, and 896 have died from 
the disease in the last 14 years.

Our program to fight AIDS guarantees complete care for carriers and 
sufferers of the disease, including free anti-retroviral treatment for all 
AIDS sufferers, specialised medical centres for those who require them and 
a constant struggle for patients to obtain full social integration, that 
they can exercise their rights and are not discriminated against.

It also guarantees access to safe blood, certifying that 100 per cent of 
the donations are free of AIDS, hepatitis and other illnesses; voluntary 
testing of all pregnant women resulting in a zero mother-child transmission 
since 1997, and an education and prevention strategy aimed at vulnerable 
groups, young people and the rest of the population.

We have the lowest AIDS rate in the Americas and one of the lowest in the 
world, with 0.3 per cent of the population between 15 and 49 years.

Controlling the epidemic despite the blockade

Even with the blockade in force, without access to 50 per cent of the 
world's new medicines because they are produced in the United States, we 
have controlled the epidemic, and what is more, achieved a life expectancy 
of 76 years and an infant mortality rate of less than seven (per 1000). 

Cuba is attending this Assembly as a responsible member of the 
international community, showing solidarity and modestly offering our 
experience and collaboration free of charge.

The UN Secretary-General has proposed and is making a worthy and just 
effort to obtain US$7-10 billion for the fight against AIDS. The amount is 
not enough and money alone cannot solve the problem, but it is a necessary 
start.

It is incomprehensible that this life-saving money cannot be found in a 
world that spends 40 times more on illegal drugs, 80 times more on military 
budgets and 100 times more on advertising.

It is incomprehensible to think that this life-saving money cannot be found 
in a world where 20 per cent of the population is responsible for 86 per 
cent of private consumption and where 22 people each have a personal 
fortune exceeding the amount the General-Secretary is asking for, and which 
put together, is 43 times more.

The richest and most powerful nation of all history, that claims it is a 
human rights champion, does not make its payments to the UN and is trying 
to reduce its contribution to the WHO (World Health Organisation) and 
dedicates barely 0.2 per cent of its gross domestic product to development.

It is the only country to have voted against the resolution that gives 
every individual the right to have access to AIDS medicines, while on the 
other hand it has unleashed an insane arms race upon the world, with the 
sale of the most sophisticated instruments of war to allies and followers, 
and its global missile shield.

There is no need to elaborate any further in order to understand that the 
international economic order is criminally unjust, that when the words 
"democracy", "human rights", "individual liberty", "equal opportunities" 
and others come out the mouths of the powerful, they ring hollow and 
demagogic.

We need justice and solidarity

Donations and goodwill to help calm the pain and suffering are welcome and 
gratefully received but they are not the solutions to humanity's problems. 
What we need is justice and solidarity.

We believe it is necessary and possible to break down the imperialist 
dogmas that rule the world, but it will be a long fight and none of the 
36.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, nor the million who die each year 
from malaria, nor the three million from tuberculosis, nor the 35,000 
children who die daily from illnesses which can be prevented, nor many 
other groups, have time to wait.

Cuba believes that this special session of the UN General Assembly should 
proclaim:

* That AIDS drugs and the vital medicines required on a large scale should 
not be protected by patents. People cannot be allowed to make money off the 
lives of human beings.

* That the external debt of the poorest countries be cancelled immediately 
and unconditionally. They have already paid more than once.

* That in the next G7 meeting, instead of adopting the new economic 
liberalisation that they will impose on the poor and the less well off of 
the world, they should agree to reduce their military budgets in order to 
raise at least the US$10 billion requested by the UN, and hand it over 
today, not to wait calmly until 25 million more people die. This is merely 
a small part of their debt to the Third World.

Cuban government offer

On behalf of the Cuban Government, I would like to offer the following to 
the poorest countries and those with the highest incidence of the illness.

* 4,000 doctors and health personnel, to create a network to supply 
prescription medicine to the population, as well as vital follow-up. This 
same staff can train a large number of specialists in their own particular 
fields, including nurses and health workers.

* Sufficient professors to create 20 medical schools, many of whom could be 
chosen out of the 2,359 Cuban doctors who are currently helping in 17 
countries as part of the Integral Health Program. In these schools, 1,000 
doctors would be trained each year in countries that need the most help.

* Doctors, teachers, psychologists, and other specialists needed to assess 
and collaborate with the campaigns to prevent AIDS and other illnesses.

* Diagnostic equipment and kits necessary for the basic prevention 
programs. 

* Retrovirus treatment for 30,000 patients.

All it would take is for the international community to provide the raw 
materials for the medicines, the equipment and material resources for these 
products and services.

Cuba will not charge and will pay the salaries in its national currency, as 
this is the most expensive part for world health organisations, and the 
most difficult part is to ensure that the worker is prepared and ready to 
begin the mission.

AIDS, Mr President, is a war without bombs and without armies.

The world has accumulated extraordinary intelligence in all fields of 
knowledge. Many more scientists live today, in the same historical period, 
than ever before. Created wealth is more than sufficient to assure a 
healthy life for the world's six billion inhabitants.

Despite all this, we have started a new millennium in sickness. The only 
possible cure is to put the world's infinite resources to use in serving 
humanity, free of selfish commercial or interests or national egocentrism.

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