On World Aids Day, Cuba’s Socialist Health Model Sets Example

“I think the rest of the world can learn from the way the system is designed in Cuba,” said WHO regional adviser Sonja Caffe.

As Cuba mourns its epochal, revolutionary former leader Fidel Castro, on World AIDS Day 2016, the country still stands in the top ranks for working to combat the disease — owed greatly in part to Fidel’s socialized system of universal healthcare.

In 2015, the World Health Organization recognized Cuba as the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis. With Cuba’s mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV below 2 percent of births, and syphilis transmission less than 0.5 percent, Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations program UNAIDS, said last year, “ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children.”

Just last week, Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health declared that even while rates of HIV-AIDS are comparatively low in the country, public health programs in the country also have seen 83 percent of patients diagnosed survive the deadly disease.

The low infection and death rate of the disease has been attributed to the 30 year National STI/HIV/AIDS Control and Prevention program, which includes treatment programs and drugs to help prolong the life of HIV-AIDS sufferers.

On the global stage, the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals include ending AIDS by 2030, and UNAIDS has launched the 90-90-90 Initiative. The latter seeks, by 2020, to ensure that 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all people receiving ART to have undergone viral suppression.

In Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s estimated that one in seven people living with HIV on the continent are unaware of their status, citing the statistics as “particularly worrying.”

And in the United States, an incoming Donalt Trump presidency is inciting fear of a heightened scourge of the disease. In turn, the pharmaceutical industry, pejoratively known as “Big Pharma,” continues to curb access to many drugs with unscrupulous price hikes. In the case of HIV, there was the widely-publicized instance last year when former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli raised the price of the live-saving drug Daraprim — used to treat HIV and malaria — overnight from US$13.50 to US$750 for a single tablet.

Just this week, a group of Australian high school students from The Sydney Grammar school recreated the vital drug, for a fraction of what Shkreli had raised the price to, in a show of the gross inequalities that plague the world of health and medicine.

In light of these vast disparities, Cuba’s system stands as a leading model.

“I think the rest of the world can learn from the way the system is designed in Cuba,” Sonja Caffe, regional adviser on HIV and the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO regional office for the Americas, told NPR. “In Cuba, the health services are very close to the people. There is universal coverage, and the services are free. They don’t simply invest in hospitals. There is a philosophy of bringing healthcare to the people in the community.”

The Guardian-NPR-The Huffington Post
by teleSUR / uj-HG

teleSUR, December 1, 2016

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