Open Letter to Paulo Teixeira from the Agua Buena Human Rights Association


7 April, 2002
Dr. Paulo Teixeira
Ministry of Health
Brazil

Dear Dr. Teixeira:

I am writing to you on behalf of Ibel Martinez, who is ill with AIDS and lives in Tela, Honduras. Ibel has no access to anti-retroviral medications. We have been able to find donors who have agreed that they could afford to contribute up to $50 per month for anti-retroviral medications, but no such offer exists within Honduras. Ibel is one of the very few women living with HIV/AIDS who has been willing to speak out publicly in Central America.

I understand that you have produced in Brazil a "triple therapy" combination, consisting of Nevirapine and a pill that combines AZT and 3TC. I understand also that the price of this cocktail is $46.50 per month or $558 per year.

The Association Agua Buena, of which I am Director is willing to pay all costs of shipping these medications by private courier, such as DHL, to Ibel in Honduras. We are also willing to help with coordination of payment arrangements so that the funds which are available, which would cover one year of treatment, would be transferred to a bank account that you could indicate to me.

It is also important to note that Ibel's physician has assured her that he feels that this would be a viable treatment option for her to and that he will provide monitoring of her progress at no cost to her.

You should also be aware that neither AZT, 3TC or Nevirapine are patented in Honduras, so that Brazil would not be breaking any Honduran or international laws by providing Ibel with the medications that could save her life.

I am aware that the government of Brazil has courageously been willing to sell its anti-retroviral medications to Doctors without Borders for use with a group of People Living with AIDS who are from South Africa, and I applaud you for doing so. We also recognize the leadership role that Brazil has taken on the world's stage, in terms of advocating for access to AIDS medications

I think you might agree that the "hypothetical solutions" that we have been hearing about for the last two years are not getting the medications to the people who need them. The PAHO rotating fund and the UNAIDS accelerating access to treatment program are mired in bureaucracy and still just barely getting starting in Latin America. The Global Fund still has not taken a stance as to whether it will support the purchase of anti-retrovirals. The registration and distribution of generic products from Asian producers is taking forever. Incredibly, prices in countries such as Nicaragua, Peru, and Ecuador remain above $5000 per year for most cocktails.

I am also very aware that Brazil is dealing with a very delicate balance in terms of its own relationships with other countries, and cannot ignore political realities and pressures on an international level. However, at the same time, we are talking about a situation that is now quite out of hand, and people throughout our own Latin American region are dying unnecessarily. By being willing to sell to its Latin American neighbors, Brazil would be taking a great humanitarian step, and I am confident that AIDS activists throughout the world would unite to defend you.

I also hope you will consider selling your medications to Ibel, as well as to others who might be able to afford these prices.

Given the life or death urgency of the situation, I look forward to your reply as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Director
Agua Buena Human Rights Association
San Josť, Costa Rica
rastern@sol.racsa.co.cr
Tel/fax: 506-234-2411


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