By Emily Carson, ICASO
There is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. This is a crisis of many facets, but it is above all, humanitarian: people are dying of hunger. People are dying of preventable, treatable infections. Our friends living with HIV are dying of AIDS. The reality on the ground hits home for many here in Canada, but specifically Venezuela is home for ICASO's Executive Director, Mary Ann Torres.
The situation in Venezuela is unprecedented. It is a government-made, complex humanitarian emergency with severe and widespread social consequences. ICASO recently published a report entitled "Triple threat: Resurging epidemics, a broken health system, and a global indifference to Venezuela's crisis" which speaks directly to the situation on the ground told by the activists and doctors who are trying to do anything to help their community.
Venezuela's AIDS program, once lauded as a model, has collapsed. With chronic drug shortages and the lack of condoms or diagnostic tests thousand are at risk of preventable diseases and death; medical professionals have even been asked to re-use syringes and other material's sure to the shortage. Women living with HIV are not able to prevent mother to child transmission. There is no baby formula and there is no HIV treatment for mother or child. Women need to make the choice of breastfeeding and risk transmitting the virus to their babies, or letting them starve to death. People living with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are dying at a growing pace, as hospitals and pharmacies are empty of most health commodities. Measles and diphtheria, once eradicated from Latin America, are also back in force. Food is scarce and malnutrition and starvation are spreading.
In the past year, Venezuelan advocates took to the global stage, demanding urgent aid from the international community. The response has been stunning indifference, but action is urgently needed: it is a matter of life and death. Continuing to ignore this humanitarian disaster means that even more people will die, and the foundations of global solidarity in the AIDS, TB and malaria response will be further eroded.
So, what can be done? It is important that any action (donation, cooperation, research) is done with the meaningful involvement and direction of people living with and affected by the diseases. Organizations can invest in NGOs working in Venezuela, with Venezuelans, for Venezuelans. HIV medications that are no longer needed can be donated though ICASO or AID for AIDS donation points. Investment is needed in community based research to begin to gather accurate data about what is happening. We need everyone to be ready when the emergency is finally declared by the multilaterals and powers that be. We need everyone's help, everyone's voice and everyone to pay attention. Because, who knows which country could be the next Venezuela.
ICASO is a Canadian organization that acts as a global policy voice on HIV issues that impact diverse communities around the world. Our advocacy work champions the leadership of civil society and key populations in the effort to end AIDS. We do this through collaborative partnerships with people and organizations in all regions and various sectors, always with a view to serving and empowering communities. www.icaso.org
This blog is part of the blog series: Barometer Rising: No time to backtrack the fast track to ending HIV as a global health threat by 2030 by the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD) in recognition of World AIDS Day (1 December). The series features a selection of blogs written by our member and partner organizations. Contributors share their broad range of perspectives and insight on the right to health within Canada and globally to critically reflect on the response to HIV knowing we are now just 2 years from the 2020 Fast-Track targets (90-90-90) and just over a decade away from the 2030 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs).
Are we on the right track or are we on the back-track?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ICAD.