Nail on the coffin of hopes for decent treatment
On 18 October civic organizations of people living with HIV/AIDS and doctors held a protest outside the Ministry of Health. Their message was clear: Corruption = DEATH.
The protest was in the form of a funeral and memorial service [Panakhyda]. The mourning procession passed around the Ministry building with a real coffin filled with the packaging from the medicine which the government is planning to buy despite repeated warnings about its dubious quality from patients, doctors and international experts. Among the packaging, coins glistened, a reminder that unfortunately it is money which has been the decisive factor in the choice of medicine made by the Ministry of Healths Tender Committee.
After the coffin and “tombstone” were solemnly placed in the middle of the Ministrys courtyard, speeches were made. They pointed to the crushed hopes for access to quality medication, transparent procedures for procurement and quality control. It was stressed that the final terminal diagnosis was the chronic and complicated disease called corruption.
The participants threw coins into the coffin, expressing through this the real priorities of the Tender Committee.
One person living with HIV said that their action was one of despair and civic disobedience following a long and futile protest against the intention to buy medication of dubious quality and campaign to reform the procurement procedure. They were now in a position which directly threatened their health because of the Tender Committees behaviour.
A mourning ribbon on one of the funeral garlands read "We didnt survive the prequalification". This was a reminder of the 4 month public campaign for the implementation of international quality standards regarding medication (WHO pre-qualification) as one of the indispensable condition for participation in tenders for HIV medication. Officials failed to react and continued to use State funds to buy medication of unknown quality. 28 million UAH has been allocated for this purpose in 2007.
Prequalification introduced in 2001 by WHO is the only international proof of quality for the treatment of HIV-infection. This procedure is open and free of charge for every manufacturer of medicines.
Representatives of People living with HIV/AIDS [PLWH], doctors and international experts on HIV treatment answered journalists questions.
The message is clear and unchanged: the tender must be stopped and pre-qualification implemented as the guarantee of quality for any bidders offering ARV-therapy products.