Cubans living with HIV/AIDS suffer extreme hardships, are often treated in a "prison-like" facility and are forced to have the letters "SIDA" (AIDS) stamped on their national ID cards." That's according to a series of diplomatic cables by an unidentified nurse assigned to the United States Interests Section in Havanaand released by WikiLeaks. The cables offer a damning assessment of Cuba’s public health system, the Miami Herald reports.
The cable can be viewed HERE.
HIV-positive Cubans have "only one facility" in Havana that can provide specialty care and life-saving anti-retroviral medications, the cable noted. "One usually waits for months for an appointment, but can often move ahead in line by offering a gift or hard currency." Due to transportation issues and costs of travel, "many HIV-positive patients may be seen only once per year."
-- Some newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients are held in what has come to be known as “Prision de Pacientes con SIDA de San Jose” (Prison for AIDS patients). There they are started on antiretrovirals AZT, D4T, 3TC. It is unclear to them why they were put in this prison-like facility but believe it is plain discrimination due to their homosexuality. The average period spent at this facility seems to be 18-24 months."
-- AIDS patients are not given prophylaxis medication for the prevention of PCP (Pneumocysti carinii pneumonia), and for lack of newer medicines some patients are re-started on anti-retroviral regimens that were stopped due to significant side effects.
The cable adds:
HIV positive patients have had the letters ‘SIDA’ (AIDS) stamped on their national ID cards. Needless to say, in a country where the national ID card must be shown for everything from getting monthly rations to buying a train ticket, the person is stigmatized for life. ... Because they are “marked” as HIV positive, many are prevented from pursuing university studies and few can find gainful employment -- many must resort to menial jobs to survive.
The cable is dated January 2008. The Pan-American Health Organization in Havana claims "stamping ID cards used to be the case but is no longer the practice in Cuba." The United Nations and the United States Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland "could not" confirm the denial.
Two years ago, Cuba announced its health care system would cover sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for transgenders. That and other official claims about its public health system should be re-evaluated given the WikiLeaks disclosures.
The Wikileak cable is HERE.