Drug dealers in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood—heavily populated by immigrants and descendants from the Dominican Republic—are illegally buying or even stealing HIV antiretroviral medications and re-selling them in their homeland, reports the New York Times.
The legal penalties for buying and selling medicine do not approach those for hard drugs. In March, three men were arrested near the C train station on 155th Street; one sold H.I.V. medicine to the other two. They were charged with criminal diversion of prescriptions, a misdemeanor; one of the men pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served.
Last year, the police arrested suspects at stash houses in Yonkers and Brooklyn who were stockpiling H.I.V. medication for shipment to the Dominican Republic. The investigation was led by the New York City special narcotics prosecutor, who ultimately passed it off to other agencies because there were no narcotics involved. The office is working on legislation that would put more teeth in arrests for sales of noncontrolled substances. Capt. Brian Mullen, the precinct’s new commanding officer, said there were arrests on Broadway in March and April. "My guys are out there every day, looking to make arrests in that specific area," he said.
Police sources say that "the young [dealer] will rob" people they suspect of carrying or having HIV meds.
The stealing and buying of HIV meds in the USA for resale in the Dominican Republic is a tragic reflection of the scarcity of antiretrovirals in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic has an adult HIV prevalence rate of 1 percent, reports the CIA. International HIV/AIDS experts estimate less than half of the 57,000+ HIV positive persons in the D.R. have access to ARVs.