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HIV/AIDS treatment in Cuba: a rights-based analysis; Lessons and challenges

One of Cuba's many neighbourhood health clinics, centrepieces of Cuba's health system.

By Tim Anderson

Cuba has achieved the lowest rate of HIV infection and the highest level of AIDS treatment in the Caribbean region. Yet the Cuban HIV program — part of its famous health system — has been subjected to many criticisms, usually linked to the themes of “freedom” and “rights.” These criticisms must be seen in the broader context of demands for economic “freedoms” in Cuba and in the context of US demands for the dismantling of Cuban socialism and for widespread privatisation, including privatisation of the public health system. Outside understandings of the Cuban health system are further undermined by the US economic blockade of Cuba, roundly condemned each year by the United Nations General Assembly, which prevents normal scientific and cultural exchange between the US and Cuba.

United States: Race and class -- African Americans in a sick system

By Malik Miah

August 2009 -- The critical lack of quality and affordable health care is devastating for African Americans. Twice as likely as whites to go without health insurance, African Americans suffer chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes at an escalating rate. The root of the problem is not inferior Black — or better white — health care. It is first and foremost a class issue, exacerbated for Blacks and Latinos because of the institutional racism that still permeates society.

Only the wealthy can afford “the best medical care in the world”. Everyone else’s care is rationed by the employer or private plans that each can afford to buy, or if uninsured, by the use of “free” clinics and emergency rooms. The debate over the broken US health-care system and what to do about it is one of life and death.

Stubborn facts

United States: Healthcare `town hall' meeting a charade of democracy

By Billy Wharton

August 19, 2009 -- The were two big winners at the recent “town hall” healthcare meeting held in the North Bronx, New York City, neighbourhood of Parkchester on August 17 – the lunatic right wing and the private health insurance industry. These victories came despite the fact that the vast majority of those who lined up to participate in the meeting supported either a single-payer system or a public option. Most came away disappointed. I got kicked out.

The right wing won this contest without even participating in it. Sure there was one woman with a “Freedom Isn’t Free Shirt”, but there were certainly none of the antics that have come to typify other ``town hall'' meetings. Not even one “Death Panel” sign. How then did the right wing win? Democrat Representative Joseph Crowley, the organiser of the event, guaranteed this by closing off all space for public discussion.

United States: Industry-backed opponents of healthcare reform react with racism, violence


Elston McCowan. Photo by Don Fitz.

By Don Fitz

August 14, 2009 -- St. Louis -- Did you hear about the town hall meeting in St. Louis on August 6, where union thugs attacked a black conservative and sent him to the hospital with multiple injuries? Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that. In fact, events were the opposite of what talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly broadcast and what the corporate media relayed across the US.

The right-wing Tea Party group announced to the world that their supporter Kenneth Gladney was assaulted by Elston McCowan, who is an organiser for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Earlier this year I worked closely with McCowan, a black minister, when he ran for mayor of St. Louis on the Green Party ticket. Since nothing that I heard fit the McCowan I know, I interviewed him about the August 6 incident.

Lipstick on a pig: The failure of Obama’s health-care reform

By Billy Wharton

July 19, 2009 -- Consider it a symptom of a larger disease. A fervent commitment to defend the profit margins of private industry seems to be a national religion for politicians in the United States. No matter how deeply the private sector mucks up society, some senator or representative or, if things get really out of control, president will appear to rescue the day for the corporations all in the name of justice for the citizens of the US. Like any religion, this process has highly crafted rituals. First a confession, then march the sinners around at one hearing or another, then mete out acceptable penance and then all is forgiven.

Swine flu and the case for a single-payer healthcare system in the United States

By Billy Wharton

June 3, 2009 -- On April 13, 2009, 39-year-old Adela María Gutiérrez Cruz became the first victim of a new virus that would become known as the swine flu (H1N1). By the time Cruz arrived at a local hospital on April 9, she had already entered acute respiratory distress due to an “atypical pneumonia”. Further investigations led to a town outside of a factory farm, run by a subsidiary of the US meat conglomerate Smithfield Foods, in the neighbouring state of Vera Cruz. Causalities began to mount. Yet, nearly two weeks after the first deaths, none of the families of the dead had received anti-viral medications.(1) Mexican health officials claimed to not have the resources to visit the families.

African lives -- silent casualty of the global economic crisis

By the Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa), AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, RAVANE+ PVVIH Network for the Indian Ocean Region (Mauritius) and the Grassroots Empowerment Trust (Kenya)

HIV is not in recession! TB is not in recession!

May 6, 2009 -- On the occasion of the Conference of African Ministers of Health in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a coalition of health advocates from sub-Saharan Africa warn that the lives of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are in jeopardy because of the lack of political will and investment to realise the right of access to life-saving treatment. Only one third of HIV-positive people in need of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to survive have access to treatment in the African region. The coalition fears that national and donor governments are betraying their health commitments, particularly promises to support the universal roll-out of ART by 2010.

Mexico's Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT) statement on swine flu epidemic

Statement by the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT)

April 30, 2009 -- The health emergency brought about by the swine flu epidemic has important political and social repercussions, in addition to consequences for public health, that need to be explained in the midst of the confusion and distrust that contradictory governmental versions generate. It is also necessary to open the way to scientific information, truth and political criticism.

Swine flu and a sick social system: Why the poor die and the rich sniffle

April 27, 2009 -- A World to Win News Service -- It is impossible to predict the spread, severity and consequences of the swine flu epidemic that broke out in Mexico. But influenza epidemics have occurred regularly –- with three pandemics (global epidemics) in the 20th century -- and scientists and public health authorities have known for a long time that new pandemics are inevitable. Some possible parameters and paths of development can be scientifically understood, in both the biological and social spheres.

There are two separate and mainly independent factors at work. One is the nature and evolution of the disease itself, which is not caused by human activity. Although social factors -- for instance industrial pig farming -- may have played a contributing role in the appearance of this particular disease, human beings didn't invent viruses or human and animal vulnerability to them.

The other factor is just the opposite: What kind of society people live in, what drives the economic organisation of those societies and their social and political relations. In short, if the first factor concerns natural phenomena, the second is the capitalist and imperialist world in which they occur.

Mike Davis: Capitalism and the flu

Agri-biz at root of swine flu? Real News Network report, April 30, 2009.

* * *

April 27, 2009 -- Socialist Worker (USA) -- Mike Davis, whose 2006 book The Monster at Our Door warned of the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, explains how globalised agribusiness set the stage for a frightening outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico.

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