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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Cuban doctors

Well, the U.S. isn't going to accept Cuba's generous offer of 1586 doctors to offer medical care to victims of Hurricane Katrina (an offer which still stands, by the way, and which is still needed, albeit without the urgency of three weeks ago when the offer was first made). However those doctors are still on standby, not just waiting to serve the people of the United States, but the people of the world. In a speech today, Fidel Castro announced the creation of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Disaster and Epidemic Physicians, ready to provide services anywhere in the world there is an epidemic or catastrophe. One particularly interesting section of Castro's speech is what he has to say about AIDS:
"There is a particularly terrible epidemic -- let's call it that -- which has the world in its grip: HIV, AIDS. It is threatening to wipe out entire nations and even vast continental regions.

"Cuba ranks highly on the world scale of countries preventing and struggling against this disease. Looking at the rates that prevail in this part of the world, it can be noted that some countries with an average infestation rate, had in 2003 -the last year for published statistics -- an AIDS prevalence of 2.4%, 2.3%, 3.2% in the adult population aged between 15 and 49 years. I'm not mentioning any names for obvious reasons. In other countries the infestation rate is much higher still. The lowest rate after Cuba is 0.6%. I'll not say who that is either. The rate in Cuba is 0.07%, that is to say, 8.6 times less than in the country with the second lowest rate.

"Our doctors, our scientists, our pharmacists, and in particular the members of the 'Henry Reeve' Contingent, must know all there is to know about AIDS, the most efficient ways to combat it, and above all they should realize that these methods must be adapted to the specific conditions of each country.

"When the immensely rich developed nations decide to truly cooperate with countries in Africa and other parts of the world in the struggle against AIDS, they will need professionals like those in the 'Henry Reeve' Contingent. It is then that the value of this action will be understood in all its magnitude. The rich, developed states posses the financial capital, but they don't have the human capital. In order to avoid transmission from mother to child, for example, it is necessary to perform a Caesarian section on the mother; the mothers live in the villages and the doctors from the developed world don't go into the African villages, they have not been trained for that.

"It is necessary to train the doctors needed in the countryside, in the villages, in the poor and marginalized neighborhoods of Third World cities. Even in extremely rich countries like the United States, tens of millions of Afro-Americans, Indians, Latin American immigrants, Haitians and many others have no healthcare programs or medical care.

"We are offering to train professionals who are prepared to struggle against death. We shall prove that there is a solution to many of the planet's tragedies. We are proving that man can and must better himself. We are proving the value of conscience and ethics. We are offering life."
In related news, in an extension of something that happened last month, the joint formation by Venezuela and Cuba of the "Miracle Mission" program to offer free eye operations to restore the sight of millions of Latin Americans (operations to be performed in Cuba, with transportation paid for and provided by Venezuela), Hugo Chavez recently announced that that program will also be available to poor people in the United States. Won't it be interesting when the United States denies travel permission to a blind person trying to travel to Cuba to have their sight restored, or prosecutes them upon their return?

Incidentally, I can still find no evidence whatsoever that the Western press has made any mention of the "Miracle Mission" program.

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