Things That Matter

Mexico Admits That Hundreds Of HIV-Positive Mexicans Were Being Treated With Obsolete And Ineffective Medications

For a long time, it was considered that Mexico had averted the worst of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has plagued much of the Americas. For a country of its size and population, Mexico historically has had a very low incidence rate of HIV infection – even among populations considered at a high-risk.

Mexico is also a nation that has a robust public healthcare system that provides medical care to its citizens free-of-charge or at very low prices, including HIV medications.

Many looked to Mexico as a role model for developing countries confronting the worldwide HIV epidemic. However, after recent reports about obsolete medications being given to HIV and AIDS patients many are beginning to question that way of thinking.

Mexico’s Health ministry revealed that Mexico had been buying outdated medications from suppliers that no longer worked.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

Hugo López-Gatell, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, revealed this morning that some drug providers were selling outdated and obsolete HIV drugs to the federal government. Many of the drug being used by the government to treat HIV-positive patients were from the 1980s and have been proven ineffective around the world.

At a press conference, he explained that in late 2019, authorities realized that drug companies were intentionally manipulating the public bidding process in a scheme to sell outdated drugs to the public health ministry.

“The combination of medicines tells us about the enormous lack of proper HIV treatment because they [the HIV medications] are not adequate. In many cases we found the use of old medicines, we found the use of the first HIV drug that was invented or discovered at the beginning of the 80s. It is a drug that is already obsolete worldwide and in Mexico was still being used,” he said.

According to the government, however, it was the fault of the drug companies that were gaming a public health system.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

“What did we find?” That here were pressures from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. We discovered that it was one group who made the medicines and that there were very few who distributed them. But they tie up the government with exclusive agreements to the different companies that manufacture the medicines,” he explained.

So basically, the distributors put pressure on doctors who specifically prescribed retroviral medications. He also clarified that purchases have always been made at the national level, however, they made no sense with the amounts of what they asked for in each state.

Despite this troubling revelation, the Ministry of Health has restated its commitment to securing the best care for those in need of HIV treatment.

Credit: Gilead Sciences

The undersecretary added: “In May, we completely modified the HIV treatment scheme. First, we made it clear that we wanted the best medications, the most effective, the safest; second, we identified how many people could have this ideal medication scheme and it turns out that there were many more than those who were taking advantage of it.”

This latest news comes just months after the country reformed its HIV treatment regime, leaving many fearful of shortages.

Public health officials warned of the possibility that thousands of Mexicans who rely on HIV treatment could be left without life-saving services after the government changed the way it funds treatment.

Reforms announced last month to centralize drug procurement risk sparking shortages, they say, while the government counters that it has ample supplies and hopes its changes will save money and cut corruption in the drug buying process. It’s these reforms they say that will help combat problems such as being sold outdated and obsolete drugs.

However, many HIV activists warn of a public health crisis.

In February, the government also said that it would no longer fund civil society organizations, leaving more than 200 groups fighting the disease without resources for core activities, such as HIV testing.

Diego Luna Talks The Importance Of The Storytelling In ‘Narcos: Mexico’ And Why Mexico City Will Always Be His Home

Entertainment

Diego Luna Talks The Importance Of The Storytelling In ‘Narcos: Mexico’ And Why Mexico City Will Always Be His Home

Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 comes back to continue the story of enigmatic drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and the subsequent rise and fall of the Guadalajara cartel he founded in the 1970s, with Diego Luna reprising his role as the mysterious Félix Gallardo.

The show depicts how Félix Gallardo’s eloquence and strategic thinking helped him attain a swift rise to the apex of the Mexican drug cartels. 

For a man of which not much is widely known about, Luna reveals in this exclusive interview with mitú how he was able to dive into his character.

When preparing for this role, Luna said there wasn’t as much research material about El Padrino (Félix Gallardo’s alias) compared to the personal stories of other real-life personalities, such as El Chapo. 

“The good thing for me in playing this role is this man was a very discreet person, he understood the power of discretion,” Luna says.

It was important to see what people said about him—what people say or feel when they were around this character, this perception of him helps a lot. I had to do research and see what was a common answer—people talk about how intelligent and precise and strategic he was, and that’s how I wanted to portray and build this character,” Luna told mitú over the phone. 

Season 2 picks up after the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, with Félix Gallardo enjoying political protection at his palatial home in Mexico.

It’s evident in the beginning scenes of this second season that his rags-to-riches story is starting to unravel and a bit of paranoia is starting to set in that he may have a knife (or gun) at his back at any moment. 

A running allegory used by the characters’ dialogues of the Roman Empire’s eventual collapse and Julius Caesar’s ultimate end foreshadows what we all know will happen to Félix Gallardo—his drug empire will eventually collapse in a smoke of cocaine dust. 

From crooked Mexican politicians and cops to ranch hands trying to make extra money delivering cocaine across the border, the show demonstrates the complicity among the cartels and how far the cartels’ reach.

“Narcos: Mexico” attempts to show that good and evil isn’t always black and white. The story highlights the gray area where even those committing corrupt acts are victims, Luna explained. 

“Some of the characters that take action are victims of the whole system,” Luna said in Spanish. 

The side of Mexico shown in “Narcos: Mexico” has been criticized by some as a side of Mexico stereotypically seen in the media.

However, Luna sees it as a side of the country that is real and must be discussed in order to move forward.

“When this season ends, I was 10 to 11 years old [at the time.] That decade was actually ending. It’s interesting to revisit that decade as an adult and research that Mexico my father was trying to hide from me [as a child],” Luna explained.

Luna says that this type of storytelling is important to understanding the fuller picture of Mexico.

The need for this type of storytelling—the stories that put a mirror up to a country to see the darkest side of itself—is vital, regardless of how complex it is to write scripts about all the facets of a country marred by political and judicial corruption. 

“In this case the story is very complex, it’s talking about a corrupt system that allows these stories to happen. We don’t tell stories like that—we simply everything. With this, I had a chance to understand that complexity. The journey of this character is a presentable journey. Power has a downside, and he gets there and he thinks he’s indispensable and clearly he is not,” Luna said. 

Outside of his role on “Narcos,” Luna is a vocal activist and is constantly working to put Mexico’s art and talent on an international stage through his work, vigilantly reminding his audience that Mexico has culture waiting to be explored past the resort walls of Cancún and Cabo. 

“The beauty of Mexico is that there are many Mexicos—it’s a very diverse country. You have the Pacific Coast that is beautiful and vibrant and really cool. By far my favorite beach spots in Mexico are in Oaxaca, and all the region of Baja California. You also have the desert and jungle and Veracruz and you have all the Caribbean coast and the city is to me a place I can’t really escape. Home is Mexico City, and it will always be where most of my love stories are and where I belong,” Luna said in a sort of love note aside to his home country. 

As much as Luna can talk endlessly about his favorite tacos in Mexico City (Tacos El Güero for any inquiring minds) and the gastronomic wonders of its pocket neighborhoods such as la Condesa, he also wants the dialogue around Mexico’s violence to be shown under a spotlight, as searing as it may be. 

“We can’t avoid talking about violence because if we stop, we normalize something that has to change,” Luna said. 

Perhaps “Narcos: Mexico” can bring some introspection and change after all. Let’s hope the politicians are watching.

READ: ‘Narcos: Mexico’ Season 2 Picks Up Where We Left Off With Félix Gallardo And The Guadalajara Cartel

Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

Things That Matter

Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

SkyNews/ Twitter

In Mexico, the recent brutal mutilation and slaying of a 25-year-old woman are spurning conversations about the country’s efforts to prevent femicide and laws that protect victims from the media.

On Sunday, Mexican authorities revealed that they had discovered the body of Ingrid Escamilla.

According to reports, Escamilla was found lifeless with her body skinned and many of her organs missing. At the scene, a 46-year-old man was also discovered alive. His body was covered in bloodstains and he was arrested.

As of this story wasn’t troubling enough, local tabloids and websites managed to bring more tragedy to the victim and her family by splashing leaked graphic photos and videos of the victim’s body. In a terribly crafted headline, one paper by the name of Pasala printed the photos on its front page with the headline “It was Cupid’s fault.” The headline is a reference to the fact that the man found at the scene was Escamilla’s husband.

According to leaked video footage from the arrest scene, Escamilla’s husband admitted to stabbing his wife after a heated argument in which she threatened to kill him. He then claimed to have skinned her body to eliminate evidence.

Mexic City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, revealed that prosecutors will demand the maximum sentence against the alleged perpetrator.

“Femicide is an absolutely condemnable crime. It is appalling when hatred reaches extremes like in the case of Ingrid Escamilla,” Sheinbaum wrote in a tweet according to CNN. According to reports, Mexico broke records in 2018 when its homicide record reached over 33,000 people that year.

The publication of Escamilla’s mutilated body has sparked discussions regarding the way in which reports about violence against women are handled.

Women’s rights organizations have lambasted the papers that originally published photos of Escamilla’s body and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also expressed criticism of the media’s response to the brutal slaying.

In a press conference on Thursday, President López Obrador expressed his determination to find and punish anyone responsible for the image leaks. “This is a crime, that needs to be punished, whoever it is,” he stated.