I was at a conference when I happened to hear Dr. Jim Kim talking about how Partners in Health was having success with drug-resistant TB. They wanted to do the same for HIV. Here’s the story I wrote in 1999. Will their approach — testing and contact tracing — get results against the coronavirus here in Massachusetts?
Already overwhelmed by routine TB, the World Health Organization (WHO) had no program for treating the drug-resistant form. In effect, the WHO allowed these patients to die. But in 1998, Kim and Farmer used their success treating the disease in Peru to persuade the agency to change its policy. Today there are WHO-sponsored pilot programs for patients with drug-resistant TB in Haiti and Peru.
Now PIH hopes to duplicate that success for AIDS patients. The clinic in Haiti where Farmer works is now one of the few places in the world where the poorest of the poor can get the lifesaving anti-AIDS drug cocktail, and PIH staffers are training local health-care workers to deliver it. Eventually, they hope to introduce their system in hard-hit regions like sub-Saharan Africa, home to 2.4 million of the three million people who died of AIDS last year.
Also available on the Phoenix archives.