ARVs: Surviving VS. Thriving

Rachel Mahoney

The global health community needs to move beyond simply keeping AIDS patients alive, and focus more on improving quality of their lives. A paradox has developed in countries where large proportions of the population are dependent on antiretroviral treatments to survive the virus.  These people claim that though they are being kept alive by the drugs, their “principle complaint” is still gnawing hunger.  Psychiatrtist at the University of Washington, Ippolytos Andreas Kalofonos, examined this connection between ARV disbursement and food disbursement in Mozambique.  Kalofonos asserts that current HIV/AIDS interventions may be procuring peoples’ lives, but they are failing to address these people’s  hunger and ensuing competition over scarce resources.

An additional underlying consequence of 1st world aid disbursal to the 3rd world is that it prolongs post-colonial structures of power by disabling developing countries from independently and internally overcoming health crises.   Plumpy’nut is one example of how 1st world interventions can foster dependence in the 3rd world.  Critics of the “miracle peanut solution” quip “How is [Nutriset, the company that engineered Plumpy’nut] addressing the need for poor people in Haiti not to be dependent on outside intervention in the first place?”


Pro-Plumpy'nut advertisement from UNICEF.


3 thoughts on “ARVs: Surviving VS. Thriving

  1. You did a really good job of integrating the first and third world concept into this post. I think you bring up a good point about providing the third world with first world treatments. Treatment methods should be based on an individual’s resources and lifestyle. Providing the third world with aid that is not tailored for their livelihoods fosters a dependence on the first world. This dependence only widens the gap between the poor and rich, as people who have nothing have no choice but to depend on the wealthy.

  2. I don’t think I have ever looked at global health intervention with the same scope that it has been analyzed in our readings. One would imagine and argue that the primary concern of intervention is to save lives. Structural concerns lay in the hands of policy makers and leaders. Of course, those intervening will have to advocate for such change. However, short-term relief on the ground prioritizes health concerns and keeping patients alive is indeed at the forefront of priorities.

  3. I completely agree that there should be a stronger push by the global community to improve the lives of HIV/AIDS patients, rather than just hand out ARVs. However, perhaps aid organizations believe that simply keeping HIV/AIDS patients alive is sufficient. It certainly seems that way, especially when considering Bono’s quote from the article. But what is it about Western culture that allows this to continue? Why don’t more countries take notice when the cries of hungry Mozambicans taking ARVs get louder? On-the-other-hand, perhaps the global community is fearful of distributing more aid to Mozambicans because of the kids of critics who also oppose Plumpy’nut. It seems like aid leads to dependence, but lack-of-aid leads to death. I wonder if there is another option…

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