By Christianna Silva
Carmen Cruz, the mayor of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, said the government is doing everything it can to get medical help to people with HIV/AIDS. She said they “stocked up” medications and other supplies before Hurricane Maria hit, but quickly ran through most of it.
“We bought a lot of medication which we may or may not be able to get reimbursed for, but who cares,” Yulin Cruz told the Washington Blade. “We would not have been able to keep people alive if we had not done that.”
She said a clinic for adults and children with AIDS opened in San Juan just two weeks after the tempest hit Puerto Rico, but that it still isn’t operating at full capacity. The Puerto Rican government is working with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to identify people with HIV/AIDS and help them with generators “in order to keep [them] living with oxygen,” Yulin Cruz told the Blade.
“Besides that, we have made sure that they have been called or visited to ensure their livelihood and their safety,” Yulin Cruz said.
Representative Luis Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat who is of Puerto Rican descent, said the U.S. hasn’t done enough to help Puerto Ricans—not to mention those with HIV/AIDS.
“There are still babies without formula, and there are still people that don’t have insulin or refrigeration,” Gutierrez told the Blade. “There’s [sic] still people who are dying of AIDS and can’t get to their medicine and there are still hospitals that are going to be on the verge of collapse because they continue to run on generation systems.”
Residents of Puerto Rico have seen their neighborhoods turned into contaminated toxic rivers filled with rainwater and human waste. For some residents, contact with floodwater is unavoidable, putting them at risk for infectious diseases. This may not necessarily cause health hazards for people with healthy immune systems, but for the more than 20,000 people in Puerto Rico with HIV/AIDS, it can be a death sentence.
Hurricane Maria has made access to healthcare, regular medicine and resources scarce for everyone, compounding issues that already surround the lives of those struggling with HIV/AIDS.