The Lazarus Effect – A Miracle for 40 Cents a Day

May 26, 2010 § Leave a comment


On Monday, May 24th, HBO Documentary Films and (RED), in association with Anonymous Content, presented their new documentary, The Lazarus Effect.

Airing on HBO, Channel 4 (UK), and YouTube, the “30-minute documentary follows the story of HIV positive people in Africa who were at death’s door and in as little as 40 days undergo a remarkable transformation to health, when they gain access to the 2 lifesaving pills that cost around 40 cents a day.”

Antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment, that can cost upwards of $10,000 per year for a patient in the United States, now costs roughly $140 per year in Africa.  Given that many Africans live below the poverty threshold of $2 per day, these drugs are provided for free, mostly by the Global Fund and the U.S. AIDS initiative, PEPFAR, as they have been since 2003.

Before 2003, there was no “Lazarus effect.”  HIV/AIDS was a death sentence.  As Constance Mudenda, supervisor of the Kanyama clinic (and 2 others) in Lusaka, Zambia, says in the film, “All I know is that I’d go for the test, and sit back and wait for death.”  While all three of her children had succumbed to the disease, she and her husband had never been tested (both now know they are HIV-positive and receive free ARVs).   From the viewpoint of the doctors, the situation was wrenching.  Dr. Mannasseh Phiri, who works with Constance, explains that the drugs were “so expensive, and we watched people die because they couldn’t afford the mediation.  Can you imagine how desperate that is for the provider of the medication?”

Really.  40 cents per day.   And 3 months.  That’s all it takes for 11-year-old Bwalya Liteta to go from weighing 24 pounds and looking like she’s 6 and missing school, to playing with her friends and ranking at the top of her class, to go from lethargy to life.  Today, there are 3 billion more just like her, alive and thriving because of 2 pills a day.  But this is a lifelong commitment, on behalf of the patients receiving the drugs and organizations funding them.

Take 30 minutes of your time to watch and hear the good news about just what $0.40 per day can do.  Or, if you have only a minute, check out Bono and Penelope Cruz and Orlando Bloom, to name a few, tell you what you get for $0.40, in the (RED) The Lazarus Effect Campaign: 40 cents = 2 lifesaving pills.

We need more of this kind of thing, more of what’s working.

Bravo.

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