Published: 18 April, 2003
OF TWO HONDURAN AIDS HEROES
by Richard Stern, Costa Rica
On April 10th and 11th, Honduras lost two of its heroesin the struggle
for treatment access for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Jose Roberto Trejo was assassinated late in the afternoon of April
11th, by two men who entered his office in Honduras' second largest
city, San Pedro Sula, just before closing. There was no robbery,
although he had a large amount of money on him, and the motive for
his murder is unknown.
many years Dr. Trejo had been one of the leaders of the movement
for treatment access in Honduras. He helped obtain donated medications
for numerous individuals with AIDS, most of them extremely poor,
in San Pedro Sula.
of my own fondest memories of Dr. Trejo was early in 1999 when he
traveled from Honduras to Managua, Nicaragua at his own expense
to participate in a meeting dedicated to the theme of treatment
access in Nicaragua.
was a small meeting, not an international conference, there were
no scholarships or per diems or international recognition. But he
gave up his weekend just to talk with the small group of about 15
Nicaraguans who live with AIDS who attended the meeting, and to
share his knowledge about anti-retroviral treatment with them.
that I evening I dined with Dr. Trejo in Managua and we talked for
hours about the injustices and problems facing people with HIV/AIDS
in our region. Dr. Trejo was an outspoken critic of the policies
of the Honduran government with regard to the AIDS epidemic. He
was never afraid to speak up.
obtaining donated and low cost medications, Dr. Trejo was caring
for over 100 poor people with AIDS in San Pedro Sula, many of them
for the past four or five years. It is very doubtful that without
his presence, dedication, and expertise that they will be able to
continue to receive treatment
last conversation with Dr. Trejo occurred just over two weeks before
he was killed. I discussed with him the situation of Mario F.a person
living with AIDS in Tegucigalpa, the country's capital, and told
him that because Mario had stopped taking his anti-retroviral medications
in November, the government (National AIDS Program Director) was
now refusing to allow him to reinitiate treatment. Dr. Trejo immediately
volunteered to send two bottles of Triomune, a generic anti-retroviral
product produced by CIPLA to Mario in Tegucigalpa.
Mario F. is the other hero who also died. The medications sent by
Dr. Trejo arrived in Tegucigalpa on March 27th, but Mario was already
gravely ill, and the medications did not help. He died on April
was a hero because he was one of 16 Honduran citizens with AIDS
who signed a petition sent to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission
(CIDH), in August of 2002, asking for the Commission to order the
government of Honduras to provide anti-retroviral medications.
did begin to receive medications in September, but in retaliation
for his petition, his full name was released to the press by someone
in the government (although the government denies this) and appeared
on September 1st in La Prensa, Honduras' largest daily newspaper
on September, 1 2002. This, in violation of the confidentiality
guaranteed to those who seek the intervention of the CIDH.
when Mario had severe side effects from his anti-retroviral cocktail
in November, he stopped taking the cocktail. In January of 2003,
he asked to resume treatment but this time the government refused,
claiming that he had had not adhered to the treatment the first
time he was given the chance and that he had "psychological
the Interamerican Commission was asked to intervene and order the
government to reinitiate Mario's treatment, but in this case the
Commission would not intervene, with the Honduran government, and
the only option was to seek donated medications.
Mario on March 27th, the day the medications sent by Dr. Trejo arrived,
and, with his permission I took his picture (he weighed 70 pounds
or less) which were sent to the Interamerican Commission in a last
attempt to also get the Commission to order the government to help
and Dr. Trejo died within one day of each other. They never met,
but their lives became intertwined just before their deaths as one
tried to save the life of the other. Mario F. left a wife and two
children. Dr. Jose Roberto Trejo left a wife and five children.