New York Times Examines Cuba’s Sanitarium Network For People Living With HIV

The New York Times examines the Cuban network of sanitariums created to house and treat people living with HIV, “to keep the infected from having sex with anyone uninfected and to help them die comfortably.” Inside the facilities, patients received food, their former salaries, and care, but they could only leave with escorts, the newspaper notes. According to the New York Times, the sanitariums “were harshly criticized — Dr. Jonathan Mann, the first AIDS director at the World Health Organization, called them ‘pretty prisons’ — but they had a huge damping effect on the early epidemic. Fewer than 150 new cases were detected in the country each year through 1990.”

However, the New York Times continues, “Starting in 1989, a new director of the network, Dr. Jorge Perez Avila, who is now Cuba’s leading AIDS physician, slowly eased restrictions,” and in 1993, all patients were allowed to leave and use outpatient care. However, 40 percent of them remained, although there are now only three sanitariums left, the newspaper notes (McNeil, 5/7). In a separate article, the New York Times profiles several Cubans living with HIV and their experiences with diagnosis, care, and treatment (McNeil, 5/7).