Georgina Gutiérrez Alvarado

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 1998

Citation

This profile was prepared when Georgina Gutiérrez Alvarado was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Based on her first-hand knowledge of the tribulations of inmates with HIV, Georgina Gutiérrez has designed a comprehensive intervention program that addresses the patients' core social, health care and rehabilitation needs. The first component involves the provision of information about the virus to prisoners who carry it, their family members, and to the security personnel with whom they most directly interact. This information embraces the latest advances in drug therapy, and helps inmates frame demands for access to life-prolonging medication. The second component creates a network of support groups led by trained professionals that enable patients to discuss openly their questions and fears about the disease, as well as its influence on their self-esteem and plans for the future. The final component establishes vocational training and productive work opportunities for these prisoners, which improve their self-image by allowing them to earn some income while still in prison, as well as creating hope for gainful employment when their sentences are up.
While each dimension of Georgina's model involves the introduction of existing services to a heretofore abandoned population, what is most striking about her idea is the degree to which she has succeeded in integrating a "new" mix of "old" elements into the policy formulation of the Mexican federal bureaucracy charged with supervision of the prison system. She has convinced the highest officers of the General Directorate for Penitentiaries (DGR) that through the reallocation of existing human and fiscal resources, the services she advocates can be offered to inmates who carry HIV at very little additional cost. She has also negotiated partnerships with pharmaceutical companies who are her natural allies in the quest to provide the latest medicines to HIV patients in prison, at state expense. By successfully challenging the practice of neglect towards this population through judicious reference to human rights and budgetary realities, Georgina has opened the way for a national reform of treatment of prisoners with the virus, and is already drawing the attention of European and Latin American AIDS activists concerned with violations in their own penal systems.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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