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Bolivian President Evo Morales signs the Cancer Law that guarantees universal, comprehensive and free access to those suffering from the disease.
In an event carried out in the city of La Paz, President Evo Morales signed into effect the Cancer Law, the first measure in Bolivia to provide comprehensive health care that will focus on preventing and diagnosing cancer among citizens and will provide access to treatments and medicines, as well as improve cancer-related medical equipment in health centers.
The event that was held at the presidential palace was attended by associations of patients with cancer and their family members, who were thankful for the new measure because it represents years of advocating for public health against cancer.
The president of the Association of Family and Patients with Cancer (AFPC), Rosario Calle, said that free access to treatments and medicines, which is very expensive for the majority of Bolivians, was a long-term goal for the collective that now expects to see "better days to fight cancer."
Likewise, president of the Association of Parents of Children with Cancer, Patricia Mendoza, said that if the country "was not ready to fight this before," this law now "gives us hope."
President Morales also stressed during his speech that one of the pillars of this law is to create an information campaign to educate the population about the government’s preventative services to combat the disease from growing in the country, where each year about 18,600 cancer cases are registered. At least 5,000 patients die every year from the illness, according to official data.
Responding to critics who say that his government "is doing nothing," the Bolivian president said that his administration has advanced the fight against cancer like none other, pointing out that the country now has 300 hemodialysis machines, where it only had four prior to his entering office in 2006. The leader also mentioned that three medicinal radiation centers are under construction.
On hand at the event was Minister of Health Gabriela Montaño who said that the new law requires the state to "address in a comprehensive way (to cancer), from diagnosis, treatment and palliative care," within the framework of the Universal Health System (SUS) also launched this year.
The law is the first in the country that focuses specifically on cancer care, after other proposals in previous years had failed. According to the law, patient care will be financed partly by taxes on tobacco, alcohol and ultra processed foods.