Remembering Dr. Paul Farmer

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

Paul Farmer 1959-February 21, 2022
Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer, Founder and lead strategist for Partners in Health died on Monday February 21, 2022.  In its early years it was Partners in Health that first brought tuberculosis drugs to the Global South and AIDS drugs to Africa.  Believing that health care was a human right, they showed that treatments for infectious diseases could be deployed in all environments, at a time when AIDS researchers in the US and Europe were claiming that poor people wouldn’t understand how to take medicine on a schedule. This was not without controversy and struggle but PIH used science to demonstrate that not only was everyone entitled to the same treatments we have in the rich West, but that these treatments did, in fact, work in some of the poorest areas of the world.   From their beginning with one clinic in Haiti, PIH has grown to its present work in 12 countries, across four continents, with 18,000 staff employed globally.  99% of their staff are from the countries they serve.  Among many other projects related to COVID worldwide,  PIH worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to develop their contact tracing network  that, in addition to explaining the need for testing, isolation and quarantine, connected people they reached to basic needs like food, medicine and emotional support.

Paul and his colleagues also showed us all the power of accompaniment – the idea that everyone needs and is entitled to social support when they are ill, to explain, encourage, and, in environments like rural Haiti, to literally walk over mountains to get people their medicine.  In other words, community matters to health. In every country where they work, PIH employs thousands of people to accompany people living with serious illnesses. 

We are FIGHT remain grateful that Paul delivered our Lax Lecture in 2004, and grateful for his example, his work, and his ongoing legacy. 

For more information please visit Partners in Health, and if you are able, consider a donation while you are  there.

For all of us whose work is driven by the belief that every life matters, Paul was the best of us. 

Rest in Power Paul.  We know your legacy will continue in the organization you built and in the countless people you inspired.