What do you do with the medicine that you no longer need? Do you even remember if you have unopened medicine bottles at home? What happens to the medicines that relatives no longer use?


In 2015, as much as $5 billion worth of unexpired and unused prescription drugs in unopened packs, bottles, and vials were reported to be incinerated or tossed in the garbage in the U.S. alone. In the same year, it was reported that one in four American adults — upwards of 50 million people – failed to fill a prescription due to its cost. In 2014, it was estimated that $2 billion worth of medicines were being wasted a year at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities around the country.


Although these numbers are shocking to most people, the potential to recycle medicines is nothing new for AID FOR AIDS (AFA), an organization that for years has been focusing on reducing medicine waste while also striving to support vulnerable communities who struggle to get access to treatment.


The HIV Medicine Recycling Program is AFA’s pioneering program that collects surplus HIV medications in the U.S. to recycle and redistribute them to people who, otherwise, would not have access to treatment. For the past 24 years, AFA has collected $160 million worth of antiretrovirals, and provided lifesaving drugs to more than 20,000 people in 70 low and middle income countries, making it the largest HIV medicine recycling program in the United States.


AFA works in partnership with community organizations, medical centers and health care providers to collect medicine donations and raise awareness. The HIV Medicine Recycling is a donation-based program that includes drop-off boxes and shipping services so people can send their unused unexpired drugs to the organization, which will collect, classify, store, and distribute the medicine to people who need it across the globe.


Over the past year, as a result of the public health crisis and lockdown mandates to prevent COVID-19 spread, medicine donations decreased over 60% thus threatening the continuity of the program and possibly affecting over 1,000 people who currently depend on AFA for their HIV treatment. The support of healthcare providers, case managers, social workers, and the community of people with HIV at large is pivotal for our program. You can help us continue saving lives one by one by donating your surplus medication or spreading the word about our program while becoming one of our HIV Medicine Recycling Ambassadors. For more info, please click here.


Author: María Fernanda Albán

              AID FOR AIDS International