The State of AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Nick Miroff (GlobalPost) writes that “A blueprint for an AIDS-free generation has just been unveiled,” shedding light on the state of AIDS and HIV worldwide in an in-depth series. Here are excerpts of one of the articles in the series:

Major gains have been made in the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the infection rate has held stable over the past decade.

But some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence outside sub-Saharan Africa persist in several countries in the region, and experts warn that the disease continues to spread among certain at-risk populations. [. . .] While the global spread of AIDS has stabilized, in Latin America “stabilization of the epidemic is not a success,” said Cesar Nunez, the director of UNAIDS in the region. “It reflects slow and fragile progress with modest gains,” said Nunez in an interview with GlobalPost. “There are still approximately 227 new infections every day in Latin America,” he added.

That infection rate still represents a significant decline from a decade ago. There were 92,000 new infections in 2009, the most recent year for which data were available, down from 99,000 in 2001, according to UNAIDS figures.

Overall, the HIV prevalence rate in the region was 0.4 percent, unchanged over the past decade. But the disease has wide variations, from a high of 3.1 cases per 100 residents in The Bahamas — which tops Latin America and the Caribbean — to just 0.1 per 100 in Cuba, one of the world’s lowest rates.

[. . .] “In most of Latin America and the Caribbean, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is concentrated in certain key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and transgender women,” said Drew Bailey, a spokesman for USAID. [. . .] “Stigma and discrimination towards key populations most affected by the epidemic is the main obstacle limiting access to crucial HIV-related treatment, prevention, care and support services,” [Nunez] said.

[. . .] Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fund their own HIV response programs. Domestic sources accounted for 93.6 percent of overall spending, according to a report last year published by National Institutes of Health. Their growing economies have helped fund big increases in health care spending. Though antiretroviral coverage increased from 10 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2009, governments in the region continue to pay some of the highest rates in the world, the report found.  The boost in the availability of antiretroviral therapy has led to an increase in the number of people living with AIDS in the region, from 1.1 million to 1.4 million.

Another major success cited by experts has been the sharp decrease in mother- to-child transmission as a result of much-improved access to testing, services and treatment. According to the USAID study, the number of children acquiring the disease in Latin America and the Caribbean declined by 45 percent between 2001 and 2010, from 9,200 to 5,100 cases. Child deaths from AIDS dropped from 6,300 to 3,700 during that same period. “If these achievements can be scaled up quickly and effectively throughout the region, Latin America could become one of the first regions in the world to achieve the vision of zero babies born with HIV,” said Nunez.

For full article, see http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/121204/hiv-aids-latin-america-caribbean-global-health

Photo from http://operationblackvote.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/aids-rises-in-caribbean/

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