PANCAP News-in the caribbean
Caribbean Men and Women Contracting HIV in Equal Numbers
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 10:56
- Published on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 10:36
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What is now clear is that an epidemic which had started as a predominantly male one has now become a serious condition impacting negatively on women’s health. In many instances, women are acquiring HIV from their only sexual partner. According to the UNAIDS Director “What is now necessary is research into the sexual behaviours of these partners and the role and importance of bisexuality in the transmission of HIV to Caribbean women.”
The UNAIDS-WHO report reveals that the total number of People Living with HIV globally, is 33.4 million. Of these, adults comprise 31.3 million; women 15.7 million; and children under 15 years, 2.1 million.
In another recent WHO publication, it is reported that the growing number of HIV cases among women is now compromising the gains which women had made in life expectancy throughout the years. Traditionally, women were living longer and healthier than men, but because of HIV, this is no longer the case.
Most-at-Risk Populations Still Important
Male-to-male transmission of HIV continues to play a role in the spread of the epidemic in the Caribbean and should be addressed seriously.
Data show that HIV heavily affects sex workers, and that sex work contributes to the spread of the epidemic in many Caribbean countries especially through the growing trend of male sex work. This is a serious cause for concern, which decision-makers must address in their national responses to HIV, added the Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team.
Little Decline….But National Treatment Programmes Bearing Fruit
Another worrisome factor is that during the period 2001-2008, there was a mere 1% decline in new HIV infections, said Mr Majszyk.
But despite the bleak picture, it is clear that national responses to HIV are bearing fruit. For example, the number of deaths due to AIDS has declined by 40% between 2001 and 2008. This is the result of sustained national antiretroviral treatment programmes which have reached a 51% coverage rate. The coverage rate among children (paediatric AIDS) is 55%.
New Infections Declining Among Children
It is also noticeable that there has been an 18% decline in the number of children newly infected with HIV, essentially due to comprehensive programmes for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, with a 52% coverage rate.
In countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti, recent data have shown that HIV prevalence, especially among young people, is declining because of sexual behaviour change.
Comprehensive Responses Necessary
The Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team urges national authorities to put in place comprehensive responses to address the Caribbean reality of a mixture of generalized and concentrated epidemics of a magnitude which varies within countries and between countries.
Mr Majszyk concluded that “ in a region with two different but concomitant HIV epidemics, countries must get the right balance between investments in interventions targeting the general population and those aimed at reaching the most-at-risk populations.” These interventions should involve changing social norms and sexual behaviours and reducing stigma and discrimination while at the same time providing high quality coverage of services and programmes for the most-at risk populations. These include men who have sex with men, sex workers, women especially young women, and prisoners.