HIV/AIDS cases still high in region
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – A new United Nations report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic is showing that despite some significant gains in the Caribbean, some countries, like The Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago continue to have a high incidence of infection among the adult population.
The report released on Tuesday shows that in the past 10 years, new HIV infections have fallen by 14.3 per cent in the Caribbean but below the 20 per cent global decline.
The data show that the direct impact of antiretroviral treatment has resulted in a 43 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths well above the 20 per cent global decline in the past 10 years.
The Caribbean HIV epidemic, one of the oldest in the world is beginning to change course because of the declining number of new HIV infections and increasing number of people living with HIV in this region.
In 2009, there were between 230,000 and 290,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean, an estimated 260,000 in the wider Caribbean including Guyana, Belize and Suriname.
Data show that an estimated 18,000 people became newly infected with HIV in the Caribbean fewer than 21, 000 in 2001.
In 2009, the figures showed that 12,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses and UNAIDS Caribbean officials said this number is closer to half of what it was in 2001 when 21,000 people died.
“These data show that prevention is working and treatment is having a positive impact on lives of people living with HIV” said Dr. Ernest Massiah, Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team.
But the Caribbean says the challenge however is how to accelerate the progress accomplished during these past 10 years.
The 2010 Report contains basic data from 182 countries and included country-by country scorecards. The report gives new evidence that investments in HIV prevention programming are producing significant results in some Caribbean countries. From 2001 to 2009, the rate of new HIV infections stabilised or decreased in five countries.
According to the report, the decline in new HIV infections is the result of safer sex practices, like in the Dominican Republic where HIV prevalence declined from 0.6 per cent in 2002 to 0.3 per cent in 2007 among young people.
However, data show that in countries like the Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, the adult HIV prevalence remained high or has increased.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the report shows there is no change in HIV incidence between 2001 and 2009, and 12,000 new HIV infections occurred in that country during that period.
Overall 50 new HIV infections occurred every day in the Caribbean and the report noted that prevention programmes do not reach the most-at-risk populations and subsequently the prevalence of HIV among these populations, such as men who have sex with men (MSM), female and male sex workers, crack-cocaine users and prisoners “is very high and these most-at risk populations also have sexual interactions with the general population especially the female population with MSM, mainly because of social pressure an non acceptance of marginalized behaviours. T
“Therefore, more effort is necessary to reach out to these key population groups in the society if the prevention programmes have to achieve greater impact.’ The report noted that in 2009 a total number of 4,400 pregnant women living with HIV have benefited from interventions to prevent HIV transmission to their babies, representing a 59 per cent coverage from 22 per cent in 2005.
The impact of these programmes is that fewer children are born with HIV in the Caribbean,” the report noted. (CMC)