HIV Ravages Central America
April 4, 2006
Four of the five Latin American countries with the highest HIV prevalence are in Central America. In Honduras, with a population of around 7 million, officials estimate prevalence at 1.8 percent, though epidemiologists say the real figure could be much higher. In the early stages of the epidemic, Honduran men accounted for the majority of the country's HIV cases. Now, almost half are women.
"The epidemic is two steps in front of us," said Kenneth Rodriguez, a Honduran epidemiologist and AIDS expert who works for UNICEF. "We need to take extreme measures to slow it down. HIV/AIDS needs to become a national priority, a national emergency."
In 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria gave Honduras a $27 million, five-year grant to provide antiretroviral medicines to those who need it. But some health care providers worry that the government's plan to assume the program after the grant expires in 2007 could compromise patients' access to ARVs.
Jorge Fernandez, a leading epidemiologist and an adviser to the Honduran health ministry, said the government has never made HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention a priority. The government-endorsed prevention messages of abstinence and fidelity have had little effect, he added.
The epidemic in Honduras and other countries in the region could be exacerbated by the signing of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which covers the United States, the Dominican Republic and most countries in Central America, as people find it easier to migrate to cities and cross borders in search of work, experts say.
The State (Columbia, S.C.)
03.26.06; Ernesto Londono
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.