Latin America's HIV Rise Among Highest
November 24, 2004
In 2004, every region in the world witnessed growing numbers of people infected by HIV, the UN reported Tuesday in its annual "AIDS Epidemic Update." While some Latin American countries have low HIV infection rates, these figures can mask pockets where HIV/AIDS epidemics are actually acute.Adapted from:
New HIV cases leveled off in the Caribbean -- which is the world's second-most affected region, with 2.3 percent of the population infected. But AIDS has become the leading cause of death in the region among adults ages 15-44. Nearly two-thirds of all Caribbean HIV infections were heterosexually acquired, though homosexual transmission is growing, said the report.
There is an adult HIV prevalence of over 2 percent in the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, said the report. "Life expectancy at birth in 2010 is projected to be 10 years less in Haiti and in Trinidad and Tobago," which is "nine years less than it would have been without AIDS." In Guatemala and Honduras, prevalence has surpassed 1 percent of the population.
"In these countries, it's no longer confined to what we call 'vulnerable populations' such as homosexual men, sex workers, drug users and so on," said Paulo Lyra, an advocacy advisor with the Pan American Health Organization. "It's now threatening the general population."
Some pockets of infection are severe. For instance, whereas 7 percent of Brazilian sex workers are HIV-positive, among sex workers in urban slums the proportion infected is 18 percent. As in other regions, women were among the most affected by HIV in the Caribbean. In one 2001 study in Haiti, half the young women surveyed reported being sexually active before age 18.
A hopeful development is a report that public health programs in Haiti have cut HIV prevalence among women ages 15-49 attending prenatal clinics from 4.5 percent in 1996 to 2.8 percent in 2004.
11.24.04; Fred Tasker