March 1, 2010
UNAIDS "is calling for action to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus in earthquake-stricken Haiti. A study [.pdf] by UNAIDS warns of a substantial risk of the spread of the deadly virus in overcrowded camps for Haitian survivors of the disaster," VOA News reports (Schlein, 2/27). "The report explains the current situation in Haiti and what may be required to meet the immediate and intermediate [HIV/]AIDS response needs. UNAIDS will continue to revise and update this assessment as new information becomes available," according to a UNAIDS press release (2/26).
It identifies "seven priority areas, including rebuilding health systems, protecting the displaced from HIV and revitalizing HIV prevention programmes," according to the U.N. News Centre. The report says that the country will need an extra $70 million to respond to deal with HIV/AIDS over the next six months. Before the earthquake, Haiti's HIV/AIDS budget was $132 million and about 120,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS there.
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said the large number of people in temporary shelters exacerbates the risk for violence, including gender-based and sexual violence. "Programmes are urgently needed to reduce vulnerabilities to HIV and ensure protection," he said. "The country's epidemic is driven largely by heterosexual sex and more than half of those living with HIV are women," the U.N. News Centre writes.
"Makeshift treatment clinics under tents have popped up to increase access to treatment, but the Ministry of Health estimates that less than 40 percent of the 24,000 people living with HIV who were on treatment before the disaster have access them," according to the news service (2/26).
In related news, the AP looks at the lessons that are being learned from the response to the earthquake in Haiti (Hanley, 3/1).