AIDS Care Rebounding in Haiti, Though Many Lack Shelter
March 23, 2010
Though many challenges remain to be addressed, restoring AIDS treatment programs in Haiti has proved easier than providing shelter to the 1.3 million people left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Haiti is home to half of all AIDS cases in the Caribbean. In recent years, the country has successfully reduced prevalence of the disease from 10 percent to 2.2 percent as of January.
HIV/AIDS treatment programs resumed work after the disaster, thanks in part to a three-month supply of medicines on the island, said CDC's Dr. Steven Harris. At the GHESKIO clinic, Dr. Serena Koenig reports that all but 5 percent of the 14,000 patients on antiretrovirals before the quake had resumed treatment. Moreover, an electronic database of AIDS patients, a rarity in Haiti's Ministry of Health, allowed for easier tracking of patients after the disaster.
International health groups working in Haiti are particularly concerned about prevention efforts. At Port-au-Prince's largest encampment, where roughly 45,000 Haitians are living on the site of an old military airport, the occasional free condom distribution is inadequate, said Dr. Kobel Dubique, who coordinates a clinic there.
A three-pack of condoms costs around 15 gourdes, or less than US $1, but this is still more than many Haitians can afford. "We need to be distributing more condoms. And free," said Dubique.
Security in the tent cities is also a problem. Dubique said there have been four confirmed rapes at the camp where he works. "Women are being attacked sexually and otherwise, they feel very vulnerable," said Refugee International's Emile Parry.
03.19.2010; Michael Vasquez; Carol Rosenberg
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