Haiti Quake May Be Major Setback for HIV Fight
April 6, 2010
It is still too early to measure the effect that Haiti's January earthquake had on its HIV/AIDS fight, the top UNAIDS official said on March 31. Before the quake, Haiti's HIV infection rate had begun falling among youth.
"Among the few indicators that were showing any progress were those for HIV," Michel Sidibe said. "Haiti was almost a model in responding to HIV."
However, the natural disaster threw Haiti's health system into chaos, demolished clinics, and deprived some patients of treatment access. More than 1 million Haitians now rely on temporary camps for shelter. The rainy season begins soon, which could make the situation worse, aid experts warn.
"Women and girls living in the camps face a major challenge and live in a kind of terror of nightfall, when rape and sexual assaults begin," Sidibe said. "It's critical that we protect them from violence or we'll see an increase in new infections."
More than 5,000 pregnant women with HIV in Haiti need antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV infection, said Sidibe.
"The world has moved on, but the situation in Haiti is not getting better," Sidibe said. "It is even getting worse."