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International News

Caribbean: Still Fighting HIV Stigma After 30 Years

September 21, 2010

At a recent two-day symposium on HIV/AIDS and human rights in the Caribbean, health officials expressed frustration that societies as small and highly personalized as those in the region continue to struggle with AIDS stigma and discrimination. The symposium was organized by the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS.

HIV-associated stigma is linked to long-held prejudices and the rejection of what is considered "abnormal sexual behavior and wrongful sexual orientation," said Dr. Ernest Massiah, director of UNAIDS' Caribbean Regional Support Team. "It is precisely these stigmas that threaten the public's health. They prevent people from getting tested, getting and sharing their test result with others, and from seeking treatment, if needed," he said.

"Unrecognized and untreated HIV can spread. In 2010, stigma and prejudice should have no place in Caribbean societies," said Massiah.

Across the region, women comprise half of all HIV cases, and in some countries they account for nearly 60 percent of cases. HIV now disproportionately affects young women, men who have sex with men, transgendered persons, and sex workers, and it crosses all ethnic, racial, and class boundaries, said Massiah.

"And, there are still British colonial laws in place that criminalize sexual behaviors, reinforcing stigmas and making it difficult to respond comprehensively to HIV," Massiah noted.

Barbados acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said a better understanding of HIV/AIDS could lead to more sympathetic treatment of persons living with the disease. In addition, he called for continued public HIV/AIDS education programs.

"The fact that infected persons are not only living longer but also seem to be leading normal lives raises necessarily and understandably the issue of the rights to the enjoyment of which these persons are entitled," said Stuart.

Back to other news for September 2010

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
09.16.2010; Peter Richards

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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.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean

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