November 5, 2010
A new UNAIDS report shows HIV/AIDS remains the leading cause of death among young and middle-age adults in the Caribbean. And while the region has seen a 40 percent decline in AIDS-related mortality since 2001, half of those who need antiretroviral treatment (ART) cannot access it. "The Status of HIV in the Caribbean" was released during the 10th annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS, which wrapped up Tuesday in St. Maarten.
From 2001 to 2008, there was no significant drop in new HIV infections in the region. Only a 4.8 percent decline was observed and, coupled with the increase in life expectancy, there was a 9 percent increase in people living with HIV during the same period.
According to UNAIDS, the regional epidemic is evolving and HIV is increasingly affecting women, who now account for half of those living with the virus.
Among men who have sex with men, HIV prevalence varies from an estimated 6.1 percent in the Dominican Republic to 32 percent in Jamaica. Prevalence among another at-risk group, female sex workers, ranges from 2.7 percent in the Dominican Republic to 27 percent in Guyana. But the report shows HIV prevention programs reach less than 40 percent of MSM and less than 50 percent of female prostitutes in the region.
The report cites a number of regional achievements in addressing HIV/AIDS. More than 90 percent of pregnant women in 11 Caribbean nations are now tested for HIV. Around 52 percent of pregnant women received mother-to-child HIV prevention services, which led to an 18 percent decline in new infections among children in 2008.
However, regional governments provided ART to only 51 percent of those in need in 2008 -- up just 1 percent from 2004.