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AIDS in the Caribbean
Permission requested to use information from www.amfar.org
Overview of the epidemic in the Caribbean
July 17, 2007 - Outside of Africa, the Caribbean has the highest
rates of HIV infection in the world. Indeed, many of the same factors
contributing to the quick spread of HIV through sub-Saharan Africa—extreme
poverty, malnutrition, poor health care, and high rates of migration—also
afflict the Caribbean and Latin America. Haiti, the poorest country
in the region, has the highest prevalence rate; in 2005, 3.8 percent
of the adult population was living with HIV/AIDS. In the Bahamas,
the rate of HIV infection is 3.3 percent, and in the Dominican Republic,
1.1 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive. The Joint United
Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that there are
330,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.
High rates of HIV infection occur among men who have sex with men
(MSM) and injection drug users (IDUs) on some islands, but HIV is
spreading mainly through heterosexual transmission. The early start
of sexual activity, frequent partner exchange, and age mixing—younger
women having sexual relationships with older men—are facilitating
the rapid spread of HIV. On some islands, the HIV rate among girls
aged 15-16 is up to five times that of boys in the same age group.
It is believed that more than half of all new infections in the
region are among young people.
“The islands with the tourism
are the ones that don’t want to talk about it very much.”
—Peggy McEvoy, former Team Leader, UNAIDS Caribbean
Several factors are fueling the epidemic in this region. Poverty
and economic disparity are forcing men and women into commercial
sex work, often with tourists. And migration between rural and urban
areas is further facilitating the spread of HIV. Moreover, HIV/AIDS
is still highly stigmatized in the region and there is a lack of
adequate education and information on HIV/AIDS prevention. With
their economies highly dependent on the tourism industry, many Caribbean
countries have been reluctant to implement HIV/AIDS public information
campaigns for fear of driving away tourists. Sexuality and AIDS
are not openly discussed and the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding
AIDS prevent people from disclosing their HIV status.
“I don't know where the next
generation will come from. There are only 60,000 of us now, and
a lot of people have got the disease.”—Resident of Tobago
National responses to HIV/AIDS are varied. Cuba has the lowest
prevalence rate in the Caribbean, largely due to the highly controversial
AIDS program it implemented in the early stages of the epidemic,
which required all HIV-positive individuals to live in government-run
sanitariums. But in many other countries in the Caribbean, AIDS
is devastating the education, health, agriculture, and business
sectors. And unless significant preventive measures are taken, many
public health experts fear that the Caribbean will follow in the
path of Sub-Saharan Africa, where infection rates are close to 40
percent in some countries. Caribbean governments have been late
in responding to AIDS and critics claim that it was not until it
was clear that AIDS was primarily affecting heterosexuals that political
leaders made concerted efforts to curb the spread of HIV.
However, recent initiatives suggest Caribbean governments are committed
to controlling the epidemic. In September 2000, a conference was
held in Barbados to galvanize a multinational and multi-sectoral
response to the epidemic in the Caribbean, and in February 2001,
the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS was launched. Through
this partnership, Caribbean countries are jointly negotiating with
suppliers and other governments for more affordable prices for antiretroviral
drugs and coordinating other efforts to improve treatment and care
of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Sourced from www.amfar.org
Permission requested to use information from www.uniteforchildren.org
10 basic facts on HIV and
It is your right to
Sourced from www.uniteforchildren.org
- AIDS is caused by HIV.
AIDS is caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which
damages the body's defense system. People who have AIDS become
weaker because their bodies lose the ability to fight all illnesses.
They eventually die. There is no cure for HIV.
- The onset of AIDS can take up to ten
The onset of AIDS can take up to ten years from the time of infection
with the HIV virus. Therefore a person infected with HIV may look
and feel healthy for many years, but he or she can still transmit
the virus to someone else. New medicines can help a person stay
healthier for longer periods of time, but the person will still
have HIV and be able to transmit HIV.
- HIV is transmitted through HIV-infected
HIV is transmitted through the exchange of any HIV-infected bodily
fluids. Transfer may occur during all stages of the infection/disease.
The HIV virus is found in the following fluids: blood, semen (and
pre-ejaculated fluid), vaginal secretions, breast milk.
- HIV is most frequently transmitted sexually.
HIV is most frequently transmitted sexually. That is because fluids
mix and the virus can be exchanged, especially where there are
tears in vaginal or anal tissue, wounds or other sexually-transmitted
infections (STIs). Girls are especially vulnerable to HIV infection
because their vaginal membranes are thinner and more susceptible
to infection than those of mature women.
- People who have Sexually Transmitted
Infections (STIs) are at greater risk of being infected with HIV.
People who have STIs are at greater risk of being infected with
HIV and of transmitting their infection to others. People with
STIs should seek prompt treatment and avoid sexual intercourse
or practice safer sex (non-penetrative sex or sex using a condom),
and inform their partners.
- The risk of sexual transmission of HIV
can be reduced.
The risk of sexual transmission of HIV can be reduced if people
do not have sex, if uninfected partners have sex only with each
other or if people have safer sex -- sex without penetration or
using a condom. The only way to be completely sure to prevent
the sexual transmission of HIV is by abstaining from all sexual
- People who inject themselves with drugs
are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV.
HIV can also be transmitted when the skin is cut or pierced using
an unsterilized needle, syringe, razorblade, knife or any other
tool. People who inject themselves with drugs or have sex with
drug users are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. Moreover,
drug use alters people's judgment and can lead to risky sexual
behaviour, such as not using condoms.
- Contact a health worker or an HIV/AIDS
centre to receive counselling and testing.
Anyone who suspects that he or she might have been infected with
HIV should contact a health worker or an HIV/AIDS centre in order
to receive confidential counselling and testing. It is your right.
(Article 24 of the Convention on the rights of the child).
- HIV is not transmitted by everyday contact.
HIV is not transmitted by: hugging, shaking hands; casual, everyday
contact; using swimming pools, toilet seats; sharing bed linens,
eating utensils, food; mosquito and other insect bites; coughing,
- Everyone deserves compassion and support.
Discriminating against people who are infected with HIV or anyone
thought to be at risk of infection violates individual human rights
and endangers public health. Everyone infected with and affected
by HIV and AIDS deserves compassion and support. (Article 2 of
the Convention on the rights of the child).