Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
UNAIDS’ Piot Calls for Greater Latin American and Caribbean Response to AIDS Epidemic
Piot said Monday that Latin American and Caribbean countries
must recognize and confront directly the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Reuters/CNN.com reports. Speaking
in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, on the opening day of the
Forum 2000 conference -- a five-day conference bringing
together public and private officials to discuss the AIDS
epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean -- Piot said that
every regional country except the host nation has offered an
"absolutely insufficient" response to the "growing AIDS crisis."
The Caribbean's rate of HIV infection trails only
sub-Saharan Africa, and many Latin American communities are not
far behind. Currently, 1.6 million HIV cases have been reported
in the entire region, with 600 new infections reported every day.
Piot detailed several "stumbling block[s]" to an effective HIV
prevention strategy in these countries
(Reuters/CNN.com, 11/6). First, the region's
governments and civil societies have not adequately addressed the
"social exclusion and stigma that are at the root of the AIDS
epidemic." Piot said that it is "unacceptable that in the region
today young men who have sex with men run such a high risk of
contracting HIV" (
UNAIDS release, 11/6). He added that more than 50% of gays
in some communities eventually die from AIDS-related illnesses.
Second, according to Piot, government funding for prevention
programs is inadequate. He called the less than $50,000 spent on
prevention targeting gay communities in the region a "joke,"
adding, "It doesn't reflect the size of the epidemic in those
communities." Third, the influence of the Catholic Church has "[stood] in the way" of promoting
condom use, although some local churches have been supportive.
Brazil is the Ideal
Contrasting the region's failure to address the epidemic is
Brazil, which has emerged as a "leader" in the fight against
HIV/AIDS and a model that Piot said other counties should follow.
The government has employed a free antiretroviral drug distribution program as well as an
advertising campaign promoting condom use "that address[es] everything from the
unbridled Carnival festival to gay relationships." Brazil has
also succeeded in manufacturing AIDS drugs at a reduced price,
forcing foreign competitors to lower the prices of their products
by more than 70%. Latin America's largest country, which 15
years ago had "one of the highest HIV rates in the world," now
has a rate of 0.5%. Piot noted that UNAIDS is working with
governments and companies to negotiate lower antiretroviral drug
prices for the region (Reuters/CNN.com, 11/6).
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