Fear of Discrimination Keeps Caribbean Population from Getting HIV Tests, Treatment for Disease
Delegates attending the 10th International Conference for People Living With AIDS in Trinidad on Tuesday said that discrimination often prevents people in the Caribbean from being tested for HIV and from seeking treatment if they know they have the virus, the Associated Press reports. For example, in "socially conservative" Jamaica, 66% of AIDS cases are not diagnosed until "just before" or after death, according to the country's National HIV/AIDS Control Program. Many people do not get tested because the disease is often "wrongly" associated with homosexuality, a "major taboo" in many Caribbean countries. However, most infections are the result of heterosexual contact. "People are brought up to think those with HIV are immoral," Dorothy Blake, spokesperson for the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and a native of Jamaica, said. Fear of discrimination also keeps many people from seeking treatment because some doctors, even in developed nations, refuse to treat people with HIV. "It's difficult to fight discrimination in the medical field. It's still hard to find a dentist who will work with an HIV-infected person," Petra Klufer, a German who contracted HIV in 1985, said. About 2% of the Caribbean population, excluding Cuba, is infected with HIV, the second highest regional infection rate after sub-Saharan Africa (Potter, Associated Press, 10/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.