Cuba’s AIDS Prevalence Rate Low, Although Prevention Methods ‘Aggressive, Controversial,’ Denver Post Reports
Although isolationist policies probably have helped Cuba maintain the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the Western Hemisphere -- 0.03% of the country's population is estimated to be HIV-positive, compared with 0.42% of the U.S. population -- debate remains over the accuracy of the numbers, as well as over Cuba's HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention methods, the Denver Post reports. The country "adopted aggressive -- and controversial -- measures in the 1980s to halt the spread of AIDS," the Post reports. Under the National Commission to Face AIDS, which was founded in 1983, doctors "tracked down" Cubans who had spent time in Africa and administered 135,000 HIV tests, instituted screening practices in blood banks, tested pregnant women and committed HIV-positive people to sanitariums. Since 1993, the government has not required that HIV-positive people live in such sanitariums indefinitely; however, newly diagnosed patients are required to spend eight weeks in a sanitarium completing courses on how to live with the virus, how to avoid transmitting it to others, the importance of follow-up treatment and how to handle discrimination. Currently, 48% of HIV-positive Cubans live in the country's 16 sanitariums, and many of them have been rejected by their families and are the target of widespread discrimination. The Cuban government says that such programs account for the country's low HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (Aguilera, Denver Post, 2/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.