UNAIDS Says Latin America, Caribbean Not Spending Enough on Epidemic at Second HIV/AIDS Forum in Region
The UNAIDS Second Forum on HIV/AIDS/STIs in Latin America and the Caribbean commenced yesterday in Havana, Cuba, with speeches highlighting the need for increased spending in the region, the AP/Nando Times reports. Nearly two million people in Latin America and the Carribean are HIV-positive, and about 2.3% of the Caribbean population is HIV-positive, making the region second only to sub-Saharan Africa in terms of scope of the epidemic (Snow, AP/Nando Times, 4/8). The conference, which was organized by the Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group, a network of national AIDS program coordinators from the region, focuses on various AIDS-related issues, including AIDS and security, funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and care and project implementation funded through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Representatives from participating governments, nongovernmental organizations and various sectors of civil society will renew "their commitment and alliances to fight HIV/AIDS and strengthen south-south cooperation," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said (UNAIDS release, 4/8). At the opening of the forum, Piot said that the primary "stumbling block" to preventing the spread of HIV in the region is the poor allocation of resources, which often do not reach marginalized groups that are most at risk for the disease. Economic and political crises in the region also interrupt HIV prevention and treatment activities, he added, according to Xinhua News Agency (Xinhua News Agency, 4/8). Current government funding "just isn't enough," Nina Ferencic, program development adviser for UNAIDS, said, adding that countries in the region should double the $1.2 billion they spend each year on AIDS prevention and treatment programs (AP/Nando Times, 4/8).
Clinton Calls for Aid Exception to Embargo on Haiti
Also in the region yesterday, former President Clinton during a visit to Haiti called for a humanitarian exception to the embargo placed on the country as a result of "allegedly fraudulent" parliamentary elections, the Miami Herald reports. The European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund are withholding from Haiti more than $500 million in aid and loans, according to the Herald. "I'm not in politics anymore, so I don't want to comment on what the government policy should be for the U.S. or for the Organization of American States except to say this: I think there should be a humanitarian exception to the embargo on aid," Clinton said at a gathering of about 50 doctors, nurses and government officials at the State University Hospital (Regan, Miami Herald, 4/9). Clinton on Friday began a five-day tour of the Caribbean with scheduled stops in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to speak about AIDS and to meet with not-for-profit organizations and government leaders. After leaving office in January 2001, Clinton founded the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, which brings together experts to work in the Caribbean and Africa to expand access to antiretroviral treatment and has successfully negotiated deals with the 15-nation Caribbean Community and pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people in the region (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/8). The foundation yesterday signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the Aristide government to try to find the funds and resources necessary to provide antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive Haitians (Miami Herald, 4/9).