Caribbean Leaders Ask Congress To Expand Global AIDS Initiative
Caribbean leaders this week plan to send a proposal to Congress requesting that 14 additional nations from the region be included in the five-year, $15 billion global AIDS relief plan, the Hartford Courant reports (Hay Brown, Hartford Courant, 6/5). Bush last week signed into law the bill authorizing the money to fight AIDS in African nations and Haiti and Guyana (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/30). While the nations said that they welcome the aid, they said that a more broad-based approach is needed to stop the spread of the disease. "Whatever happens in one specific corner of the region will have an impact in other places," Rafael Mazin, acting chief of the HIV/AIDS unit of the Pan American Health Organization, said, adding that in order to be effective, HIV "needs to be prevented and contained in all places." People in the region often travel to other countries to seek out the best medical treatment, which has contributed to the spread of the virus, according to the Courant. In addition, "[i]t's very difficult to de-link the different countries. You have migration from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, Haiti to the Bahamas, Guyana to the rest of the Caribbean. Although we can target countries, it might be more effective to look at the region as a whole," Edward Green, assistant secretary-general of the Carribean Community and head of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership to Fight AIDS, said.
Caribbean Region 'Overlooked'
The Caribbean, a region that according to the Courant has been "largely overlooked by international donors," has the highest HIV prevalence outside of sub-Saharan Africa. While Haiti, where more than one in 17 adults ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive, and Guyana, where the HIV prevalence rate is 2.7%, are widely considered to be the worst hit by the epidemic, HIV prevalence in nations such as the Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are all more than 2%. "This is a regional crisis in our own hemisphere," Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who has supported the measure to expand the bill, said, adding, "It deserves to be given the same serious attention that is being given to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. If we're not careful, we are going to lose a generation of young people in the Caribbean" (Hartford Courant, 6/5).