HIV Spreading in Latin America From High-Risk Groups Into General Population, World Bank Report Says
Although Latin America has not experienced a widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic, the disease is spreading from high-risk groups into the region's general population, according to a World Bank report released on Tuesday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The report, titled "HIV/AIDS in Latin American Countries: The Challenges Ahead," includes the results of a 2001 survey of health workers, government officials and international nongovernmental organizations in 17 countries. According to estimates from the survey, approximately 130,000 adults and children contracted HIV in 2001 and 80,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in 2001 (Stanard, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/18). According to official statistics, 1.4 million HIV-positive people live in Latin America (EFE News, 11/18). However, the region likely has 40% more HIV cases and 30% more AIDS cases than official statistics indicate because underreporting of HIV/AIDS is "common," according to the AP/Sun. The report says that although AIDS-related deaths account for only a small percentage of adult deaths in most Latin American countries, the people who are dying are in the 15-49 age range, "the most productive years of life." In almost all Latin American countries -- except Honduras and Brazil -- HIV/AIDS is still concentrated among high-risk populations, including injection drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men; Brazil has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in Latin America, with heterosexual sex as the primary mode of transmission. In Honduras, almost 2% of adults are HIV-positive, the AP/Sun reports.
Latin American countries are stepping up HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, but they are facing "inadequate resources, ... inadequate heath care and social prejudices," according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/18). In addition, the number of HIV-positive men in the region is greater than the number of HIV-positive women in the region, but the "gap is closing," EFE News reports. In addition, the disease is "rapidly" moving from urban areas to rural communities, according to EFE News. Dr. Anabela Abreu, lead researcher of the survey, said, "Latin America has the organizational infrastructure and professional community to develop programs that could counteract the disease," adding, "If it pays attention to these alarm signals and adequate preventive measures are adopted in the immediate future, Latin America may possibly avoid the sad results that are visible in other regions," including Africa (EFE News, 11/18). The report calls for health care workers, governments and NGOs to improve cooperation in the fight against the disease and for groups to "put more resources" toward prevention efforts for high-risk groups to stem the spread of HIV into the general population, the Associated Press reports (Stanard, Associated Press, 11/18).