Haiti’s AIDS Epidemic Persists Despite Prevention, Treatment Advances
The Los Angeles Times on Thursday examined Haiti's AIDS epidemic, which "rages on" despite advances in education and treatment. More than 100 Haitians die each day from AIDS-related illnesses, and the country is home to 90% of the HIV/AIDS patients living in the Caribbean, the Times reports. Although the incidence of new HIV cases has declined over the past two years, "breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that propels the AIDS epidemic is ... a herculean task," and efforts to expand antiretroviral drug programs have become "enmeshed in the bitter and divisive political crisis" affecting the country, leading foreign aid programs to give money to nongovernmental organizations instead of the "dysfunctional government," the Times reports. Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician and anthropologist who has worked in Haiti for more than 20 years, said that the public health community has slowed the implementation of antiretroviral drug programs, arguing that limited funds should be spent instead on improving health care infrastructure. Some people say that antiretroviral drugs cannot be used effectively in countries such as Haiti because of a lack of intrastructure and the risk of developing resistance, Farmer said, adding that "we can use these drugs, and we have to use them. It's the job of a doctor to take care of the sick." In 1998, Farmer established an antiretroviral drug program in Haiti, which he says now treats 2,000 HIV-positive people and has "reinvigorated prevention efforts" and "reduced the stigma" of AIDS in rural areas, according to the Times. However, some AIDS patients continue to be turned away for treatment at clinics and hospitals because of the stigma surrounding the disease. Such incidents are driving advocacy groups in the country to establish a network of specialized AIDS clinics throughout Haiti, according to the Times (Williams, Los Angeles Times, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.