New York Times Examines Cuba’s Sex Trade, HIV Prevention Programs Targeting Commercial Sex Workers
The New York Times on Dec. 26 examined how Cuba "has become something of an anomaly in Latin America: a destination for sex tourists where AIDS has yet to become an uncontrollable pandemic." Cuba's HIV prevalence rate is about 0.1% of the population, "far below that in many neighboring countries" and six times less than the HIV prevalence in the United States, the Times reports. Although some people say that Cuba's "thriving" sex trade industry has contributed to the spread of HIV in the country, the government for more than 10 years has run an "intense public-education campaign" that promotes condom use and includes information on HIV transmission and prevention, according to the Times. Many commercial sex workers and others in Cuba take advantage of the country's system of primary care clinics by frequently undergoing HIV testing at no cost. In addition, Cuba requires people diagnosed as HIV-positive to stay for three to six months in one of 13 government AIDS sanitariums, where they receive treatment and counseling on how to live with the disease and avoid transmitting it to others. Patients also are "closely monitored" by social workers after they leave the sanitariums, the Times reports. Although U.S. sanctions have "crimped [Cuba's] ability to provide drugs to patients," the government produces generic versions of some brand-name antiretroviral drugs and provides them to patients at no cost, which has helped to slow the spread of HIV in the country, according to the Times (McKinley, New York Times, 12/26/04).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.