AIDS-Related Illnesses Leading Cause of Death in Caribbean, UNAIDS Report Says
According to a report released on Tuesday by UNAIDS, AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 44 in the Caribbean, accounting for 27,000 deaths in 2005, the Jamaica Gleaner reports (Jamaica Gleaner, 6/1). In advance of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in New York City this week, UNAIDS on Tuesday released the "2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic," which compiles data from 126 countries, as well as independent data from more than 30 civil society organizations, and reviews global progress in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS since the 2001 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS. According to the report, the Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Haiti showed they had "dented the progress of HIV"; however, Guyana has a "serious epidemic underway" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/31). The Caribbean remains the region most affected by HIV/AIDS after Africa, according to the UNAIDS report, the Barbados Advocate reports. UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2005, 330,000 HIV-positive people were living in the Caribbean, about 22,000 of whom were children. According to the report, 51% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region are women, and there were an estimated 37,000 new cases of HIV in the Caribbean in 2005. About 12% of reported HIV cases in the Caribbean are because of men having unprotected sex with men, the report says (Cumberbatch, Barbados Advocate, 6/1). Similar to other parts of the world, HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean occurs in the context of gender inequality and poverty, the report says.
According to the report, the epidemic varies widely among Caribbean countries, with HIV prevalence ranging from 0.1% in Cuba to more than 3% in the Bahamas and Haiti (Jamaica Gleaner, 6/1). In addition, Guyana, a country in which AIDS-related illnesses are the no. 1 cause of death among people ages 25 to 44, had an HIV prevalence of 2.4% in 2005 (Barbados Advocate, 6/1). Condom use among people ages 15 to 24 has decreased in urban areas of Haiti but has remained stable in the Dominican Republic, according to the report. Increased access to antiretroviral drugs in Barbados and the Bahamas might be reducing death because of AIDS-related causes; however, region-wide, fewer than one in four people needing antiretroviral drugs was receiving them, the report says (Jamaica Gleaner, 6/1). In Trinidad and Tobago, females ages 15 to 19 were six times as likely to be HIV-positive than their male counterparts. In Jamaica, females of the same age group were 2.5 times as likely to be HIV-positive than males of the same age group, the report says (Barbados Advocate, 6/1). According to the report, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean has been relatively stable over the past few years, with heterosexual sex accounting for the majority of HIV transmissions in the region (Jamaica Gleaner, 6/1). The Caribbean region sent a 50-person delegation to the UNGASS meetings (Barbados Advocate, 6/1).