El Salvador Needs To Take Increased HIV/AIDS Control Efforts, Advocates Say
Although health officials in El Salvador have launched an HIV testing campaign in the country, some advocates say that the country needs to take increased efforts to control the growing number of HIV cases in the country, Inter Press Service reports. In addition, many people living with the virus say that they experience stigma and discrimination and that there is a lack of drug access in the country. According to some advocates, El Salvador's HIV testing campaign, which was launched in June, has been used primarily as a publicity method aimed at improving the country's international image and drawing positive media attention. The campaign -- called "Take the test: positive or negative, we are all human beings in the face of AIDS" -- during last month's national HIV testing day encouraged at least 40,000 people to receive tests in the country's public hospitals and health centers, as well as in parks and shopping centers, El Salvador's Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance said.
Jeannette Alvarado, a local health representative for Social Watch, said that the public health ministry has used the campaign to "show that they are living up to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, that living conditions are improving" in El Salvador and "that the health policies are working." According to Alvarado, mismanagement of HIV/AIDS funds has caused problems in terms of HIV/AIDS case monitoring and access to international funding for antiretroviral drugs. "These indicators (presented by the government) are aimed at creating an image that is not real, which means the necessary precautions are not being taken," Alvarado said.
According to Elina Miranda -- country coordinator for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- there were 18,282 HIV/AIDS cases reported in the country between 1984, when the first case of AIDS was diagnosed, and February. However, because of a lack of an effective monitoring system, many HIV/AIDS cases are not reported, Miranda said. According to Miranda, heterosexual sex is the main route of HIV transmission in El Salvador, accounting for 79% of HIV cases in the country. Mario Orellana -- representative of the nongovernmental organization Prevensida, which is participating in the testing campaign -- said that the government's efforts to curb the spread of HIV have several shortcomings. "More monitoring is needed, as well as greater awareness-raising efforts and systematic consciousness-raising campaigns," Orellana said (Gutierrez, Inter Press Service, 7/3).