Caribbean Needs To Increase Efforts Against HIV/AIDS, U.N. Official Says
Increased efforts are needed to bolster HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and education in the Caribbean, Karen Sealy, head of the UNAIDS Caribbean office, said recently at the seventh annual United States Chiefs of Mission Conference on HIV/AIDS, the Caribbean Media Corporation reports. Sealy said that 38 people in the region die from AIDS-related causes daily and that 55 new HIV cases occur each day in the Caribbean, adding that high-risk groups include commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men. An increase in HIV/AIDS cases also is being recorded among drug users, Sealy said, adding that "perhaps the category that we have not identified is that of prisoners." In addition, she said, "We know that the spread of HIV in the Caribbean is in fact being fueled by serious gaps in gender equality," adding, "All the countries of the Americas which have homosexuality as a crime are now located in the Caribbean region."
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning said that "one of the true successes" of the country's efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS is the decrease in mother-to-child transmissions because of the no-cost antiretroviral drugs provided to all pregnant women who receive treatment at government clinics. Manning said that many of the people living with HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago are able to live "a high quality of life" because of the country's health care program but added that more work needs to be done to address the spread of HIV.
According to the Caribbean Media Corporation, the Caribbean has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate worldwide after sub-Saharan Africa (Caribbean Media Corporation, 10/22). UNAIDS figures show that an estimated 230,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the region and that 14,000 AIDS-related deaths were recorded last year (Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet, July 2008).