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2009-11-27

HIV/AIDS is still a stigma in Latin America

Julieta Gutierrez

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Una mujer camina al lado de un poster que despliega un listón rojo en celebración de la XVII Conferencia Internacional de SIDA en la Ciudad de México.

Una mujer camina al lado de un poster que despliega un listón rojo en celebración de la XVII Conferencia Internacional de SIDA en la Ciudad de México.

Friday, Nov. 27

LIMA, Peru — The fifth Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS concluded that the impact of AIDS will get worse in the region unless governments take effective actions to combat social and economic inequality, prevent discrimination against extremely vulnerable groups and stop homophobia.

Experts attending the gathering in Lima on Nov. 21-23 warned, according to EFE, that failure to control the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a major obstacle to the region’s development that will not be overcome without new policies to combat the disease and better access to medical treatment.

Jose Luis Sebastian, the technical secretary of the HIV/AIDS Horizontal Cooperation Group for the region, said, according to Radio Programas del Peru, that although there had been “great progress” with regard to access to treatment, “not all [the region’s countries] are on the same level [and] much remains to be done.”

The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported, according to Xinhua, that, although the number of cases worldwide has fallen by 17 percent in the last eight years, the number of AIDS cases in the region has grown.

AIDS is more prevalent in the Caribbean than anywhere except Africa. The 240,000 reported cases, according to La Nación, represent 1 percent of the region’s population. In Latin America, where the epidemic is described as “low level and concentrated,” its prevalence remains stable at 0.6 percent of the population, although the number of cases has increased to 2 million.

The World Health Organization reported that in 2008 an estimated 390,000 Latin American and Caribbean patients (62% of all those living with HIV/AIDS in the region) were receiving antiretroviral treatment.

A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies told El Mundo that in most Latin American countries “social inequality increases the health gap between those who have medical services and higher education and those who live from hand to mouth, with few or no services.”

Lelio Marmora, director of the regional team of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, according to Xinhua, called for a rethink of the policy for combating HIV/SIDA, which currently gives more priority to individual initiatives than to structured programs forming part of a national plan.

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