Caribbean records significant decline in new HIV/AIDS infection
The Caribbean, which ranks second behind sub-Saharan Africa for HIV/AIDS infection rates, has led the world in reducing the number of new infections between the period 2005-2011, according to a new United Nations report released here.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said an estimated 2.3 million adults and children were newly infected with HIV in 2012, representing a 33 per cent reduction in annual new cases compared to 2001.
In the same time period, new HIV infections among children fell 52 per cent to 260,000 in 2012, UNAIDS said, noting however that deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in the Caribbean fell by 48 per cent.
UNAIDS said the Caribbean has led the world in reducing the number of new infections with the rate falling by 42 per cent between 2005 and 2011.
“Certainly, in the region, there has been substantial progress in the past 10 years or so, not only in treatment availability but also in prevention of transmission from mother to child,” said Michel de Groulard, a senior programme advisor at UNAIDS’s Caribbean office in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Some countries have switched to universal access of treatment and others are on the way to it,” she added.
Latin America and Caribbean regional manager for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Ruth Ayarza, said governments have responded with better access to treatment in the region.
“In many of the countries, we’re working in, there definitely has been an increase in support from regional agencies,” she said.
But Ayarza said more than 13,000 people became infected with HIV/AIDS in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, bringing the total number of cases to 230,000 in the region.
The UN Millennium Development Goal 6 calls for an end to the rate of new infections by 2015 and a reversal of the spread of the virus as well as achieving universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS.
“Not only can we meet the 2015 target of 15 million people on HIV treatment, we must also go beyond and have the vision and commitment to ensure no one is left behind,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director.
The report also found that greater access to antiretroviral treatments led to a 30 per cent drop in AIDS-related deaths from the peak in 2005.
By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries have accessed antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20 per cent in just one year, the report noted, adding that significant results have also been achieved towards meeting the needs of tuberculosis (TB) patients living with HIV, a figure down 36 per cent since 2004.
UNAIDS said domestic spending on HIV has also increased, accounting for 53 per cent of global HIV resources in 2012, even as donor funding plateaued at its 2008 levels.
Spending on HIV and AIDS was estimated at US$18.9 billion in 2012, but UNAIDS said an estimated US$22-24 billion would be needed annually by 2015.
The report also found that progress has been slow in ensuring the respect of human rights, securing access to HIV services for people most at risk of HIV infection, particularly people who use drugs, and in preventing violence against women and girls.
UNAIDS said gender inequality, punitive laws and discriminatory actions are continuing to hamper national responses to HIV and concerted efforts are needed to address these persistent obstacles to the scale up of HIV services for people most in need.