News Americas, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Weds. July 18, 2012: Some 13,000 new HIV infections were reported in the Caribbean last year, including about 1,100 children who became infected through their mothers.
That’s according to a latest report from UNAIDS ahead of the world’s largest AIDS conference in Washington, D.C. The AIDS conference is being held in the United States for the first time in over 20 years, and just two years after the host country lifted travel restrictions for people living with HIV.
The body said Wednesday in the report, Together we will end AIDS, that the majority of new infections generally occurred in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which together represent 68 per cent of the region’s HIV epidemic.
After almost 30 years, the HIV epidemic is still largely affecting most-at-risk populations, and the number of new HIV infections has not significantly declined over the last 10 years, said the report. HIV now affects women and men equally, and remains the leading cause of death among people aged 20-59.
Although the Caribbean accounts for a relatively small share of the global epidemic, its HIV prevalence among adults is about 1.0 percent, which is higher than in all other regions outside sub-Saharan Africa.
Unprotected sex between men and women – especially paid sex – is believed to be the main mode of HIV transmission in this region; however, emerging evidence indicates that substantial transmission is also occurring among men who have sex with men.
However, AIDS-related deaths in the Caribbean have dropped with UNAIDS doctors recording just about 10,000 deaths across the region last year, compared to about 20,000 a decade ago.
Officials say the increased availability of anti-retroviral drugs and improved access to medical treatment contributed to the reported decline.
Over the last decade, the region has received over US$1.3 billion for its HIV programs.
There are an estimated 34.2 million people were living with HIV in 2011 worldwide. New data shows that 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV, 100 000 fewer than the 2.6 million new infections in 2010 while 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2010.
The report also showed that 4.9 million young people were living with HIV, 75% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, young women between 15 and 24 years of age remain the most vulnerable to HIV, and an estimated 1.2 million women and girls were newly infected with HIV in 2011.