The Caribbean can be first to eliminate HIV/AIDS

The original article can be found on: St Lucia Star A Message from Dr. Ernest Massiah, Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team on World AIDS Day 2011

PORT OF SPAIN, 29 November 2011— The end of HIV is within our reach.  The Caribbean could become the first region in the world to halt the spread of the virus. Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths could be more than a pipedream if we seize the moment by eliminating mother to child transmission, scaling up evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies, working to eliminate stigma and discrimination and securing a sustained HIV response.

Our region has had many successes. Since the mid 1990s the epidemic has slowed considerably. In 2010 the Caribbean had an estimated 12,000 new infections. This is down
from 19,000 in 2001. Some countries have had remarkable success in the realm of prevention. Over the last decade new infections have declined by 25 percent in both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica and by 12 percent in Haiti. Over the same time period the Caribbean’s total AIDS-related deaths moved from 18,000 in 2001 to 9000 in 2010. In 2009 our Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) coverage was 59 percent, up from 22 percent in 2003.
Last month’s Caribbean HIV Conference held in the Bahamas helped the region to harness its collective wisdom and crystallise a way forward. Our path is now clearer. Already increased access to HIV prevention services for pregnant women has led to a steep decline in the number of babies newly infected with HIV and the number of AIDS-related deaths among children. We must scale up these programs so that we achieve 100 percent coverage and eliminate this form of transmission. This is entirely possible.
Unprotected sex remains the primary mode of transmission in our region. We must reach out directly to key populations like women and girls, men who have sex with men, young people and sex workers. We have to scale up evidence-based prevention programs and abandon techniques that do not work.  We now know that early treatment helps to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV by 96 percent.

To continue reading this article please visit the original article on: St Lucia StarHIV/AIDS


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