The HIV Epidemic in the Caribbean Meeting the Challenges of Achieving Universal Access to Prevention, Treatment and Care
The HIV prevalence in the Caribbean is estimated at 1.0% (0.9% - 2%) with 230,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS. HIV rates vary among countries with the Bahamas, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago having HIV rates of 2% or above while Cuba's rate is less than 0.2%. However throughout the Caribbean, HIV rates are significantly higher among those groups most at risk such as commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men and crack/cocaine users. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Governments declared AIDS to be a regional priority in 2001. The Pan Caribbean AIDS Partnership (PANCAP) was formed to lead the regional response to the HIV epidemic. National HIV Programmes have made definite progress in providing ARV treatment to persons with HIV/AIDS and reducing death rates due to AIDS, decreasing HIV mother-to-child transmission and providing a range ofHIVprevention programmes. However HIV stigma remains strong in the Caribbean and sexual and cultural practices put many youth, women and men at risk of HIV The Caribbean has set itself the goal of achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care. Several challenges need to be addressed. These include reducing HIV stigma, strengthening national responses, scaling-up better quality prevention programmes with greater involvement of vulnerable populations, more supportive HIV policies and wider access to ARV treatment with better adherence. In addition, there needs to be improved coordination among PANCAP partners at the regional level and within countries.
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