Caribbean HIV infection rate down significantly – report

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday November 21, 2012 – The number of children born with the deadly HIV declined significantly in the Caribbean during the period 2009 and 2011, according to the 2012 global report by UNAIDS.

The report noted that the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after Sub Saharan Africa, also recorded the highest decline in AIDS-related deaths of any region between 2005 and 2011.

“The number of people (adults and children) acquiring HIV infection in 2011 was 20 per cent lower than in 2001. The sharpest declines in the numbers of people acquiring HIV infection since 2001 have occurred in the Caribbean (42 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (25 per cent),” said the report released ahead of World AIDS day on December 1.

World AIDS Day will be observed under the theme “Zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero discrimination”.

The report said aggressive efforts by governments worldwide to combat the disease by pumping more money into research and making drugs more available have also led to reduction in AIDS-related death.

The report noted that the number of people dying from the disease began to decline in the mid-2000s because of scaled-up antiretroviral therapy and the steady decline in HIV incidence since the peak in 1997.

“This decline continued in 2011, with evidence that the drop in the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes was accelerating in several countries.

“In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide. This represents a 24 per cent decline in AIDS-related mortality compared with 2005, when 2.3 million deaths occurred.

“The Caribbean (48 per cent) and Oceania (41 per cent) experienced significant declines in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2011,” the report said, adding that Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, however, experienced significant increases in mortality from AIDS.

The report said that the scaling up of antiretroviral therapy in low and middle-income countries, it added, has transformed national Aids responses and generated broad-based health gains.

“Since 1995, antiretroviral therapy has saved 14 million life-years in low and middle-income countries, including nine million in sub-Saharan Africa.”

But the report noted that getting to zero new HIV infections, however, will require substantial reductions each year.  

“Although there is reason for optimism, including favourable trends in sexual behaviour in many countries and the additive impact of new biomedical prevention strategies, the current pace of progress is insufficient to reach the global goal of halving sexual transmission by 2015, underscoring the urgent need for intensified action,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago says it is closer to achieving the goal of zero HIV/AIDS infections.

Health Minister Dr. Fuad Khan said while there was an average of 20,000 people living with the virus in Trinidad and Tobago, the rate of infection was steadily declining.

“Already, we have seen a reduction in the number of cases, from over 1,400 new cases recorded in 2008 to 1,077 cases recorded in 2011. This represents a 25 per cent decline in new diagnosis and brings our average down to three new cases per day,” he said.

Dr. Khan said that the goal is to decrease the 2008 rate of infection by the year 2015 by 50 per cent.

“In 2008, four new cases were diagnosed every day; by 2015, we aim to reduce that figure to two new cases a day,” Khan said.

“Discrimination against persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS is a very sensitive topic and is being addressed through strong policies that were launched since October 2011. These policies are the health sector workplace HIV policy and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV policy,” he added. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)