IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
estimated 210,000 adults and children became infected during 2000. By
year's end some 1.8 million adults and children were estimated to be living
with HIV or AIDS, compared with 1.7 million at the end of 1999.
- Rates are generally
highest in Central America and the Caribbean, where HIV is spreading
mainly through sex between men and women.
- Brazil too is experiencing
a major heterosexual epidemic, but there are also very high rates of
infection among injecting drug users and men who have sex with men.
In Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, HIV infection is also confined largely
to these sub-populations. The Andean countries are currently among those
least affected by HIV infection, although risky behaviour has been recorded
in many groups.
- The countries with
the highest HIV rates in the region tend to be found on the Caribbean
side of the continent. According to the most recent figures, over 7%
of pregnant women in urban Guyana tested positive for HIV.
- In Honduras, Guatemala
and Belize there is also a fast-growing heterosexual epidemic, with
HIV prevalence rates among adults in the general population of between
1 and 2%. In 1994, less than 1% of pregnant women using antenatal services
in Belize District tested positive for HIV, while one year later the
prevalence had risen to 2.5%.
- In the Honduran
city of San Pedro Sula, the rate of HIV infection among pregnant women
has fluctuated between 2% and 5% for several years. Much of the problem
is concentrated in teenagers, suggesting that the worst is still to
- Heterosexual transmission
of HIV is rarer in other countries of Central America. In Costa Rica,
for example, HIV is transmitted mainly during unprotected sex between
men. In Mexico, too, HIV has affected mainly men who have sex with men,
more than 14% of whom are currently infected. According to one study,
fewer than 1 in every 1000 women of childbearing age is infected.
- Brazil, where over
half a million adults are living with HIV, has strong prevention programmes.
While in 1986 less than 5% of young men reported using a condom the
first time they had sex, the figure in 1999 was close to 50%, a tenfold
increase. Among men with higher educational levels, over 70% surveyed
in 1999 said they used a condom for their first act of intercourse.
- A low prevalence
of HIV infection among heterosexuals is the norm in the Andean region,
at least in countries where data are available. In Colombia, nowhere
is the rate of HIV infection greater than 1 in 250 among pregnant women.
Even among sex workers, the figure is below 2%.
- Argentina has typically
high rates of HIV infection among injecting drug users and men who have
sex with men, but a relatively low average prevalence of 0.4% among
- Haiti is the worst-affected
nation in the Caribbean. In some areas, 13% of anonymously tested pregnant
women were found to be HIV-positive. Overall, around 8% of adults in
urban areas and 4% in rural areas are infected. It is estimated that
74,000 Haitian children had lost their mothers to AIDS by the end of
- In the Bahamas
the adult prevalence rate is 4%. In the Dominican Republic 1 adult in
40 is HIV-infected, while in Trinidad and Tobago the rate is 1 adult
- At the other end
of the spectrum lie Saint Lucia, the Cayman Islands and the British
Virgin Islands, where fewer than 1 pregnant woman in 500 tested positive
for HIV in recent surveillance studies.
- Heterosexual HIV
transmission in the Caribbean is driven by the deadly combination of
early sexual activity and frequent partner exchange by young people.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a quarter of men and women in a
recent national survey said they had started having sex before the age
of 14, and half of both men and women were sexually active at the age
- In Trinidad and
Tobago, in a large survey of men and women in their teens and early
twenties, fewer than a fifth of the sexually active respondents said
they always used condoms, and two-thirds did not use condoms at all.
- Age mixing - younger
women having sex with older men - also drives the Caribbean epidemic.
HIV rates are five times higher in girls than boys aged 15-19 in Trinidad
and Tobago. At one surveillance centre for pregnant women in Jamaica,
girls in their late teens had almost twice the prevalence rate of older
- In Brazil, as in
several other countries on the continent, access to government-subsidized
antiretroviral treatment is guaranteed by a presidential law. As a result,
these countries have seen a reduction in illness and death over the
past years. In Brazil, by early 2000, 85,000 people living with HIV/AIDS
were receiving treatment provided by the Ministry of Health.
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