AIDS in Latin America

Improved access to treatment reduced AIDS related deaths

According to the United Nations program on AIDS (UNAIDS), improved access to antiretroviral treatment has reduced the number of AIDS related deaths in Latin America, while the transmission of HIV aggravates due to scarce prevention programs.

According to UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America, Mr. César Núñez: “For every person who access treatment, two persons are contaminated. We will never be able to put an end to this disease that way. We must of course avoid having more deaths, but more importantly, we must prevent transmission, because we are letting up prevention efforts”.

About two-thirds of the monies invested in the fight against AIDS in Latin America are dedicated to treatment while only one third to prevention. “However, prevention programs still target almost exclusively those most affected, i.e. men having sex with other men, sex workers and drug users,” said César Núñez.

International funding represents only 5% of the overall funding and prevention efforts solely target those most concerned by HIV.

Prevention programs should be expanded to the general public, especially the youth who do not seem to fear AIDS anymore, according to César Núñez.

“According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 25% of all pregnancies are teen pregnancies, which means that young people have unprotected sex. Even though the source is indirect, it entails that young people are exposed to AIDS transmission due to an obvious lack of information and sex education” he said.

An estimated 100,000 new infections occur in the region each year and the number of people living with HIV/AIDS has increased from 1.3 million in 2001 to 1.5 million in 2010. 36% are women, a figure which has dramatically increased in a sole decade. In 2001, women accounted for 10% of HIV infection, while the proportion has now tripled.

Among other reasons, such dramatic increase in the female transmission of the HIV is due to the fact that women are likely to be contaminated by their spouses or partners who have had in the past unprotected sex with sex workers, or in many cases, with other men. Actually, the main source of HIV contamination is related to men who continue to have unprotected sex with other men.

“Stigmatization of homosexuals remains commonplace in Latin America. This is why they tend to remain hidden as they keep transmitting HIV to their spouses or female partners.”

64% of those infected by HIV have access to treatment. We must do better, not only in terms of figures but also in terms of efficiency, as it has been observed that in many cases, the treatment comes “too late, when the disease has already declared.”

César Núñez highlights a persistent problem²&&, even if the situation tends to improve, that of the lack of planning which has recently led to severe drug shortages, even in countries that are producers of  generic drugs, such as Brazil.

Excerpt from RIOD newsletter – The Ibero American Network of NGOs working in the field of addiction. Dianova in Spain is a member of the RIOD