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Jamaica making progress in fight against HIV/AIDS; 250,000 HIV+ in Caribbean
  Friday, December 29, 2006
JAMAICA is among a number of Caribbean countries making progress in their efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through access to anti-retroviral treatment, according to the 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update.
"National HIV adult prevalence in Jamaica appears to have stabilised, and was estimated at 1.5 per cent in 2005..." the report done by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation noted.
The other countries reported to have made progress against the epidemic through increased access to anti-retrovirals are the Bahamas, Barbados and Cuba.
Despite the progress made in Jamaica, however, there is still concern about the "two per cent of pregnant women in the St James and Westmoreland parishes... (who) tested HIV positive in 2005", the report said, quoting Ministry of Health statistics.
At the same time, it has been noted that sex work features prominently in the island's mainly heterosexual HIV epidemic.
"Almost nine per cent of female sex workers tested positive in one recent study, which found that the older, lower income who used crack cocaine and operated from the streets were most at risk of infections," the report said.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti, meanwhile, account for nearly three-quarters of the 250,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. But the update pointed out that the national adult HIV-prevalence is high throughout the region with one to two per cent in Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and between two and four per cent in the Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. Cuba has a prevalence rate below 0.1 per cent.
An estimated 27,000 people became infected with HIV in 2006 in the region, while 19,000 have died from AIDS, making it the leading cause of death among adults ages 14 to 44, the report said.
Additionally, it noted that according to the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, sex between men - a hidden phenomenon in the generally homophobic social environments found in this region - is a smaller, but important factor. Unsafe sex between men is believed to account for about one-tenth of reported HIV cases in the region, it said.
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