Andrea Downer, Freelance Writer
Mexico City, Mexico:
The United Nations says unprotected sex among men, who have sex with men, is one of the main causes of an increase in HIV infections in the Caribbean.
UNAIDS yesterday released its 2008 report on the global AIDS epidemic, which gives a comprehensive overview of the progress made by countries worldwide in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Global approach weaknesses
The report also looks at weaknesses in the approach to the global epidemic, which is fuelled by different things in different countries.
According to UNAIDS, while unprotected sex between men and women is the region’s main driver of HIV transmission, unprotected sex between men is also a significant factor.
Unprotected sex between men reportedly represents the main driver of the HIV epidemic in Cuba, and studies in Trinidad and Tobago have found 20 per cent HIV prevalence among that group there.
Jamaica’s country report for 2008, submitted to UNAIDS in January this year by the Ministry of Health, indicated that the HIV prevalence rate among Jamaican men who have sex with men is between 25 and 30 per cent.
Fuelling the epidemic
According to UNAIDS, the Caribbean’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is also fuelled by high levels of poverty, unemployment, gender and other inequalities, including considerable stigma.
AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among people aged 25 to 44 years in the Caribbean. Approximately 25,000 persons in Jamaica are HIV positive but, of that number, only half are aware that they are infected.
The report has been released a week ahead of the International AIDS Conference which will be held in Mexico City this year from August 3-8.
Approximately 20,000 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the biennial conference.
As many as one in eight, or 12 per cent, of reported HIV infections in the region occurred through unprotected sex between men.
Known HIV infection in the region has increased by almost 50 per cent.
At the end of 2007, an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment in the region.
At the end of 2006, only 20,000 people were on treatment.