report released ahead of World AIDS Day says social and economic
inequalities are fueling the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Latin America and
The International Red Cross released
its findings Friday in Bogota, Columbia.
“Despite efforts to reduce the impact
of HIV in the region, many of these factors have not been adequately
addressed,” says the report. “Most countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean are affected by social and economic inequality
which creates a growing gap in health conditions between those who
can afford medical services and have access to higher education and
those who live in precarious conditions with little or no medical
services and limited access to education and prevention information.”
Haiti continues to lead the region with
the highest rate of infection, while Chile has the lowest.
New infections for Latin American in
2007, the latest estimates available, totaled 140,000, bringing up to
1.7 million the number of people living with HIV in the region.
About three-quarters of the estimated 230,000 people living with HIV
in the Caribbean are from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In
total, 77,000 people died of AIDS in 2007, the report said.
Sex between men is the primary mode of
transmission in Latin America, while unprotected heterosexual
intercourse is driving the Caribbean's epidemic. Sex between men
also plays a significant factor in the epidemics of several Caribbean
Epidemics in Latin America and the
Caribbean remain largely confined to members of at-risk groups: men
who have sex with men, prisoners, sex workers and injecting drug
One example cited was in Buenos Aires,
the capital of Argentina and its largest city, where HIV infection
among bisexual and gay men is between 7 and 15 percent, but the
nation has an overall low infection rate, just .06 percent of adults.
The report concludes that the region's
most vulnerable populations and minorities are bearing the brunt of
the pandemic; social and economic inequalities widen the gap.
“Understanding the local
specificities of the HIV pandemic is key to success in reducing the
scale of HIV transmission. It is vital to work directly with most at
risk populations to try to prevent further infections, employing a
range of approaches such as peer education and behaviour change
communication,” Julie Hoare, the IFRC’s health and social
services coordinator for the Americas, said in a statement.
“Addressing vulnerability by advocating on behalf of the most
vulnerable communities confronted with the threat of HIV, improving
access to services and reducing stigma and discrimination are equally
World AIDS Days is Tuesday, December 1.