Lima, November 23, 2009 - At the Fifth Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections), the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the UNAIDS Regional Office for Latin America today presented the publication "Retos planteados por la Epidemia del VIH en América Latina y el Caribe 2009" ("Challenges raised by the HIV epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean 2009," available in Spanish), which highlights the main findings, challenges, and recommendations regarding the provision of universal access to treatment, care, and support for all people living with HIV in the region.
The new report presents an overview of the HIV epidemic in the hemisphere and describes national responses to the epidemic. It emphasizes the daily challenges faced by national HIV programs and health services as they seek to guarantee access to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support to all those who live with HIV in the region.
At the 2006 High-Level United Nations General Assembly Meeting on HIV/AIDS, Latin American and Caribbean countries committed themselves to achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, integrate care, and support for people with HIV by the year 2010. More than three years later, much work is still required to achieve that goal.
Progress toward the 2010 goal has been uneven across countries. The new report details a number of obstacles to providing appropriate and affordable medications, quality health services, appropriate care and counseling, and education and information for people with HIV. The report also provides recommendations on policies and programs and identifies key issues that must be addressed to overcome obstacles to HIV control in the region.
PAHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS have jointly produced this report in order to provide guidance for Latin American and Caribbean governments as they work toward goal of universal access.
The report was presented by Gottfried Hirnschall, Chief of PAHO's HIV Program; Vivian López, Regional HIV/AIDS Adviser at UNICEF's Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean; and César Núñez, UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America.
In presenting the report, they highlighted a number of key challenges to the region's HIV response, including sex work and HIV, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, sexual relations among men who have sex with men, HIV in drug users; access to anti-retroviral treatment, and drug-resistance.
The report highlights other important factors in the regional situation, including poverty, social inequality, violence, and political instability. It notes that the most vulnerable people are at higher risk of infection, including women, particularly younger ones, men who have sex with men, and sex workers.
Some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are already providing anti-retroviral treatment with 80 percent coverage or more. However, disparities remain, particularly regarding prevention of vertical transmission; more than one-third of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean continue to report coverage of 50 percent.
The report calls on Latin American and Caribbean societies and governments to confront these challenges with a strong political commitment and public policies, financial commitments, and programmatic interventions that address the identified gaps. This will ensure an appropriate, sustainable, and comprehensive response to the epidemic, allowing future Latin American and Caribbean generations to be born and grow up free of HIV.
Challenges raised by the HIV epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean 2009 is available for download at PAHO's website: https://www.paho.org/vih/retos
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