Today marked the seventeenth annual observance of World AIDS Day, which raises awareness of the pandemic caused by the disease as well as remember those lost over the last few decades.
New data presented on Monday from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that some progress is being made in Latin America and Caribbean to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
According to a joint PAHO/WHO study, seventeen counties and territories in the Americas have mostly eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Among the nations credited in the report are Chile, Puerto Rico and Cuba, the last of which was certified by the WHO as the world's first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. (Sixteen other countries including Costa Rica and Uruguay are seeking this validation). New HIV infections in children have dropped by approximately 50% in Latin America and Caribbean as a result of efforts in the entities cited in the study.
The key to reducing transmission of HIV from mother to offspring has been more widespread prenatal check-ups of expectant moms. In 2010, 94% of women in the region received pre-natal care and only 54% were examined for HIV. Four years later, the former increased by 2% but the latter grew by a notable 21% so that three in four pregnant women are tested for HIV.
Latin American and Caribbean governments, civil society and health groups agreed last year on an ambitious “90-90-90” plan to eliminate AIDS in the region by 2030. Yet the PAHO/WHO report noted that approximately 2500 infants in Latin America and Caribbean contracted HIV in 2014. Furthermore, the organizations claims that roughly 30% of the estimated two million people in the region with HIV are unaware that they are infected. These obstacles must be overcome in order to fulfill the pledge made last year:
"If we want to end HIV by 2030, we need to accelerate action for prevention and access to treatment, focusing on key populations and increasing investment and resources," said Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO/ WHO's Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis. "We need to expand access to care without discrimination, as well as to a package of prevention measures for reducing new infections, ensuring timely detection of cases, and treating everyone."An analysis released last July by the United Nations agency on AIDS (UNAIDS) found that 54% of minors under 14 infected with HIV and living in Latin America receive antiretroviral treatment.
The UNAIDS investigation also found that the AIDS pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean is concentrated in certain population groups, specific geographic locales, and along trade routes. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, account for over 75% of cases of HIV/AIDS, for example, while the disease is especially prevalent among transsexual and female sex workers as well as men engaging in sexual relations with other men.
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Online Sources (English) – IPS, CNN, Reuters, Pan American Health Organization, UNAIDS