Poverty, gender inequality contributing to spread of HIV in Caribbean

Poverty, gender inequality and discrimination are hampering efforts to curb the spread of HIV in the Caribbean, speakers at the Caribbean Summit on HIV/AIDS in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, said on Sunday, the Caribbean Net News reports.

George Allyene, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, at the summit discussed the relationship between the region's tourism economy and the spread of HIV, particularly in the context of commercial sex work.

Allyene also said that the increasing number of AIDS-related deaths among adults in the region is contributing to reduced work productivity, absenteeism and low morale because of stigma and discrimination.

In addition, widespread poverty in many Caribbean countries means that some families in the region face "abject poverty" when paying for HIV/AIDS care and treatment, Allyene said.

Increased HIV prevention efforts also should be made, according to Allyene, who said that gender inequality is contributing to the spread of HIV because women cannot negotiate in sexual situations.

To address the issue, Allyene called for increased access to female condoms and a reduction in their price.

Some speakers -- including Allyene and John Maginley, Antigua and Barbuda's minister of health, sports and youth affairs -- also discussed how migration in the region is affecting HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

Although Antigua provides access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs to its residents, Maginley said that the country likely cannot provide access to no-cost treatment for undocumented immigrants.

Also at the summit, Jerome Walcott, minister of health for Barbados, said that the country has made progress in fighting HIV/AIDS and that a World Bank loan has allowed Barbados to provide HIV-positive people with access to antiretrovirals.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) at the summit said that Caribbean governments should apply for funding from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, adding that the Caribbean Community should "make a bigger and stronger demand for funds" (Wiggins, Caribbean Net News, 1/23).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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