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The challenge of HIV and AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean

Para el día mundial del VIH 2020 participé en una actividad de mi trabajo, la cual tenia el propósito de educar y concientizar a toda nuestra organización sobre este tema tan importante y con tantos trasfondos, este articulo fue parte del desarrollo de este evento y quisiera compartirlo con ustedes:

Epidemiological diseases have had great social, economic, and political repercussions over time. HIV/AIDS is an example of this, despite the great advances in medicines, treatments, and antiretrovirals, it is evidenced that in many countries access those is very difficult and even impossible, the above was revealed in a documentary made by UNICEF and MTV called Xpress where young residents of the central and southern part of the American continent openly expressed how they live, perceive and feel the challenges of HIV/AIDS within their regions without being able to acquire medicines.

Now, the progress in figures for Latin America is remarkable thanks to the fact that most countries cover treatment for HIV/AIDS included in their basic health plan, according to UNAIDS for 2018: 80% of the people living with HIV knew it, 78% of the people diagnosed were receiving treatment, and 89% of those on treatment managed to significantly reduce the presence of the virus in their blood.

These health plans also include the delivery of condoms, the formula for children born to mothers living with HIV, diagnostic tests and complementary tests such as viral load levels or CD4 lymphocytes, among others. Unfortunately, the figures are not encouraging regarding PreP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or anti-HIV) whose function is to protect populations with a high probability of becoming infected.

In Latin America, high risk groups include men who have sex with men at 30%, clients of sex workers and their sexual partners at 23%, sex workers 6%, transgender women 3%, and injection drug users at 2%. This medicine is only included in the basic benefits plan for Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Peru, in the other countries of the region it is only supplied after events of sexual violence, condom breaking accidents, or occupational blood contact accidents.

What is the challenge that awaits us? In the first place, implement “combined prevention” as mentioned by Daniel García, a worker from UNFPA Colombia, which is an initiative from a state perspective that has the purpose of combining the health sector with the education, culture, sports, and social sectors, mainly impacting the age of greatest contagion in the continent (15 to 24 years), helping us to leave behind all stigmas – taboos on sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and ways to prevent and act when acquired them. Finally, we must continue to assert our rights, and demand that PreP be implemented free of charge and appropriately in order to rapidly reduce the number of those infected.

We are a region with 40 years of HIV, and the same taboos continue, it is time to change.