On December 1st, people across the globe raised consciousness about HIV/AIDS through World AIDS Day. This year’s theme, “Close the gap for an AIDS-free generation,” is a reason to celebrate in Latin America since antiretroviral treatment has reached over 600,000 people in the past decade. The Pan American Health Organization recently released a press report that states that cases of antiretroviral treatment have increased from 210,000 in 2003 to 795,000 in 2013.1
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day focused on closing the inequality gap between those receiving necessary medical treatment and those who are living with HIV/AIDS without treatment access. In Latin America, 56% of those who need treatment receive antiretroviral treatment.1Although there have been advances in treatment coverage in the past decade, there are still many obstacles that impede people living with HIV/AIDS in Latin America from accessing the proper health care needed to treat the virus.
In Latin America (not including the Caribbean) Brazil is home to the largest number of people living with HIV, followed by Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina.2 Many new cases of HIV in this region affect three major groups of people; men who have sex with men, female sex workers, and injection drug users. Half of new infections affect men who have sex with men.2
In the case of female sex workers, the rates of infection vary greatly among countries and among street workers as opposed to brothel sex workers. Throughout the region, however, high rates of condom usage among female sex workers (for example 96% in Argentina) show the successes of efforts to educate the population about HIV prevention.2 One example of these efforts was an advertisement published by the Brazilian health ministry last year that attempted to destigmatize the prostitution profession by using slogans such as “not ashamed of using a condom.”3
Progress has also been made toward treating pregnant women with the virus. The percentage of pregnant women being treated increased from 59% in 2010 to 93% in 2013.1 Since 2003, there has also been a reduction in the number of deaths and new infections. Despite these improvements, many living with HIV/AIDS still remain untreated, and some even undiagnosed.
As part of the campaign to “Close the gap” and make treatment accessible for all those living with HIV/AIDS, and in order to prevent the virus from spreading, several measures have been taken by many countries and civil society actors throughout Latin America. Sexual education campaigns educate young students about safe sex practices and STD testing. Due to the rise in pregnant women with HIV being treated, there has been a recent decrease in new infections in children.2Condom promotion has also helped to prevent the spread of the virus.
Although there have been improvements in some areas of HIV/AIDS treatment accessibility in Latin America, there are still many challenges that must be faced in order to “close the gap” in treatment. The populations that are at the highest risk for this virus are often stigmatized and highly marginalized. As a result, access to necessary testing and treatment is difficult.
World AIDS Day seeks to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and open the dialogue about the virus’ spread, prevention, and treatment. In Latin America, the stigmatization of this virus causes it to be a taboo topic that lacks discussion among the general public. In order to reach the goal of an 80% rate of access to treatment, dialogue must continue to inform the public about the illness and to discredit popular beliefs that marginalize the virus as relevant only among men who sleep with men and female sex workers. Success in increasing rates of access to treatment should be celebrated on this day, in conjunction with commemorance of those lost to the virus and the acknowledgment that there are still many areas for improvement with regard to the consciousness and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
“Antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV is increasing for people in Latin America and the Caribbean”. Pan American Health Organization. 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. - See more at: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1023...
“HIV & AIDS in Latin Amercia”. AVERT. 22 May 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. Available at: http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-latin-america.htm
Trivedi, Anjani. “Brazil’s ‘Happy Prostitute’ Slogan Gets a Chilly Reception”. Time Newsfeed. Time. 06 June 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/06/06/brazils-happy-prostitute-slogan-gets... - See more at: http://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/content/world-cup-2014-spotlight-child-pro...