by Kathy Jones on  July 19, 2012 at 8:31 PM AIDS/HIV News
 UN Says Conservatism Major Threat to AIDS Prevention in Latin America, Caribbean
A new report by UNAIDS reveals that while the spread of AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean is under control, further efforts to stop the spread of the disease is being hampered by a "worrying wave of conservatism".

An estimated 1.6 million lived with AIDS in Latin America last year, including 230,000 in the Caribbean, according to a global report by the UN agency UNAIDS which said 34.2 million contracted the disease.

"Latin America maintains a relatively stable epidemic and has made progress with respect to treatment," said Pedro Chequer, UNAIDS coordinator in Brazil.

The agency noted that last year, 99,000 people got infected with the HIV virus in the region where broad coverage in anti-retroviral treatment significantly helped reduce mortality rates.

In the early 2000s, 63,000 people died of AIDS every year due to the disease in Latin America, compared with 57,000 in 2011. The figure fell by half in Central America and the Caribbean, from 20,000 in 2001 to 10,000 last year.

With greater access to anti-retroviral drugs, AIDS has stopped being "a death sentence to become a chronic condition," Chequer said.

Despite the progress, the region in general faces a "worrying wave of conservatism, notably with restrictions to access to condoms, for example in schools," Chequer said without elaborating.

"Conservative religious groups, Catholic and non-Catholic, view the distribution of condoms as something wrong from a moral and religious standpoint," he noted.

And not enough is being done to bolster actions to denounce the stigmatization of the most vulnerable people.

"In Latin America, the epidemic is mainly among gays, men who have sex with men, transsexuals and sex workers and there is a certain reluctance to face this problem head-on," the UNAIDS official said.

Chequer said Brazil was one of the countries which records the biggest number of homophobic crimes in the world.

"In 2011 alone, there were 280 crimes, well ahead of Mexico and the United States," he added.

However UNAIDS underscored Brazil's role in spreading AIDS treatment.

This country produces 10 of the 20 AIDS drugs and distributes them to countries in Africa and Latin America.

Brazil also distributes half a million condoms free of charge every year.

Late this week, it will inaugurate in Mozambique a drug manufacturing plant for AIDS treatment in Africa, the region hardest hit by the scourge.

Source: AFP

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