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Women Remain Most Impacted In Caribbean HIV/AIDS Crisis

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Nov. 25, 2009: HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region may have experienced a slight decline in new cases according to the UN AIDS agency, women still remain the most affected.

Latest UNAIDS figures released Tuesday show that women still account for about half of all infections of the almost quarter million HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean. AIDS-related illnesses were the fourth leading cause of death among Caribbean women.

And HIV prevalence is especially high among young women, says UNAIDS researchers.  This may be due in part to still risky behavior on the part of some younger people. For instance, according to a 2004 national behavioral survey in Jamaica, nearly half (48 percent) of young men (aged 15–24) and 15% of young women had more than one sexual partner in the previous 12 months

In Haiti alone, HIV prevalence among pregnant women in 2006–2007 ranged from 0.8 percent in the western part of the country to 11.8 percent in one urban setting.

Overall, HIV/AIDS claimed 12, 000 lives alone last year, in a region where sex between a man and a woman, often tied to prostitution, remains the main driver of HIV transmission in the region. 

Children are also still affected. Last year alone, 2,300 added to the new infection rates from the disease. And paediatric antiretroviral coverage in the Caribbean is also higher (55 percent) in December 2008 than the global treatment coverage level for children (38 percent).

The Caribbean has been more heavily affected by HIV than any region outside sub-Saharan Africa and has the second highest level of adult HIV prevalence – 1 percent –1.1 percent.

But in a region with some 240,000 reported cases and 20,000 new cases alone last year, just one thousand less than the 2001, the time to celebrate a decline, however, small, seems far away.