Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Bahamas is "on track" to reduce HIV/AIDS among young people by 25 per cent this year

Bahamas 'on track' for 25% HIV/AIDS drop in young people
Tribune Staff Reporter

THE Bahamas is "on track" to reduce HIV/AIDS among young people by 25 per cent this year, according to the United Nations HIV/AIDS programme.

As a country that bears a "high burden" of HIV/AIDS prevalence compared with other countries globally - with around three per cent of the population known to be infected with the virus - it was also noted in this year's UNAIDS report as one which is making significant strides towards curtailing its prevalence within its borders.

"A ground-breaking study for UNAIDS led by the International Group on Analysis of trends in HIV prevalence and behaviours among young people shows that these countries with high burden of HIV have either achieved or are on track to achieve the international goal of reducing HIV prevalence among young people by 25 per cent in 2010, as agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994," said the UNAID's "Outlook 2010" report released yesterday.

Sixteen out of 25 countries most affected by HIV/AIDS have seen HIV rates among young people fall - a "breakthrough essential for breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic," according to UNAIDS.

Those countries that have achieved the 25 per cent reduction goal already are: Botswana, Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Eighty per cent of young people living with HIV/AIDS live in sub Sahara Africa.

The Bahamas was identified as one of those countries "likely to achieve" the 25 per cent goal, along with Burundi, Lesotho, Rwanda, Swaziland and Haiti.

This news comes after Dr Perry Gomez, Director of the National HIV/AIDS Programme in The Bahamas revealed in a press conference in October 2009 that if infection trends seen in the early part of that year continued to year end there would be an overall rise in the number of new HIV infections in 2009 over the previous year.

At around the same time, Health Minister Dr Hubert Minnis released the findings of a study involving public and private school students, between the ages of 15 and 17 in New Providence and the Family Islands, which he said showed that while some youngsters are knowledgeable about the deadly virus, many are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent it.

Following the study's findings, Dr Minnis suggested health policy-makers, planners and professionals must redouble their efforts to ensure that young people take HIV/AIDS as seriously as they should.

The Tribune could not reach Dr Gomez and Camille Barnett, President of the AIDS Foundation, for comment on the UNAIDS Outlook report yesterday.

UNAIDS' latest report on the state of the fight against the potentially deadly HIV/AIDS virus shows that countries that saw the greatest shift in the number of young people contracting the disease included Kenya, whose infection rates were down 60 per cent between 2000 and 2005; Ethiopia, where there was a 47 per cent change in HIV prevalence among pregnant young women in urban areas and 29 per cent in rural areas; Malawi and Cote d'Ivoire HIV where prevalence among pregnant urban young women declined by 56 per cent and Burundi and the Bahamas' near neighbour, Haiti, where prevalent dropped by around half.

The report said that in 13 countries, the declines in prevalence were associated with notable reported changes in behaviour among young people, such as waiting longer before they become sexually active and using condoms.

At present there are around 5 million young people living with HIV worldwide, making up about 40 per cent of new infections.

According to UNAIDS' estimates there were 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2008. In the same year there were nearly 2.7 million new HIV infections and 2 million AIDS-related deaths.

The Bahamas recently signed on to become a beneficiary of the US President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which will allow the country to benefit from up to $2.5 million in grants from the US Government over the next three years towards fighting HIV/AIDS.

July 14, 2010