Monday, June 6, 2011

Bahamas: An “underground prostitution ring” and homosexual relations between males present the biggest challenges in The Bahamas’ fight against HIV/AIDS...

Minnis: HIV/AIDS fight challenged by prositution, homosexuality

Guardian Staff Reporter

An “underground prostitution ring” and homosexual relations between males present the biggest challenges in the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS, according to Health Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

“The only challenge we find now is that there is the male to male sex relations - we have to deal with that,” Minnis said. “And there is the hidden or underground prostitution. Prostitution is illegal but there is an underground ring that occurs. Therefore we have to aggressively try to determine where they are and deal with those approximately. So education is key.”

According to the minister, up to December 31, 2010 The Bahamas had a total number of 12,095 HIV infections, of which 6,335 cases were AIDS and 5,760 were HIV positive.

“That’s the accumulative total. Of the 12,095 infections 4,333 occurred in young adults between the ages of 15 and 44 and the male-to-female ration with HIV is 1 to 1.1.”

“I also want to point out that at the end of December 2009, 2,152 were receiving antiviral medication at no cost to them,” said Minnis who did not have last year’s figures.

Minnis said while the fight against AIDS remains an uphill battle, the ministry has had some successes.

“When we look at mother-to-child transmission, there was a 30 percent transmission rate in 1995. In 2006 we brought that down to two percent. I’m happy to announce that in 2010 we had no cases of mother-to-child transmission. The treatment is working [well],” Dr. Minnis said.

He credited the hard-working staff of the HIV/AIDS associations across The Bahamas.

“I think they are doing an excellent job in combating and fighting AIDS,” said Minnis. “The staff is doing an excellent job and of course the goal going into the UN meeting next week is to move towards zero.”

Minnis added that the government received assistance from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) agreement it has with United States.

The Bahamas is one of 12 Caribbean countries that receive monetary grants from the United States to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Under the agreements the countries share $25 million annually.

Jun 06, 2011