It is necessary to begin this discourse by presenting a snapshot of the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problem globally. At the end of 2007 statistics, indicate that around 33 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Each year around 2.7 million more people become infected with HIV and 2 million die of AIDS (UNAIDS Report 2008). Women account for half of all people living with HIV worldwide, and nearly 60% of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the last 10 years, the proportion of women among people living with HIV has remained stable globally, but has increased in many regions. Young people aged 15–24 account for an estimated 45% of new HIV infections worldwide. An estimated 370 000 [330 000–410 000] children younger than 15 years became infected with HIV in 2007. Globally, the number of children younger than 15 years living with HIV increased from 1.6 million [1.4 million–2.1 million] in 2001 to 2.0 million [1.9 million–2.3 million] in 2007. Almost 90% live in sub-Saharan Africa (http://www.avert.org/wwhiv.htm). The Caribbean may conjure up images of a palm-fringed paradise and a laid-back life, but being HIV/AID positive in the Caribbean, the effects of this pandemic on community means life is far from relaxed. After sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean is the second most HIV-affected region of the world. In this discourse, I will examine the political, economic and socio-cultural implications of the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the Caribbean. Given that over three quarters of people with HIV in the Caribbean live in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and are the poorest in the region, the effects will be greater for those countries. The pandemic varies significantly across the region’s countries and by population, reflecting the Caribbean’s cultural, ethnic, and geographic diversity. Eight countries in the region have HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rates (the percent of people living with HIV/AIDS) of at least 1%; Haiti has the highest rate of any country in the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, “Caribbean,” Fact Sheet, May 2006). Women are increasingly affected, comprising more than half of those living with HIV/AIDS. Young people–especially young women–are at particular risk Factors that exacerbate HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and complicate the region’s response to the pandemic include poverty, unemployment, stigma, discrimination, and gender inequalities (UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, May 2006). The Caribbean is experiencing what other third world nations are going through but the feeling of isolation. The numbers of people with HIV/AIDS continues to rise, the impact of HIV/AIDS in families continues to grow, the death toll of AIDS patients increase every day, and yet there is a lack of education about HIV/AIDS, no medication to treat the infected and inaccurate statistics. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the political infrastructure that sustain the security, stability and the viability of the Caribbean Island States are manifold. This Caribbean pandemic is undermining education and health system, economic growth, policing capabilities, political legitimacy, family structure and over all social cohesion. As economies slump, critical infrastructure fail, family networks dissolve, and the number of deaths and orphan children increase social and political unrest will become more likely in this region known for its tranquility.
Political commitment has been widely recognized as one of the most important factors in the uncertain future of the effects of Caribbean HIV/AIDS. A politically supportive environment has emerged geared at stemming the rate of infection across the region. Recognition that a collaborative and coordinated response was an imperative for the region bore The Pan-Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr. Peter Piot points out that "PANCAP is a lesson in political commitment.” This collaboration aimed to bridge the...
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