|Education, prevention, treatment, testing—essential tools to combat HIV|
Washington, 20 January 2008. Education, prevention, treatment and testing are essential tools to combat HIV in the USA and elsewhere in the Americas, Dr. Cristina Beato said today during a keynote speech to the National Latino/Hispanic AIDS Leadership Summit gathered in Washington, D.C.
PAHO Deputy Director, on Latinos and HIV/AIDS:
"Education, prevention, treatment and testing are essential. There is no excuse for any baby to be born with HIV."
Washington, D.C., January 29, 2008 (PAHO)—Education, prevention, treatment and testing are essential tools to combat HIV in the USA and elsewhere in the Americas, Dr. Cristina Beato said today during a keynote speech to the National Latino/Hispanic AIDS Leadership Summit gathered in Washington, D.C.
PAHO Deputy Director Dr. Cristina Beato (Photo David Spitz)
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Deputy Director indicated that strategies intended to promote sexual responsible behaviors as part of comprehensive programs for health promotion are also essential to curb the growth of the epidemic.
Many of the factors that drive the spread of HIV are more pronounced among disadvantaged migrant communities, Dr. Beato said. Factors such as poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, political turmoil, lack of access to basic health services, social conflict, domestic and criminal violence, coupled with the very unfortunate existence -she said- of stigma and discrimination, are still pervasive at all levels of society.
The participants at the Summit in Washington were reminded that Hispanics are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. Despite the fact that Hispanics are about 14% of the population in the continental USA, almost 20% of the HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed are among Hispanic/Latino individuals.
Mr. Christopher H. Bates, Acting Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy at the US Department of Health and Human Services, also attending the Summit, affirmed that 200.000 Latinos are currently living with HIV in the United States.
"This is no picnic," Mr. Bates said emphatically with regards to the magnitude of the HIV problem among Latinos in the USA. "Clearly, you have come here because you understand the importance and power of collaboration and unity. Each of you understands that power of unity can move mountains. (…) The fight against AIDS in the United States is still a challenge," he said.
Many of the new cases of HIV in the USA and elsewhere in the Americas occur among women and young people, a segment of the population that was highly emphasized with grave concern in the remarks by Dr. Beato. "There is no excuse for any baby to be born with HIV."
It will be very difficult to carry on the fight against HIV/AIDS without truly understanding the culture of those countries from which many migrants come from, she said. "The HIV/AIDS epidemic has no boundaries," and there are risks -she said- that must not be taken. "Get tested, know your status."
Dr. Beato also mentioned that as members of the Latino/Hispanic community in the United States, the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic must be harmonized with the responses in the countries throughout the continent. Dr. Beato reiterated PAHO's long standing commitment towards HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and access to treatment, as well as promotion of testing and counseling all across the Americas.
"Although the necessary response to this illness greatly depends on the health sector, other sectors must also assume their leadership role so that critical actions needed are fully implemented," said Dr. Rafael Mazín, Regional Advisor for HIV Prevention and Comprehensive Care at PAHO. "These actions include comprehensive and integrated sexual health promotion programs and tackling other structural determinants of vulnerability that, together, are the pillars of our prevention efforts."
"The main route of HIV transmission in Latin America and the Caribbean is unprotected sexual intercourse," he said. "Thus, it is necessary to keep working on sound strategies and proven methods to avert new infections, particularly among young people and women."
An official statement by organizers of the National Latino/Hispanic AIDS Leadership Summit underscored that HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over and there is still much local work to be done in battling this disease.
"Today, there are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S, which includes about 200,000 Latinos. As the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group in the U.S., addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community takes on increased importance in efforts to improve the nation's health."
For more information of the Summit, please visit the Agenda website.
The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization