A new report by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that expanding access to all current HIV prevention options available would reduce the number of new HIV cases in Latin America and the Caribbean – which have remained at 120,000 per year since 2010.
Launched on the eve of World AIDS Day, the report "Prevention of HIV in Focus – Analysis of the Health Sector Perspective in Latin America and the Caribbean" analyzes the advances and challenges faced by health systems to prevent the transmission of HIV .
"Progress in the fight against AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean has been important, with large reductions in childhood infections, improvements in treatment and a decrease in the number of deaths related to the disease.
However, we still have not achieved the desired impact in terms of new cases among adults, "said Carissa F. Etienne, director of PAHO.
"The prevention of new infections requires intensified efforts and the most vulnerable people have access to all the options and new technologies of prevention in a non-discriminatory environment".
The report recommends that the combined approach of prevention be based on scientific evidence, respecting human rights and non-discrimination, including three elements: the broad range of biomedical interventions most appropriate for users, the promotion of healthy behaviors and the establishment of environments that facilitate access and adoption of preventive measures.
According to UNAIDS report and data, most (64%) of new HIV cases occur between gays and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, trans women, people who inject drugs and the couples that are part of these key population groups.
In addition, a third of the new infections occurs in young people aged 15 to 24 years.
"The reduction of new HIV infections among key groups and the most vulnerable populations, including women and young people, will require specific and high-impact HIV prevention actions, access to evidence, treatment for all, and joint action against discrimination ", defended the regional director of UNAIDS for Latin America and the Caribbean, César Núñez.
In addition, he added that it is equally important to have "a firm commitment to respect, with gender equality and the protection and promotion of human rights, including the right to health."
Offering a variety of prevention methods
At present, there are numerous scientifically proven prevention options that health services can offer the population to prevent infection and protect their health.
Among them, the self-test, which can be done at home, and the extension of the supply of tests outside the sanitary facilities.
In Latin America, two out of ten people with HIV and four out of ten in the Caribbean do not know that they have the virus, an improvement over last year.
Early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with HIV and also helps prevent new infections.
Other recommendations include the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at high risk of getting HIV and the provision of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in emergency situations, even through consensual sexual relations with the unknown or positive serology partner.
The Americas were pioneers in conducting research that supported the WHO recommendation of 2015 to incorporate PrEP. However, only three countries in the region currently offer it.
The report defends the distribution of condoms and lubricants, the provision of syphilis tests while providing the HIV test, as well as universal access to treatment, which significantly improves the health of people with HIV and reduces the risk of infection of your partners.
The document also recommends the promotion of dissemination activities in peer-directed communities and the provision of information and education about sexual health.
The publication also warns of the dependence on international funds to carry out prevention actions (such as education and provision of condoms and tests by NGOs) for key population groups, as well as the crucial role that civil society can play in responding effectively to HIV, especially in the field of prevention.
In this regard, the report calls on governments, civil society and international organizations to work on partnerships to accelerate the implementation of new prevention technologies, extend the availability of options and guarantee universal access to such services to reduce new infections and AIDS epidemic until 2030.
AIDS epidemic in Latin America 2016
About 1.8 million (1.4 million to 2.1 million) lived with HIV in Latin America in 2016. Approximately 97,000 (79,000-120,000) new HIV infections occurred in the region. This number remained stable between 2010 and 2016.
In Latin America, about 36,000 people (28,000 to 45,000) died of AIDS-related illnesses last year. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of deaths related to AIDS in the region decreased by 12%.
Treatment coverage reached 58% (42% – 72%) of all people with HIV in Latin America last year.
AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean 2016
About 310,000 (280,000-350,000) people lived with HIV in the Caribbean in 2016. Approximately 18,000 (15,000-222,000) new HIV infections occurred in the region and about 9,400 (7,300 – 12,000) were killed by AIDS-related diseases in the Caribbean.
Between 2010 and 2016, the number of deaths related to AIDS in the Caribbean decreased by 28%. Treatment coverage reached 52% (41% – 60%) of all people living with HIV in the region. Less than 1,000 new HIV infections have occurred among children in the Caribbean.