The Impact of HIV in Central America: The United Nations Report
United Nations agencies and programs are committed to taking all the necessary measures to intensify Central America’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This announcement was made today by UNICEF and UNAIDS Regional Directors for Latin America and the Caribbean, present in the 5th Central American Congress on HIV – CONCASIDA 2007.
The regional directors emphasized today their firm will to increase action towards the goal of universal access as it was established in the meeting “Uniting the World Against AIDS in 2006”, celebrated in New York in June last year. Universal access goes beyond the mere coverage of antiretroviral treatment and includes a wide range of services such as counseling, clinical care and nursing focused on decreasing the effects and symptoms of the virus. This also includes medicine against opportunistic diseases, adequate nutrition, psychological, social, and legal assistance and guaranteed care for orphans and the widowed.
UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg, emphasized that in the region nearly 75 per cent of adults have access to treatment – but for children, access doesn’t even reach 35 per cent. Therefore it is key to assist governments so that they take urgent decisions in order to improve access to care, help, and treatment for all children and youth living with HIV, just as it is to guarantee access to information and prevention for all adolescents. It is fundamental for UNICEF to increase the availability of all-encompassing services that prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to their children. We want all youth to have the right to be born healthy and free from the risk of contracting HIV"
The Joint United Nation´s Program Director on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), César Núñez, emphasized the importance of a greater political commitment on the part of national governments and an increase in resources and preventive and promotional materials. He believes that, doing so, Central America will surely be better positioned to make important advancements in matters of universal access, prevention, and treatment.
The conference was presided by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nicaragua, Alfredo Missair, who underlined the importance of the work of United Nations agencies in the response to HIV/AIDS in Central America. Their contribution and coordination to the success of CONCASIDA 2007 is outstanding having registered more than 4,000 people including members of civil society, people living with HIV, academic institutions, governments, international agencies and multilateral organizations.
The Regional Directors of the United Nations recognized the importance of working together at all levels to respond to HIV, by advocating nations to take the responsibility to protect the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. They also underlined the need to overcome the barriers to universal access and the prevention of HIV providing special care to the most vulnerable groups. These groups include women, children, homosexuals, sex workers, youth and displaced groups.
Although Central America has gone to great efforts that in a few countries could achieve the goal of universal access, the HIV epidemic continues representing a threat without precedent to progress and stability of the region. Central America is the sub-region most affected by HIV/AIDS after the Caribbean in Latin America, having four of the top six Latin American countries with the highest rates of infection by HIV (2.5 per cent of the population in Belize, 1.6 per cent in Honduras and 0.9 per cent in Guatemala and El Salvador). AIDS is among the top ten causes of death in three of the six countries of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama). It is estimated that in Central America there are at the moment 208,600 people with HIV of a total of 1.7 million people that live with the virus in Latin America.
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