Raising HIV/AIDS Awareness in the Caribbean Community
Today, Wednesday, June 8, 2010 is the sixth annual observance of Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is designed to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Caribbean communities in the United States and its territories. Raising awareness is a necessity because Caribbean communities are at elevated risk for HIV infection.
There are 30 countries in the Caribbean stemming from the 3 most populous (Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Haiti) to the least populous (Saint Barts, Saint Eustatius, and Saba). After sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world. HIV prevalence among adults in the Caribbean was approximately 1.1% between 2001 and 2007, although rates vary among countries. Cuba has a low HIV prevalence (0.1%) among adults while the Bahamas has the highest HIV adult prevalence in the region (3.1%). According to CDC, except for sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean is the only region where the proportion of women and girls living with HIV (53%) is higher than the proportion of men and boys. Unprotected heterosexual sex is the main HIV transmission mode in the Caribbean. However, transmission categories differ by country. Injection drug users are a primary driver of the HIV epidemic in Puerto Rico, whereas gay and bisexual men and heterosexuals are primarily affected in Cuba and the Dominican Republic (respectively).
CDC recently published surveillance data of HIV among blacks in the United States who are of Caribbean origin. Of an estimated 100,013 black adults and adolescents diagnosed with HIV infection from 2001 to 2007, 11.7% were foreign-born, with most from the Caribbean (54.1%) and Africa (41.5%). Most Caribbean foreign born blacks with HIV in the US are from Haiti (66.9%), 18.2% from Jamaica, 6.3% from Trinidad and Tobago, 3.3% from the Bahamas, 1.4% from Barbados, and 3.8% from other areas of the Caribbean. Males account for the majority (56.6%) of HIV diagnoses among black people born in the Caribbean. Females account for 57.4% of diagnoses among HIV-positive black Americans born in Africa.
Additional information about HIV in the Caribbean is available at UNAIDS, World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization. Additional information of HIV among Caribbean born individuals in the United States is available on the Centers for Disease Control website. In addition, links to other informational resources are available at the Florida/ Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center.
Greg Millett is a Senior Scientist and HHS/CDC Liaison to the Office of National AIDS Policy