The Importance of Addressing HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Importance of Addressing HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean

A documentary filmmaker from Colombia, Juan de La Mar, has used art as therapy to challenge deep-rooted stereotypes and unpack his own experience with HIV. His documentary, De Gris A POSITHIVO (From Grey to POSITHIVE), sheds light on the emotional toll and societal silence surrounding HIV. While advancements in medical treatments have improved the quality of life for those living with HIV, the documentary highlights the lack of conversation about the virus in society.

Across Latin America and the Caribbean, infection rates remain high, and the disruption of health services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the vulnerability of those with HIV or AIDS. According to the UNAIDS report, at least 2.2 million people are living with HIV in the region. While the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased, there has been an eight percent increase in new infections in recent years.

Luisa Cabal, the regional director of UNAIDS for Latin America and the Caribbean, emphasizes the importance of political will and investment in prevention by governments. She calls for prioritization and customization of prevention strategies in each nation to address the ongoing challenges of HIV. Cabal notes that while progress has been made in scaling up antiretroviral treatment, greater political will and investment are needed to enhance prevention mechanisms.

Current HIV management includes antiretroviral therapy, which consists of a single daily pill with minimal side effects. Additionally, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has emerged as an effective prevention method, particularly for high-risk groups such as gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender individuals, and sexually active individuals. Cabal emphasizes the importance of government investment in PrEP to ensure accessibility for these groups. Conventional prevention methods, like condom use, should also remain accessible and readily available.

Cabal calls for a holistic approach to address HIV, taking into account various dimensions such as gender, class, identity, and ethnicity. Inclusive policies are necessary to ensure the inclusion of all individuals in prevention strategies. Although efforts have been made to curb HIV spread among prioritized groups, such as gay men, new infections are rising among other vulnerable groups, including women and Indigenous communities.

The documentary by Juan de La Mar brings attention to the need for open dialogue and education surrounding HIV. Comprehensive sex education and information on prevention are crucial, but conservative views and lack of access to sex education can hinder progress. Breaking the silence and addressing taboos surrounding HIV will ultimately contribute to more effective prevention and support systems.

– UNAIDS report The Path that Ends AIDS

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