SAN JUAN – Lack of education is the primary cause of prejudice against HIV/AIDS patients, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, or CARPHA, said Tuesday.
In a statement marking World AIDS Day, CARPHA said the region has the second-highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2013, 250,000 Caribbean adults and children were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, with 12,000 new infections projected.
“Despite this, the region has recorded success in reducing deaths due to HIV/AIDS and in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” CARPHA Executive Director James Hospedales said.
Challenges remain, he said, urging people to learn their HIV status and conduct themselves accordingly “in order to prevent the spread of new infections.”
CARPHA said stigma surrounding HIV is very common in the Caribbean, due primarily to a lack of knowledge that allows false beliefs to flourish.
“Some persons living with HIV continue to be shunned by family, peers and the wider community, while others report discriminatory behavior towards them in healthcare and education settings, erosion of their human rights, and psychological damage,” CARPHA said.
CARPHA member-states are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bermuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Saba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.