Health, Nutrition and Population

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HIV/AIDS in Latin American Countries : The Challenges Ahead

2003, Garcia Abreu, Anabela, Noguer, Isabel, Cowgill, Karen

HIV/AIDS in Latin America falls within the framework of a low endemic setting. In the majority of the countries, the epidemic is still concentrated in high-risk populations: men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSWs), prisoners, and people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The exceptions are Honduras and southeastern Brazil, where the epidemic has reached the general population. Heterosexual sex is the primary mode of transmission in Central America, with sex between men predominating in South America, and injecting drug use playing a significant role in the Southern Cone. Survey respondents also identified other populations with increased vulnerability in which interventions would be crucial-young people and women. Although the number of men living with AIDS outweighs the number of women in all countries, the gender gap is closing, and in some countries, the effect of AIDS on rural communities is increasing rapidly. In low endemic settings, the main priority is the highest risk groups, and activities to address HIV/AIDS should be focused on (1) strengthening efforts to prevent new infections in these populations, and (2) providing care and support strategies, which in turn create incentives for early detection of infection and/or risky behavior. Epidemiological surveillance plays a key role in the control of the epidemic through the measurement of frequency, distribution, and evolution of HIV/AIDS among populations; identification of high-risk groups; and evaluation of the effectiveness of prevention efforts.