Helping Haiti rebuild its AIDS response
26 February 2010 – Haiti – the country most affected by HIV in the
Caribbean region – needs the world's support in bolstering its defence
against the spread of AIDS in the wake of last month's catastrophic
earthquake, according to a United Nations report.
"It is unprecedented to have such a huge natural disaster in a country
with a high HIV prevalence," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of
the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which issued the new
Before the 12 January quake, there were approximately 120,000 people
living with HIV in Haiti, out of a total population of some 3 million.
The country's epidemic is driven largely by heterosexual sex and more
than half of those living with HIV are women.
Most of the structural damage caused by the magnitude-7.0 quake
occurred in three departments – Sud-Est, les Nippes and Ouest, where
the capital, Port-au-Prince is located – where nearly 60 per cent of
all people living with HIV in Haiti reside. More than half of the
antiretroviral treatment sites in Haiti are also situated in those
With over 1 million people taking refuge in temporary shelters, they
are at greater risk of violence, including sexual and gender-based
violence, Mr. Sidibé said. "Programmes are urgently needed to reduce
vulnerabilities to HIV and ensure protection."
Makeshift treatment clinics under tents have popped up to increase
access to treatment, but the Ministry of Health estimates that less
than 40 per cent of the 24,000 people living with HIV who were on
treatment before the disaster have access them.
As Haiti experiences a critical interruption of HIV services and
programmes, stepped up support is vital for the country to allow it to
regain momentum towards reaching universal access goals for HIV
prevention, treatment, care and support.
The new UNAIDS report has identified seven priority areas, including
rebuilding health systems, protecting the displaced from HIV and
revitalizing HIV prevention programmes.
Haiti's annual AIDS budget was $132 million prior to the earthquake,
and UNAIDS believes that an extra $70 million will be necessary to
meet the country's immediate response needs over the next six months.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
reported today that some 285,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed
in the earthquake, and Government and humanitarian organizations, as
well as engineers, are working to register the displaced and plan
relocation sites for those who cannot return to their homes.
Spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that creating adequate sanitary
conditions and waste disposal systems is also essential to mitigate
the risk of a large-scale outbreak of disease.
She announced that the $1.44 billion revised humanitarian appeal
launched earlier this month by the UN and its aid partners – the
largest ever in the wake of a natural disaster – is 48 per cent
funded, but expressed concern that the portion for agriculture has
only received 8 per cent of the funds requested.
For its part, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are
setting up provisional schoolrooms in Port-au-Prince and other areas,
as schools destroyed in the quake are being rebuilt.
Haiti's educational system, said Marc Vergara of the agency, virtually
ceased to function in affected areas, leaving some 2.5 million
children out of school after the earthquake.
Together with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF is helping to
establish over 150 tent schools to get children back to school before
With more than half of school-age children not attending classes prior
to the quake, the agency's goal is to "build back better" to create
conditions to allow many young Haitians to attend school for the first
Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. - Mohandas Gandhi
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