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HIV/AIDS - Worrying Statistics for the Caribbean

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Contact: Janelle Charles

Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - A two-day workshop geared towards mapping out a Non Governmental Organization position paper in response HIV/AIDS opened today, amidst concern over spiralling HIV/AIDS statistics and its implications for economic development.

Seventy percent of HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean occur in the 15 to 44 age group. Thirty five percent of persons in that group are between the ages of 25 and 34. Given that HIV has a 10 to 15 year incubation period it means that group contracted the disease in their early teens or early twenty’s. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are contracting HIV/AIDS seven times more than boys in the same age group.

Dr. Stephen King, Chairman of the AIDS Action Foundation, in quoting regional HIV/AIDS statistics indicated that the University of the West Indies estimates 5 to 6 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be lost as a result of AIDS by the year 2010. These statistics, he says, have devastating social and economic consequences.

“This is occurring against a backdrop of social behavioural norms in our county that are baffling to us as we try to tackle HIV. They are baffling. Why? Because many of our social and behavioural norms are informed, shall we say, from a position of dishonesty and ignorance,” lamented the physician. Dr. King prescribes abstinence, especially for young people as the safest protection against the disease.

St. Lucia identified its first AIDS case in 1985. 17 years later, three hundred and nine people have tested positive for HIV/AIDS in St. Lucia. One hundred and forty two persons have developed full blown AIDS and one hundred and twenty one persons have died as a result of the disease. Dr. King observed that the number of HIV/AIDS cases here is under reported given that many persons go overseas for HIV/AIDS testing.

The spread of the disease among newborns is particularly disturbing. Twelve out of twenty-one babies born with the disease have died. St. Lucia has introduced a retroviral drugs programme for pregnant mothers.

At the end of the HIV/AIDS workshop health officials and NGO’s expect to come up with a work plan to help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.


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