HIV/AIDS in Haiti

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Haiti has a 1.8 percent prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, among the highest percentage-wise in the Caribbean region (behind the Bahamas, and Belize). However, it has the most overall cases of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region with an estimated 120,000 HIV/AIDS-positive Haitians.[1]

As of 2013, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, reports that Haiti's national HIV prevalence are among adults aged between 15 to 49.[2] and is primarily transmitted through heterosexual contact, followed by mother-to-infant transmission. The recent declines in HIV infection rates are most notable in urban areas, and have been attributed to significant behavioral changes, including decreased number of partners, decreased sexual debut, and increased condom use. Other explanations for the recent trends include AIDS-related mortality and improvements made in blood safety early in the epidemic. Continued political instability, high internal migration rates, high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, and weakened health and social services persist as factors with potential negative impacts on the epidemic.

Quebecer Dr. Jacques Pépin, author of The Origins of AIDS, stipulated that Haiti was one of HIV's entry points to the United States. Since the Belgians never trained an African elite, after the independence of the Belgian Congo (then Zaire and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), there was a need to fill administrative gaps left by Belgians. The answer was to send Haitians, who also spoke French and were eager to learn away from home. As a result, the United Nations sent 4500 well-educated Haitians. One of them may have carried HIV across the Atlantic in the 1960s. Pépin argues that its spread in Haiti was sped by poor Haitians in need of money selling their blood plasma at centers such as Hemo-Caribbean, which was known to have poor hygienic practices. Plasma centers separate plasma from blood cells, which could be returned to the patient, and failing to change needles and tubing between patients rapidly spreads blood-borne diseases. Luckner Cambronne, co-owner of Hemo-Caribbean and also head of the fearsome private militia, the Tonton Macoutes, was known as the "Vampire of the Caribbean" for notoriously selling Haitian blood and cadavers abroad for medical uses. Plasma from Hemo-Caribbean was exported to the United States at a maximum rate of 5,000 to 6,000 liters per month in the early 1970s.[3] Haiti was also a prime gay sex tourism destination for Americans during this period.[4]

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