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 and 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.

Dr. Jacques Pépin, a Quebecer author of The Origins of AIDS, stipulated that Haiti was one of HIV's entry points to the United States. In July 1960, as the Congo gained independence, the United Nations recruited Francophone experts and technicians from all over the world to assist in filling administrative gaps left by Belgium, who did not leave behind an African elite to run the country. By 1962, Haitians made up the second largest group of well-educated experts in the country totaling around 4500. One of them may have carried HIV back 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 litres per month in the early 1970s.[3]

In his 1990 book "AIDS and Accusation," Paul Farmer refutes the idea that Haiti was an HIV entry point to the USA. Through conducting an epidemiological study on the prevalence of sarcomas associated with HIV/AIDS contraction, Farmer suggests that Cambronne's plasma business occurred before identifiers of HIV infection were recorded in Haiti, indicating that the disease did not arrive in Haiti until at least the late-1970s. Farmer instead argues that HIV/AIDS in Haiti was introduced by visitors from the US.[4]

Regardless of origin, the consequences of HIV/AIDS in Haiti were severe. The disease spread rapidly throughout Haiti, infecting thousands. Haiti's burgeoning tourist industry suffered greatly from the association with HIV/AIDS, and Haitians living in the USA were placed on the banned list for blood donations, alongside homosexuals and intravenous drug users, until 1990.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Caribbean HIV & AIDS Statistics". 
  3. ^ Pépin, Jacques (ed.). "The Origin of Aids". Cambridge University Press. p. 188; 201. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  4. ^ {{|title=AIDS and Accusation: AIDS, Haiti, and the Geography of Blame (1990) |Paul Farmer |page=5-17}}
  5. ^