HIV/AIDS in Haiti

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Haiti has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the entire Caribbean.[1] As of 2009, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, reports that Haiti's national HIV prevalence among adults aged 15 to 49 is 1.9 percent.[2]

In Haiti, HIV 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.

In his book "The Origins of AIDS" Dr. Jacques Pépin of Quebec stipulated that Haiti was one of HIV's entry points to the United States. After the independence of the Belgian Congo, the United Nations sent 4500 educated Haitians to fill administrative gaps left by Belgians. One of them may have carried HIV across the Atlantic in the 1960s. Pépin argues that its spread in Haiti was speeded by poor Haitians in need of money selling their blood plasma at centers such as Hemo-Caribbean. Plasma centers separate plasma from blood cells, which could be returned to the patient. Failing to change needles and tubing between patients rapidly spreads blood-borne diseases. Hemo-Caribbean, co-owned by Luckner Cambronne, was known to have poor hygienic practices. Cambronne, the "Vampire of the Caribbean" was notorious for selling Haitian blood and cadavers abroad. 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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