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Haiti's HIV successes and challenges acknowledged on World AIDS Day

<p>Feature story</p>

December 2, 2012

On one level, Haiti’s HIV response parallels its earthquake recovery. Although the task is far from over, national and international stakeholders have collaborated to confront the challenge and important gains have been made.

During a World AIDS Day commemoration in Pétionville, Haiti, hosted by the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé congratulated the country on its progress toward the vision of "getting to zero:" zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero zero AIDS-related deaths.

Over the past decade, the rate of new HIV infections in Haiti fell by 54%. From 2005 to 2011, there was a 47% national decline in AIDS-related deaths. By 2011, 58% of Haitians living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy. Mr Sidibé expressed optimism that this positive trajectory would continue.

"I was honoured yesterday to meet the President of the Republic and I can tell you that during our conversation, it was obvious that he wanted to put AIDS at the centre of his efforts to ensure that all people have access to the information and support systems necessary for life," Sidibé said.

These efforts, said Mr Sidibé, must focus on the country’s most vulnerable. An estimated 18% of men who have sex with men and 8% of sex workers in Haiti are living with HIV.  Nearly half of young Haitians living in camps do not have adequate knowledge about HIV.

Mr Sidibé urged Haiti’s leaders to boost efforts to reach populations at high risk of HIV infection with prevention and treatment services. He called for the passage of an HIV law that would signal zero tolerance for stigma and discrimination.

Mr Sidibé also urged the leadership of Haiti to increase domestic investments for the HIV response. Currently, more than 75% of funding for Haiti’s HIV response comes from external sources. By taking greater ownership of its national AIDS response, Haiti would join the worldwide paradigm shift "from charity to global solidarity," said the UNAIDS Executive Director.

During the World AIDS Day ceremony, Haiti’s First Lady, Sophia Martelly, acknowledged the complex network of social issues that increase people’s risk of HIV. "Wherever educating children is problematic, there will be AIDS. Wherever basic social needs are not met, there will be AIDS. Wherever there is violence and rape, there will be AIDS. That is why there must be an in-depth approach to prevention," said the First Lady.

"I am proud to be working alongside the President of the Republic to guarantee education for all, the strengthening of our health care system, women's empowerment and improved living conditions for the whole population," she added.