Friday, December 21, 2012

CUBA ADVANCES IN TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF AIDS


New infections and fatalities declineAlberto D. Pérez


CUBA celebrated December 1, World AIDS Day, with several medical and human successes. Among these are an end to both mother-infant transmissions and those produced via blood transfusions, which are no longer a health issue in the country, according to Dr. Rosaida Ochoa, director of the Ministry of Public Health’s National Center for the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV-AIDS.

Dr. Rosaida Ochoa, director of the Ministry of Public Health’s National Center for the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV-AIDS.

Citing Dr.Maria Isela Lantero, head of the Ministry’s Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections, in an interview published in the weekly Trabajadores, Dr. Ochoa recalled that progress has been made in the integration, at all levels of the Cuban public health system, of prevention and control of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-AIDS.

For the second time in 10 years, Cuba reported fewer cases diagnosed, as compared to 2011, during which a decline had already been noted.

Speaking with Granma International, Dr. Lantero confirmed that in 2012, the incidence of infection in adolescents and young people was stabilized.

Among the efforts responsible for these accomplishments are an appropriate use of human resources, both professional and volunteer; improvements in working across sectors and the political commitment of the Cuban government.

Dr. Ochoa added that Cuba continues to receive valuable help and technical advice from United Nations organizations, notably the UN Development Program (UNDP), as a vehicle for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis; The World and Pan American Health Organizations; (WHO/OPS), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF. "We are profoundly grateful for this support which is so useful to our country," she said.

She emphasized, as well, the value of efforts undertaken by Cuba’s primary health care workers with the most vulnerable groups: men who have sex with men, youth of both genders, transsexuals, and women, in consultation with the National Center for the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV-AIDS, and the National Sexual Education Center for the transsexual population.

One factor which has contributed to reducing the number of new infections is an increase in the supply of prophylactics and public access to these.

Dr. Ochoa added that public information campaigns have led to a better perception of the risk of infection and a significant reduction in expressions of discrimination and stigmatization of people with AIDS, an accomplishment of which means a great deal in human terms.

Official statistics indicate that in Cuba 17,000 individuals have been diagnosed with HIV, of which more than 14,000 are alive and 8,000 being treated. 85% are between 15 and 49 years of age.

Dr. Ochoa reported that unprotected sexual relations remain the principal way in which the virus is transmitted in Cuba. Eight of every 10 infected individuals are men who have had sex with other men.

The good news reported by Cuban health authorities is seconded by that offered at UN headquarters by General Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, who, on the occasion of the observance, announced noteworthy reductions in the infection rate in a number of African countries over the last 12 months.

As of December 1, UNAIDS estimates 36 million cases worldwide, according to Sidibé.

Also on the occasion of the international observance, Guy Ryder Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

launched a campaign in Geneva to promote the rights of people with HIV and the rejection of social or workplace discrimination against them.

Likewise, Dr. Carlos Cortés, principal UNDP technical advisor for World Fund projects in Cuba, conveyed to GI the satisfaction with which international institutions receive reports of progress in the country, saying, "We are very pleased with the Cuban example. It shows that it is possible to successfully confront HIV-AIDS and respect the rights of carriers."

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