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AP/Los Angeles Times Examines Haiti’s Fight Against HIV

The AP/Los Angeles Times examines Haiti’s success at reducing the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in the country through the work of the “nonprofit groups, Boston-based Partners in Health (PIH) and Port-au-Prince’s GHESKIO, widely considered to be the world’s oldest AIDS clinic.” Haiti’s HIV rate is “lower than the Bahamas, Guyana and Suriname, and much lower than sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate averages about 5 percent but spikes to 24 percent in Botswana and 33 percent in Swaziland,” according to the newspaper. Still, as the article notes, Haiti’s “crisis is far from over,” with varying infection rates across remote regions in the country.

“From 1993 to 2003, only pregnant women were tested, and their rate of infection dropped from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent, according to GHESKIO and national health surveys,” the newspaper writes. “Researchers now test men and women aged 15 to 49, and the official rate is 2.2 percent, according to UNAIDS.” The article details the early successes of PIH and GHESKIO and highlights such programs as PIH’s “‘accompagnateur’ program, in which local workers including HIV patients are paid to help the newly diagnosed adhere to physically taxing medication regimens and prevention measures,” and “GHESKIO’s work, such as distributing phone cards to patients to keep in closer touch with their doctors.”

The article also notes, “Thanks in large part to UNAIDS, which awarded Haiti its first grant in 2002, and $420 million from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, an estimated 18,000 people are on AIDS drugs, most of them administered free through GHESKIO and PIH” (Katz, 7/5).