Press release

International support needed to help Haiti rebuild its AIDS response

New UNAIDS report calls for coordinated approach to support Haiti, the country most affected by HIV in the Caribbean

GENEVA, 26 February 2010 – UNAIDS calls for a coordinated approach in supporting Haiti, the country most affected by HIV in the Caribbean, to rebuild its AIDS response in the wake of the 12 January earthquake. Following an initial rapid assessment of the situation with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, UNAIDS has released the concept note Helping Haiti rebuild its AIDS response. The report explains the current situation in Haiti and what may be required to meet the immediate and intermediate AIDS response needs. UNAIDS will continue to revise and update this assessment as new information becomes available.

“It is unprecedented to have such a huge natural disaster in a country with a high HIV prevalence,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

There were an estimated 120 000 people living with HIV in Haiti before the earthquake. Haiti’s epidemic is mostly driven by heterosexual sex and an estimated 53% percent of people living with HIV are women.

Most of the structural damage happened in the three departments (Ouest, Sud-Est and les Nippes) that accounted for nearly 60% of the population of people living with HIV.

“Now, more than 1 million people are living in temporary shelters, putting them at greater risk of violence that includes sexual and gender based violence,” added Mr Sidibé. “Programmes are urgently needed to reduce vulnerabilities to HIV and ensure protection.”

The three most affected areas also had more than half of all the antiretroviral treatment sites. Assessment teams have noted make-shift clinics under tents popping up to help increase treatment access, however, the Ministry of Health estimates that less than 40% of the 24 000 people living with HIV who were on treatment before the earthquake have accessed them.

Civil society networks of people living with HIV as well as many of the organizations providing HIV services have been affected by the earthquake and will need to be strengthened.

Currently Haiti is experiencing a critical interruption of HIV services and programmes and will need comprehensive and sustained support for the country to regain momentum towards universal access targets to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.

Seven priority actions have been identified:

1. Rebuild health systems (including antiretroviral and PMTCT services);

2. Protect displaced people from HIV;

3. Rebuild the national and local network of people living with HIV;

4. Support social protection measures;

5. Revitalize HIV prevention programmes;

6. Re-establish comprehensive coordination mechanisms for the AIDS response; and

7. Develop a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

UNAIDS is currently working with its partners to integrate HIV into the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment process and ensure the HIV-related needs identified will be part of the ongoing humanitarian assistance efforts and upcoming recovery plans. The rebuilding of Haiti’s national AIDS programme will need to link the current humanitarian HIV needs and actions with the longer term strategic goal of building back an even better AIDS response.

The annual national AIDS budget of Haiti was US$ 132 million prior to the earthquake. UNAIDS estimates that an additional US$ 70 million will be needed for the next six months to meet Haiti’s immediate AIDS response needs.

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