Feature story

Progress in restoring access to HIV services in Haiti

12 January 2011

One year ago, on 11 January 2010, the Haiti earthquake devastated large parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, with surrounding areas. Credit: UNAIDS

One year after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, the delivery of HIV prevention and treatment services appears to be back on track.

Over the past 12 months, Haiti has engaged in intensive HIV prevention campaigns in temporary settlements, where an estimated 800 000 displaced people are living. With the support of partners and UNAIDS, youth-sensitization and condom distribution programmes are now reaching tens of thousands of people.

Before the earthquake, UNAIDS estimated that 68 000 people were living with HIV in the three departments that were later impacted by the tremor—57% of the national total of 120 000. Within three months of the January 2010 earthquake, 80% of people on HIV treatment in these departments were able to access their antiretroviral drugs again. However, national coverage of antiretroviral treatment (43%) remains far from the goal of universal access.

“Every crisis presents an opportunity to move forward,” said Ernesto Guerrero, the UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Haiti. “The challenges posed by the earthquake in Haiti are no exception.”

Every crisis presents an opportunity to move forward. The challenges posed by the earthquake in Haiti are no exception.

Ernesto Guerrero, UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Haiti

In the aftermath of the earthquake, for example, HIV centers in Haiti have made strides in preventing mother-child-transmission of HIV. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 156 000 pregnant women in Haiti were tested for HIV in the fiscal year of 2010, compared to 132 000 in fiscal 2009.

Despite progress, Haiti continues to face repeated challenges. Health services are stretched and the cholera epidemic has further hindered the country’s ability to deliver HIV services. Sexual and gender-based violence in the temporary settlements is placing women at high risk of HIV infection.

According to the latest estimates from UNAIDS, 1.9% of the adult population in Haiti is living with HIV. Nearly half (46%) of all people living with HIV in the Caribbean reside in Haiti.