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Cuba: Ongoing HIV/AIDS Education Efforts

Even though Cuba has one of the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the Caribbean region, there are still ongoing education efforts to reduce the number of new infections, as well as to break down the stigma of the disease.

According to data from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, it is estimated that the number of Cubans living with HIV is 6,200 and the prevalence rate among adults aged 15-49 is 0.1% Approximately 57% of these cases can be found in the capital city of Havana [es]. However, as Mileyda Menéndez Dávila of Juventud Rebelde [es] notes that this has been changing over the past few years:

Elemento distintivo en la expansión del VIH en Cuba es su distribución geográfica. Diez años atrás la epidemia se concentraba sobre todo en ciudades cabecera, fundamentalmente, además de otros poblados. En el 2006 no se reportaban casos en 41 de los 169 municipios cubanos: hoy todos tienen algún grado de afectación.

A distinct element in the expansion of HIV in Cuba is its geographic distribution. Ten years ago, the epidemic was mostly concentrated in the capital cities, and other larger towns. In 2006, there were no reported cases in 41 of the 169 Cuban municipalities: today all of the municipalities have some degree of infection.

Some of this shift can be blamed on some people's belief that infection only happens to others, as well as a lackadaisical view on the seriousness of the disease. Menéndez Dávila adds:

Más bien abundan las disonancias entre el saber y el hacer cotidiano, y aunque se detecten nuevos casos por día, mucha gente prefiere ahogar su conciencia con sonsonetes adormecedores como «Eso no me tocará a mí», «Ya el sida no es tan grave porque los medicamentos alargan el plazo» y hasta «!De algo hay que morirse, ¿no?!».

There are also much dissonance between the knowledge and everyday actions, and even though new cases are detected every day, many people prefer to drown their conscience with numb sayings like ‘That won't happen to me’, ‘AIDS is not so serious because medicines lengthen people's lives’ and even ‘One must die of something, right?’

One blogging activist who is trying to break down these misconceptions about the disease and about infection is Sandra Alvarez. On her blog Negra Cubana Tenía que Ser [es], she often shares news, statistics about HIV/AIDS in Cuba, as well as personal anecdotes. One recent story involves friends of hers, who happen to be HIV positive, and decide to have a baby. Regarding this experience, she writes:

Con ella y él aprendí que los seres humanos somos mucho más que cuerpos biológicos sanos o enfermos, o seres racionales que, en ocasiones, analizamos los hechos con pasmosa frialdad.

With them, I learned that human beings are much more than biological bodies, healthy or sick, or rational beings that, on occasion, analyze the facts with a calm coolness.

She contributes to Bloggers Cuba [es], and earlier this year she shared her experience of getting tested. She describes some of the items asked by her tester:

Y tú, hace cuanto tiempo no te haces la prueba de VIH?

Piénsalo, se puede vivir con el resultado…

And you, how long has it been since you have been tested for HIV?

Think about it, whether you can live with the result…

Photo of negative test result and used with permission by Sandra Alvarez

Photo of negative test result and used with permission by Sandra Alvarez

1 comment

  • Reinier. A

    Definitivamente Cuba es parte del mundo por lo que un crecimiento en los casos de VIH no es extraño, menos cuando a pesar de los esfuerzos de los trabajadores de la salud en la Isla, los miles de voluntarios que trabajan para educar a los diversos grupos de la poblacion y los millones de dolares donados para fortalecer el trabajo en ese sentido el gobierno no traza o apoya estrategias en el interes superior de la salud del pueblo cubano sino que como es costumbre la politica marca las pautas a seguir, es esa una razon importante a tener en cuenta cuando analizamos en el crecimiento de la epidemia de VIH en Cuba.

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