The regional session on Latin America was informative, happy, and caliente!
Panelists included representatives from government agencies, international organizations, such as UNAIDS, activists, and NGOs. In Latin America there are 1.4 million people living with HIV, 1 million of those are men. We were informed that data on the transgender community is not as expansive as data on other populations. In terms of testing, one population that seems to be low hanging fruit are the TB patients. However, similar to Latinos in the US, Latinos in Latin America are also late testers and are not able to fully benefit from preventive treatment. In fact, 50% of those infected do not know their status. Nonetheless, the epidemic in Latin America continues to be stable but there have been no significant reduction in numbers or risk behaviors.
While the region continues to experience a lack of infrastructure and quality care, the majority of countries in the region are funding their efforts around HIV/AIDS with their own resources. Some countries do have external resources to count on but more than 6 provide 100% of their own resources and more than 13 provide more than 70%. Of all the resources in the region, 75% go towards treatment while 16% go towards prevention. Also, while MSM continue to be one of the most heavily impacted groups, there is very little to no money being allocated for this population. The problem is not that the region needs a massive amount of resources like some other regions do, the problem is around distribution.
Panelists were calling for a sustainable response, a common agenda with an alliance between public and private entities. There is a need for cooperation across countries between governments and civil society. Similar to our own Dr. Miriam Vega’s discourse on disruptive innovations, there was also a dialogue at this session around the disruptiveness of Global Fund programs. Once these projects came the region people became confused and missed a chance to see this as an opportunity. People forgot to connect with each other and focus on their communities that they knew so well. Again, there was a call for an alliance between the government and the people, and as one panelist said “we are not enemies, we are equals.”
Written by Bethsy Morales-Reid