UNHCR’s work on HIV in the Americas


Acnur Global Education Magazine

In Latin America and the Caribbean there are around 3.6 million internally displaced persons and about 445,000 refugees / asylum seekers facing a series of challenges due to their displacement, a situation that exposes them to a risk and vulnerability to HIV.
Border areas reports in most cases a higher HIV prevalence due to the presence of sex work networks, high levels of violence and lack of timely medical services related to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. During their transit, our population of interest may be a victim of sexual exploitation and violence, situations that can lead to acquiring HIV infection. Besides, their legal status often hampers timely and equal access to existing health services in these areas. Poverty, broken family structures, social obstacles to local integration, precarious education services, and situations of stigma and discrimination due to their refugee status, also expose them to factors that facilitate HIV transmission in their host communities.
UNHCR seeks to ensure that our target population has access to information on HIV prevention and transmission and that people living with HIV could have full access to HIV treatment, care and support services without becoming victims of stigma and discrimination, or that their refugee status may affect the provision of these services. In a broader way, UNHCR conducts advocacy interventions before governments and international agencies aiming at the inclusion of our population of interest in the design and implementation of HIV national and international programmes.
Projects and actions designed by UNHCR HIV focal points from each country operation with the support of the HIV Regional Coordination, corresponds to strategic planning that seeks to develop and apply the 10 Key Points on HIV/AIDS and the Protection of Refugees, IDPs and Other Persons of Concern and the latest UNAIDS recommendations on the subject for our region.
During 2012 countries as Mexico and Brazil implemented a series of HIV and Reproductive Health trainings to stakeholders working on refugee issues. In Ecuador, a project was implemented in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana (northern border with Colombia) for strengthening the sex work network in the area of ​​HIV prevention amd other sexually transmitted. Venezuela implemented a project aimed at promoting human rights and the reduction of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV in border communities with Colombia (Tachira, Zulia and Apure). Dominican Republic implemented a set of actions on HIV prevention and reproductive health issues in rural areas (Monte Plata) and urban areas (Boca Chica) of Santo Domingo. Costa Rica and Haiti implemented projects related to HIV and Sexual Gender based Violence in urban areas. Finally, Panama developed a series of trainings in the border area with Colombia (Darien) on HIV prevention measures and reproductive health addressed to population of concern and local population.
Although our region has made significant progress in terms of access to antiretroviral therapy, unfortunately there is an increase in the report of new HIV infections.  Taking into account these circumstances it is essential that UNHCR continues to implement HIV and Reproductive Health projects and actions in benefit of our population of concern.
Despite all the progress that has been achieved since the first AIDS case was detected more than 30 year ago, there is still much to do to in order reach a world vision in which there is no a single HIV infection, where nobody dies as a results of aids and free of stigma and discrimination. Meanwhile, the battle continues.


Rosalina Cermeño Vargas

Associate Regional HIV & Reproductive Health Officer for the Americas
Regional Office Panama


This article was published on April7th: World Health Day in Global Education Magazine.

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