December 1 is World AIDS Day, and so it is worth looking at the situation relating to HIV/AIDS in El Salvador. A recent USAID profile provides an overview of the prevalence of the disease and efforts to combat it.
HIV and AIDS Estimates
- Total Population 5.9 million (mid-2007)
- Estimated Population Living with HIV/AIDS 36,000 [22,000-72,000]
- Adult HIV Prevalence 0.9%
- HIV Prevalence in Most-At-Risk Populations
Sex Workers: 3% (2007)
(16% of sex workers in Puerto de Acajutla, 2006)
Homosexual males: 17.8% (2006)
- Percentage of HIV-Infected People Who Need Treatment That Receive ART 39% (end 2006)
While these statistics classify El Salvador as a "low-HIV prevalance country," there are some factors which create the risk that the danger could grow:
Factors that put El Salvador at risk of a larger epidemic include early initiation of sex, limited knowledge or practice of preventive practices among people engaging in high-risk behaviors, and the country’s large mobile population. The National Health Survey conducted in 2002 and 2003 indicated that 32 percent of females aged 15 to 19 were already sexually active. Knowledge about HIV/AIDS remains somewhat limited, as evidenced by one multicenter study in which 40 percent of MSM had false beliefs about the modes of transmission of HIV. Among sex workers, an estimated 90 percent do not use condoms with regular partners. Compounding these issues are S&D toward HIV-infected individuals and at-risk groups, which can deter people from getting tested and receiving adequate support if they have the disease.
The USAID report also describes the Salvadoran government's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS:
Following the worldwide “Three Ones” principles,1 El Salvador formed the National AIDS Commission (CONASIDA) to act as the country’s AIDS coordinating mechanism. One of the achievements of CONASIDA was the development of the 2005 National Policy for Comprehensive HIV Care. Important government activities include signing the Declaration of San Salvador for fighting AIDS in Central America and the Caribbean and the creation of an HIV/AIDS/sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention program for mobile populations. The latter is particularly important because El Salvador is a corridor for migrants. El Salvador is also implementing the Regional HIV/STI Plan for the Health Sector 2006-2015 of the Pan American Health Organization.
Free HIV testing began in El Salvador in 1997, and in January 2002, the Ministry of Health (MOH) began to offer antiretroviral treatment (ART). By December 2006, 174 health facilities and two mobile clinics offered HIV testing for free, and 3,447 people were receiving ART without charge. In cooperation with other countries in the region, the Salvadoran Government negotiated with major pharmaceutical manufacturers and received price reductions on antiretroviral drugs. Currently, 39 percent of people infected with HIV who need ART receive it. In 2003, the country began a national program called Make the Decision to Wait to teach adolescents about safer sexual behaviors and to abstain from sex, and in 2005, two major campaigns were launched to combat stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
You can find much more information about HIV/AIDS in El Salvador at this link at globalhealthreporting.org.