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Homophobia Shapes Treatment of HIV/AIDS Patients in Latin America And The Caribbean

Washington, DC, November 28, 2003 (PAHO)—Homophobia is a major factor in HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in Latin America and the Caribbean, including by health workers, according to a report by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The report deals with the worldwide cases of health care settings and how HIV/AIDS patients are stigmatized and discriminated against. It will be released on December 1 – World AIDS Day.

Extreme forms of discrimination, such as calls for isolation, are rare in Latin America and the Caribbean, the report says. “But discriminatory attitudes and behavior continue in many countries, with a negative impact on the psychological and physical well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS,” it adds.

The report’s perspective is global, but it devotes one chapter to Latin America and the Caribbean, a region in which it lists homophobia as a particularly serious problem.

“Despite the emergence of gay rights organizations and some acceptance of openly gay men in liberal social circles, homophobia remains widespread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and is a major factor in HIV/AIDS-related discrimination,” according to the report.

“Homophobia in the health services in the region is widely reported,” the report says.

However, the study also acknowledges that the issue of the link between homophobia and HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and stigma still needs more research and that conclusions so far are preliminary. “Such research is essential in the construction of an appropriate response to stigmas and discrimination.”

According to a December 2002 report prepared for PAHO in AIDS, with emphasis on gender and women’s vulnerability, some 40 million women, man and children were living with HIV/AIDS around the world as of that date – 2.74 million of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The Caribbean has the second highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world, after Sub-Saharan Africa,” that report said. It also noted that:

At the end of 1999, women made up 25% of HIV-positive results in Latin America and 30% in the Caribbean.

By the end of 2002, those percentages for women had increased to 30% in Latin America (out of 1.4 million affected people) and to 50% in the Caribbean (out of 420,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in that region).

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of its people. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

PAHO Member States today include all 35 countries in the Americas. France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are Participating States. Portugal and Spain are Observer States, and Puerto Rico is an Associate Member.

For more information:

For more information, video material, or photographs please contact: Daniel Epstein, Area of Public Information, (202) 974-3459, e-mail:, or Paulo Lyra, HIV/AIDS Unit, (202) 974-3937, e-email:

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
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