Red flag on sex tourism
A major non-profit, community advocacy group is urging Americans to be "seriously concerned about the explosion of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean".
In a statement, HR Reality Check said that poverty, gender inequalities and a high degree of HIV-related stigma have caused "a festering of the epidemic in the region".
"Human mobility throughout the Caribbean, between the region and other geographic areas, including migration and tourism which brings more than 20 million visitors each year, has also been singled out as a major driver of the epidemic," it said, pointing to UNAIDS statistics, which state that AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among people aged 25 to 44 years in the region.
HR Reality Check said the main mode of HIV transmission in the region is unprotected heterosexual intercourse and unprotected sex between sex workers and clients.
UNAIDS estimates that 330,000 HIV-positive people live in the Caribbean, about 22,000 of whom are children, with women accounting for 51 per cent of people living with HIV.
Against this background, the statement said there is "massive human interaction between the US and the Caribbean, with many Americans attracted to visit the idyllic, sandy and sunny spots in the region."
Statistics from the US Depart-ment of Commerce show that 14 per cent of the 27.3 million US travellers in 2004 went to the Caribbean.
HR Reality Check said while bringing much-needed revenue to the region, the impact of tourism has seen a rise in commercial sex, "with poor women and men aged between 18 to 44 selling their bodies as a means of survival throughout the Caribbean".
"Many American tourists, both male and female, perceive the Caribbean region as sexually exotic and free-going.
"So, it's common that when Americans visit the Caribbean, many end up engaging in sexual activity, in a high HIV-risk environment," it added.