Honduras: Afro-Caribbean Communities Fight HIV

In the village of Corozal in Honduras, two teenage Garifuna boys begin playing drums while women sing as part of a theater troupe that educates the community on HIV. For centuries, the playing of drums and singing has been the signature sound of celebration for the Garifuna, an Afro-Caribbean people on the Atlantic coast of Central America. Now this music has an additional purpose: to prevent HIV.

 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 percent of the Honduran Garifuna population has HIV — a proportion that is five times as high as in the country as a whole. No nation in the Western Hemisphere has a rate that high. Factors contributing to the high HIV rate include a lack of education, widespread poverty and heavy migration, as men tend to find work on cruise ships and fishing boats that frequent ports rife with the virus.

 

Locals also say HIV spreads because it can be culturally acceptable to have sex with multiple partners. About 220 miles away, in the capital of Tegucigalpa, health ministry officials are eager for data on the effectiveness of this approach. They are completing a new study with the CDC on HIV prevalence among the Garifuna. If the rate falls from 4.5 percent, it could indicate that educational programs like theater groups are working. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Honduran government have both funded theater groups including the one in Corozal.

 

Click here for article and audio on NPR.

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