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Project January 23, 2013

The Forgotten: HIV and the Garifuna of Honduras


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Image by David Rochkind. Honduras, 2012.

On the Atlantic coast of Honduras exists an ethnic and cultural treasure. The Garifuna, a group of Afro-Caribbean descendants of West African slaves, have their own language and a rich tradition of dance and music that has been recognized by UNESCO. But their culture and language are in jeopardy, and HIV is one of the greatest threats to their survival.

The Garifuna have one of the highest HIV rates in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. The benchmark study on the subject -- a 2006 report by the CDC and the Honduran Ministry of Health -- shows they have an HIV prevalence rate of 4.5 percent. That's five times as high as the Honduras national rate. Yet relatively low rates in the rest of Latin America cause the region to be overlooked in the global conversation about AIDS, which means the serious health risk for the Garifuna does not get the attention it needs from the media.

Faced with this serious problem, the community is using one of its greatest strengths to gain ground in the fight against HIV: its culture. Local groups are incorporating powerful Garifuna music and dance into theater workshops and performances that aim to educate people about HIV. At the same time, they are combating some of the risk factors that contribute to the high HIV rate, such as poverty, gender inequality, and lack of access to education and health care.

Editor's note: The information on this page has been updated.


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