About 28 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and 3 million people have been displaced by violence. In Barranquilla, the fourth biggest city in Colombia, 40.6 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty according to the Center of Regional Studies of the Bank of the Republic in 2011. The city is noted one of the five poorest cities in the country according to an Espectador.com article from April 2013.
Many Barranquilla residents have been displaced from other locations. In one-third of these families, the woman is the head of the household, while about 65 percent of those women of working age are working on an informal freelance basis.
HIV/AIDS in Colombia is a pressing issue that receives very little attention. Although national statistics consistently show the profound impact HIV/AIDS has on Colombia’s health and development, most social and health programs do not address HIV/AIDS-related issues, as this is still seen as an uncomfortable subject to discuss.
According to the latest epidemiological bulletin of the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, from 1985 to 2012, a total of 95,187 cases of HIV/AIDS and related deaths were reported, showing a gradual but continuous growth in the number of cases nationwide. In 2012, a total of 8,196 new cases were entered into the SIVIGILA (i.e., a monitoring system); of these, 98.5 percent were as a result of sexual transmission.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Colombia has a gender distribution of 74.6 percent for men and 25.3 percent for women. However, the sex ratio has shifted from a 10:1 male-female ratio in the 1990s to 2.5:1 in 2012. Over the years, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has been increasing in the female and youth populations: two groups with low levels of HIV testing and prevention.
Lack of information is still very common; 52.7 percent of the reported HIV/AIDS cases are concentrated in people ages 20 – 39. However, this same group has a very low perception of their vulnerability to STIs.
When analyzing the incidence rate (x 100,000) of reported cases of HIV/AIDS nationwide by regional departments from 2011 to 2012, Atlántico in Barranquilla had the highest proportion of cases: 50.6 percent in 2012, followed by Bolivar (Cartagena) with 37.6 percent in 2012.
As part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the HIV prevalence rate should be less than 1 percent within the adult population and Mother-to-Child transmission (MTCT) less than 2 percent by 2015. Analyzing the percentage of MTCT in 2010, Atlántico has a prevalence of 5 percent and Barranquilla 5.7 percent, significantly higher levels than those acceptable by the MDGs. In terms of prevalence in the general population, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) calculated the Colombian prevalence rate at 0.52 percent for adults and children in 2012. However, the vulnerable populations have significantly higher prevalence rates: 13.6 percent among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Barranquilla, 3.5 percent among intravenous drug users in Medellin, 4.5 percent among sex workers and 17.4 percent among street people in Barranquilla.
Our areas of focus
FXB Colombia began in Barranquilla in 1995 as a pioneering organization working with families and children living in extreme poverty and affected by HIV. More than 400 children and their families have benefited from FXB’s holistic approach, which included not only the right medication but also the training needed to follow the treatment, psychosocial and nutritional counseling and awareness about children’s rights. FXB Colombia has also provided HIV/AIDS awareness training to about 165,000 people from all walks of life – from at-risk street youth to community leaders and members of the medical profession.
Until 2011, FXB operated the FXB House, a primary care center that housed and treated children and families living with HIV/AIDS. During this time, beneficiaries received comprehensive care including antiretroviral drugs; prophylactic and laboratory tests; periodic nutritional assessments; individualized nutritional treatment, support and food supply; psychosocial care and support; educational and recreational activities; permanent homes for orphaned and abandoned children; and guidance on the legal aspects of HIV/AIDS.
In 2011, FXB transitioned from the primary care center model, the FXB House, to two primary activities: the FXBVillage program and a permanent HIV and health training and education component. In December 2013, 148 adults and 283 children had been brought out of extreme poverty following the successful FXBVillage program. In January 2014, FXB Colombia selected the next group of beneficiaries for its second FXBVillage program, which was in the La Luz area of Barranquilla.
As part of its HIV and health training and education component, FXB provides a series of workshops in prevention and education designed for and delivered all along the Caribbean Coast. These workshops cover issues such as proper care of children with HIV/AIDS (e.g., bio-security standards, hygiene and administration of antiretroviral medication); counseling and training in the comprehensive management of HIV/AIDS to health professionals; sexual and reproductive health with emphasis on HIV/AIDS tailored to schools, universities, businesses and the general community; and the reduction of mother-child transmission of HIV. To date, FXB has trained more than 30,000 people across the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
Our future plans
- Reinfore the capacities of the 100 families that participated in the FXBVillage program to ensure they overcome extreme poverty and become fully self-sufficient by 2016
- Increase awareness among the FXBVillage families of their HIV status by 2015
- Diminish the vulnerability of young people to drug consumption and STI contraction
- Reduce the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS in the neighborhood of La Lu by 2016
- Find new partners to replicate the FXBVillage poverty alleviation program to support and empower vulnerable families of Colombia.