In 1987 there were an estimated 1,500 people suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Haiti. Most of the cases were reported in Port-au-Prince. The earliest reported case of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection was in 1978, and the earliest case of AIDS-related Karposi's sarcoma was in 1979. About two of every five AIDS patients in Haiti in 1987 were women. The exact number of people infected with HIV was unknown, but one sample of pregnant women in a poor neighborhood of the capital revealed that 8 percent tested positive for the virus. Most people infected with HIV appear to have contracted the virus through heterosexual intercourse. Transfusions of infected blood also were responsible for transmitting the virus to large numbers of people, especially women, who routinely received blood after childbirth. The Haitian Red Cross did not begin screening the blood supply in Port-au-Prince for HIV until 1986. Blood supplies outside the capital continued to be unscreened in the late 1980s. The use of contaminated needles accounted for 5 percent of the country's AIDS cases.
Homosexual activity has contributed to the spread of AIDS in Haiti. AIDS transmission was also related to female and male prostitution. At least 50 percent of the female prostitutes in the capital city's main prostitution center were believed to be infected with HIV.
Because of the prevalence of AIDS in the Haitian immigrant population, the United States Center for Disease Control classified Haitians as a high-risk group for the disease in 1982. It rescinded the classification in 1985, however. Early studies suggested that Haiti might have been the origin of the disease. By the late 1980s, most AIDS researchers in Haiti claimed that male homosexual tourists brought the disease to the country in the late 1970s.
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