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Guatemala HIV

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Guatemala's HIV infection rate is 0.8 percent of the population, and the country has seen 10,900 new HIV infections in the last four years, a senior Health Ministry official said Wednesday.

A total of 22,260 HIV infections have been registered since the first case was detected in 1984, and more than half have been contracted since 2006, Claudia Samayoa, coordinator of the Guatemalan Health Ministry's national AIDS program, said after Guatemala signed an agreement to receive 4 million U.S. dollars in anti-HIV assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

About 95 percent of the cases were sexually transmitted, and among high risk groups such as homosexuals and sex workers, infection rates were closer to 5 percent, Samayoa told reporters at the signing ceremony, one of the nation's events to mark International AIDS Day.

USAID project officer Lucrecia Castillo noted that some of the increase comes from better testing, as in the past, many people did not know they were infected.

Castillo warned that homophobia is an obstacle in fighting the spread of the disease, as "communities that identify as homosexual are being reached, but not those who do not wish to be identified."
The United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS says that Belize has the highest HIV prevalence rate in Central America, at 2.3 percent. Panama is in second place with 0.9 percent, and Guatemala and El Salvador are tied for third place with 0.8 percent.