Cuba's response to the HIV epidemic

E J Pérez-Stable, Cheryl Healton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Cuba's response to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic has been to conduct mass testing of the population to ascertain seroprevalence, to enforce mandatory relative quarantine of persons testing positive, and to implement educational interventions using media and school-based programs.

METHODS: Interview with the Vice-Minister of Health and review of available data.

RESULTS: Reports to date show a very low seroprevalence rate without evidence of a widespread epidemic. Sexual contact with foreign-born persons is the primary risk factor. Possible advantages of Cuba's policy include rapid reduction in the risk of HIV transmission by infected blood products, an opportunity for focused education and secondary prevention, and limitation of new infections. Possible disadvantages include the restriction of individual freedom in those who are not guilty of any illegal act, quarantine of persons with false positive HIV tests, and ongoing transmission because of the incomplete nature of the quarantine. The policy is expensive and may displace other public health priorities. The content of the media-based educational interventions has emphasized rational medical information in unimaginative formats with a limited focus on prevention.

CONCLUSIONS: The issue of personal responsibility for behavioral change versus government imposed regulations is at the core of Cuba's HIV policy. The quarantine policy may paradoxically permit most Cubans to feel that they are personally invulnerable to the HIV epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-7
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1991


  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  • Adult
  • Cuba
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Education
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Quarantine
  • Resource Allocation
  • Social Justice
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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