Honduras may not be the first country you would think of as a holiday destination or even your second choice but you may be suprised how the country is rapidly changing, although it has a long way to go and has many problems and a turbulant past.
Much of the north west of Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea and it is sandwiched between the other Central American countries of Guatemala and Nicaragua. Honduras was devasated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 when at least 5,000 people were killed and much damage caused. Until about 50 years ago the main source of income was coffee and bananas. Now, many people go to work in the US and they send money home to their relatives in Honduras.
As much as 50% of the population of Honduras are below the age of 19 years old and the country has endemic poverty and chronic unemployment as well as a high crime rate fuelled by drugs.
As is often the case with many countries drugs can lead to problems with HIV and AIDS and this is very true of Honduras. A friend of mine, Bill Stephenson lived and photographed the AIDS sufferers at The San Jose´ Hospice, run by Jospice International and the HIV+ working prostitutes at Chicas and Fanny’s Bar bordello’s, located in the red light district of the Barrio Cabanas, one of the poorest suburbs of San Pedro Sula.
From a population of 7.1m (2008) it is estimated there are 63,000 HIV+ sufferers, 70% of these are young people. The main transmission route for infection in the early 1990’s was through prostitution infecting mostly men, this has now spread throughout the population, AIDS has become the first cause of death among women of child bearing age. Poverty, ignorance, poor public health, male machismo, the low status of women and the Catholic church’s stance on condoms have all contributed to the steady acceleration of HIV infection.
The photgraphs that Bill Stephenson took are available to view on his website. They make shocking graphic viewing but are uterley compelling to look at.