Cuba expects to finish this year with a slight rise in HIV cases, but the number of people being diagnosed with the disease remains stable and the island is on the list of the 18 countries with the lowest transmission rates for the virus, Instituto de Medicina Tropical Pedro Kouri director Jorge Perez said.

"The group that is drawing our attention the most is the 24 to 39 age group, even though there is a slight increase, like in other countries in the world, among those older than 50," Perez told state media.

The HIV infection rate in Cuba, which has been a leader for decades in treating HIV/AIDS, "looks like it's going to have a slight increase" in 2013, Perez said without providing figures on the number of cases.

Cuba, according to official figures, had 17,000 HIV-positive people in 2012, of whom more than 14,000 were alive at the end of last year and 85 percent were between 15 and 49.

"We are among the countries with the lowest transmission rates in the Caribbean, which is the region with the most intensity in transmission, and among the 18 countries with the lowest transmission rates," Perez said.

Cuba has almost completely eliminated mother-to-child transmission, with only 42 cases of HIV-positive children registered since the start of the epidemic, the physician said.

The Public Health System has been able to provide anti-retroviral drugs "to 100 percent of those who need them," Perez said.

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