Today is World AIDS Day and locally the statistics reveal that there are 7,000 Guyanese living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Of the infected, 5,300 have been linked to a care and treatment facility with approximately 85 percent receiving Antiretroviral Treatment. This is according to information recorded by the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, the HIV/AIDS fighting arm of the Ministry of Public Health.
NAPS has been able to deduce, too, that it is estimated that less than 200 persons die annually from AIDS-related illnesses.
Guyana has been realizing some major gains in its fight against the once dreaded disease. Among these is the fact that the Mother to Child Transmission rate of HIV currently stands at two percent and the prevalence of the infection in pregnant mothers remains at 1.9 percent.
NAPS has revealed too that the trends suggest that there has been a gradual decline in the number of new AIDS cases over the past five years. Further, it has been found that the gender most affected here in Guyana is male, while persons between the ages of 25 and 49 years continue to account for most of the new HIV infections. However, it has been found that in the epidemiological context of Guyana, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of youth between the age of 15 and 24 affected.
But Guyana, like the rest of the world, has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Even as efforts are geared to commemorate World AIDS Day today, Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, has expressed satisfaction that Guyana has realized some real successes in its fight against the disease.
“We must acknowledge that Guyana has achieved remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The country has demonstrated a steady decrease in the number of AIDS cases and the number of AIDS-related deaths,” the Minister has asserted.
He disclosed that baseline data gathered indicates that the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women attending antenatal clinics decreased from 3.1 percent in 2003 to 1.9 percent in 2015. Interventions for key populations at higher risk, which include men who have sex with men, female sex workers, transgender, miners and loggers – being a group that is disproportionately affected by HIV – saw a combined total of 14,942 persons being reached and some 6,755 tested and aware of their status during the first half of 2016.
Guyana as well as the rest of the world is moving towards the “Fast Track” as part of the Sustainable Development Goal to end AIDS in 2030, and as such Minister Norton noted that “we have to intensify our efforts in reaching the 90-90-90 goal established by UNAIDS.”
Guyana committed some three years ago to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal which will see 90 percent of the Persons Living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of those knowing enrolled in a facility and 90 percent of that group receiving therapy, by 2020.
With the reduction of new HIV infections in adults grinding to a halt and an upsurge of new infections in youths especially girls, seen globally, there is an obvious need to strengthen HIV prevention efforts. There is also a dire need to address cross-cutting issues which infringe on the human rights of all Guyanese to freely access the health care offered to people living with HIV, Minister Norton has observed. He therefore noted that “We must examine the possibility of targeted interventions which will ensure that funds are invested in a rational manner and will lead to ‘value for money’.”
The Public Health Minister has however acknowledged that much of what Guyana has achieved would not have been possible without the support of partners such as PEPFAR, Global Fund, UNAIDS, PAHO/WHO, Civil Society Organizations and the People living with HIV network.
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