Guyana has been named among five Caribbean territories that have been achieving some notable progress in the continued fight against HIV. Based on the latest HIV data contained in a UNAIDS report, three out of four people on
treatment achieved viral suppression in Barbados, Dominica, Guyana , Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
‘Viral suppression’ means that people living with HIV have been treated to lower the level of HIV in their blood to undetectable levels. This protects their health while preventing transmission of the virus. Notably, several countries are getting closer to reaching the target.
However, only about half of people accessing antiretroviral therapy in the Caribbean had access to routine viral load testing. Added to this, in 2016, one-third (33 percent) of those on treatment were not virally suppressed.
Regional Support Team Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Dr. César Núñez emphasized that “community health workers and civil society are critical to securing early HIV diagnosis and successful treatment.”
Moreover, the report calls for greater community involvement in Caribbean health-care provision in order to reach the 90- 90-90 targets. The 90- 90-90 targets call for 90 percent of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will be receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy having viral suppression by 2020.
The new report with the latest data on HIV was launched yesterday by UNAIDS. The report comes ahead of the International Conference on HIV Science that will take place in Paris next week.
Entitled ‘Ending AIDS: progress towards the 90-90-90 targets’, the report contains the most recent data on the AIDS epidemic, including the new estimated numbers of people on antiretroviral treatment, people living with HIV, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. It also gives detailed analysis of progress towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets and ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to information disseminated by UNAIDS yesterday, the Caribbean chapter of the report explains that the Caribbean can meet the treatment targets to set in on the path to ending AIDS by increasing HIV testing and viral suppression.
According to UNAIDS, the annual flagship report, shows that the Caribbean could reach the testing and treatment targets that will put it on course to end its AIDS epidemic if it accelerates its response. According to Ending AIDS: progress towards the 90-90-90 targets, in order to speed up progress, the region must improve strategies to ensure more people living with HIV are diagnosed and that there are higher levels of viral suppression among those on treatment. “The region has achieved remarkable progress in expanding HIV services,” said Núñez. “We need to continue work to ensure that we leave no one behind.”
The report gives detailed analysis of progress and challenges toward achieving the benchmarks set to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Currently four out of five or 81 percent of people in the Region living with HIV who know their status are accessing antiretroviral therapy. This means the Region as a whole is doing a fairly good job at starting people on treatment following diagnosis. Haiti is the only country in the region to have achieved the second target—at least 90 percent of diagnosed people on treatment. HIV treatment coverage has contributed to a 52 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the Caribbean over the last decade.
Another positive note is that the scale has tipped and more than half of all people or 52 percent living with HIV in the region are on antiretroviral therapy.
But although the Caribbean has achieved strong progress related to getting people living with HIV on treatment and reducing deaths due to AIDS, the report underscores that there yet remains some gaps.
There is still a significant proportion of people (48 percent) not yet accessing treatment, according to UNAIDS. Of concern is the fact that the Region is lagging behind on HIV testing and viral suppression.
UNAIDS said that progress must be accelerated for the Caribbean to achieve the 90-90- 90 targets that will set it on course to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. It has been outlined that at least one-third of people (36 percent) living with HIV in the Caribbean are not aware of their HIV status.
As such community-centred strategies are urgently needed to reach those who have not yet been diagnosed, UNAIDS has noted. Added to this, the Caribbean must also improve efforts to keep people in care once they’ve started treatment and to ensure that treatment is successful.
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