An assessment next year will determine whether ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Public Health will be enough for Guyana to achieve the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission [EMTCT] of HIV and syphilis status.
According to Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, her Ministry is currently engaged in active data collection and verification for the completion of the country’s elimination process.
In so doing, she said that moves have been made to facilitate training in Case Tracking and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission for health workers.
The efforts at eliminating the transmission of the disease, according to the Minister, have in fact allowed for Guyana, like a number of other Caribbean territories, to be on target for the preparation and completion of a report that reflects its progress.
It is expected that Guyana will be able to submit a report to this effect this very month, following which a regional assessment is likely to be completed in the New Year.
According to Minister Lawrence, “if Guyana succeeds at this level, then an international assessment will be conducted”. She informed that should Guyana fulfil all requirements, then the third phase of being granted a certificate of elimination will ensue.
Candidate countries can apply to the World Health Organisation [WHO] through the Pan American Health Organisation [PAHO] to be certified for the EMTCT of HIV and syphilis. In the Americas, Cuba in 2015 and, in 2017, six other countries and territories from the Caribbean were recognized by WHO for the dual elimination.
On December 1 last, the Caribbean saw Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis being duly certified by WHO. Other countries of the world that have been so certified are Thailand and Belarus, while Armenia and the Republic of Moldova achieved global elimination goals for mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and syphilis, respectively.
Since 2010, PAHO Member states have committed to EMTCT of HIV and syphilis in the Region. These commitments were renewed and expanded in 2016 through the approved Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections [2016 – 2021] contributing to the end of AIDS and sexually transmitted infections [STIs] as a public health problem in the Americas.
According to PAHO, the Plan of Action expands the EMTCT initiative, making it into the EMTCT Plus, thereby leveraging the maternal and child health platform to include the elimination of other preventable communicable diseases in the Americas, such as Hepatitis B and Chagas. Moreover, “the objective of the EMTCT Plus is to achieve and sustain the EMTCT of HIV, syphilis, Chagas and perinatal Hepatitis B as a public health threat. It embraces the principles and lines of action of the Strategy for Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage,” according to PAHO.
Meanwhile, as part of its projections for HIV and AIDS, Minister Lawrence said that moves will be made by the local public health sector to sustain community-based initiatives, involvement of Non-Governmental Organisations [NGOs], Schools and Faith Based Organisations.
But according to the Minister, despite noble efforts, the strides of the health sector in the fight against HIV continue to be undermined by stigma and discrimination. This, she said, has resulted in the emergence of new cases in the 15-24 years age range.
To help arrest this challenge, she said that the Adolescent Health Unit of her Ministry will reemphasize the importance of teenage-friendly clinics, and implement measures to have Health Clubs in Secondary Schools, so that “we can nip it in the bud and tackle issues before they arise.” This tactic, she said, will be done in collaboration with the National AIDs Programme Secretariat and the Ministry of Education.
Moves in this direction will be complemented by the reintroduction of HIV prevention, testing and treatment campaigns via social media, radio and television; air time for programme managers, coordinators, key partners and stakeholders.
Further, the Minister revealed that the Public Health Ministry will be piloting a point of care testing programme at the National Care and Treatment Centre for non-HIV sexually transmitted infections such as Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
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