The fight to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS must remain valiant even as countries, Guyana being no exception, aim to end AIDS by the United Nations-proposed 2030 timeline.
But the gains made could be easily lost if key populations vulnerable to HIV are allowed to go unchecked, untreated and unsupported in their respective countries.
The outcome of this worst fear could see entire societies suffering, said Trinidadian Ian Ramdahin, the guest speaker at the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS [PANCAP] second joint regional dialogue with parliamentarians, faith leaders, civil society leaders, national AIDS programme managers and youth leaders, this week.
He stated that the region recognises that HIV and AIDS are critical developmental problems which have the potential to affect the present and future quality of life, labour, families, communities and the national economy.
“We do not want to be in this state, so let us all work together for the common good of humanity,” Ramdahin urged those who attended the meeting spearheaded by the Turkeyen-based PANCAP.
He further emphasised that the Region can rest assured that the improvements expressed and gains achieved thus far, as well as forthcoming recommendations, will not only serve to foster an efficient and sustained response to HIV and AIDS within the region but also contribute to other areas that impact on communities’ health and wellbeing.
He, moreover, challenged participants during the dialogue to take a deep insightful look at the PANCAP’s Justice-For-All [JFA] programme, which, he said, encompasses the adoption of the CARICOM Model Anti-Discrimination Legislation 2012.
The JFA programme also gives due consideration to recommendations that will improve the mechanisms for enhanced inter-regional collaboration within CARICOM member States and take into consideration the targets established by the United Nations High-Level Meeting Political Declaration [June 2016] on ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. It also embraces the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] approved by 192 nations at the United Nations in September 2015 and the commitments made by civil society, faith-based and other implementing stakeholder groups.
“Despite the successes to date, let us not become complacent or despondent about the world economic and financial downturns. We are here on a mission and tasked with ascertaining innovative ways for addressing how to sustain our responses for ending HIV and AIDS by 2030,” Ramdahin said.
He went on to note that the future goal of ending AIDS by 2030 is achievable and will only be sustained through the collective efforts of parliamentarians, faith leaders, civil society leaders, youth and National AIDS Programme [NAP] Managers working in harmony to ensure open, honest and consistent dialogue and collaboration to unlock and overcome the barriers for achieving regional and international goals.
“In making your respective contributions at this second Regional Dialogue, please be guided by CARICOM’s Vision statement which proposes a Caribbean Community that is integrated, inclusive and resilient; driven by knowledge, excellence, innovation and productivity; a Community where every citizen is secure and has the opportunity to realise his or her potential with guaranteed human rights and social justice; and contributes to, and shares in, its economic, social and cultural prosperity; a Community which is a unified and competitive force in the global arena,” Ramdahin urged.
He advised during the recent forum too that a vision is needed to start the process of charting the course and invited stakeholders to keep this vision in mind as they deliberate on the joint National and Regional Level Policy Formulation and Activities for advancing the short, medium and long term goals of the PANCAP’s JFA Roadmap.
The second PANCAP dialogue, Ramdahin said, represents yet another step in the way forward for laying the foundations for increasing engagement and promoting solidarity among stakeholder groups.
The PANCAP dialogue came to fruition even as Guyana redoubles its efforts to wage war against threatening HIV/AIDS trends. In its mid-year report, government admitted that the incidence of HIV grew to 142 cases per 100,000 persons, significantly higher than the 2018 rate of 117 per 100,000 persons.
In the face of this dilemma, “testing for HIV remains one of the most important activities in the fight against the virus,” government stated in the report.
To this end, and in its pursuit to achieve the 90-90-90 Treat All HIV Policy, government said that it has committed to increasing HIV testing and, with the help of Non-Governmental Organisations [NGOs], aim to augment access to testing of vulnerable groups.
The 90-90-90 goal is one which aims to ensure that by next year all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; all people diagnosed as positive will receive sustained treatment and all people receiving treatment will have viral suppression.
Even as moves are made to ramp up testing, government said that, through its Public Health Ministry, it is poised to ensure that the package of care offered through the collaboration with NGOs will include sensitisation, the distribution of condoms and linking persons to care and treatment sites. Furthermore, government in the report detailed plans to pilot new initiative as a counter-measure against HIV.
Already set in motion is the establishment of a public-private partnership with doctors within the private sector to whom patients are to be referred for treatment. “While the cost of treatment will remain free, the patient will be required to cover the doctor’s consultation fee,” the Mid-report outlined. Also government promised the introduction Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is a course of HIV drugs taken as a pre-emptive measure against the spread of disease, particularly targeted at vulnerable groups.
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