Dec 06, 2022 News
– Health Minister says at inaugural HIV/STI Conference
Kaieteur News – The government through the Ministry of Health is working assiduously to end the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by 2030.
Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony said Guyana has made significant progress in the fight against HIV since recording its first case in 1987.
“Compare 35 years ago to where we are today, we have really made a transformation in how we have been managing this disease. We have had a lot of dedication; a lot of work being done and because of that, we have seen this transformation. When you look at what we have accomplished, while locally we have people making those sacrifices, we also had a lot of good partnerships.”
The Minister of Health said that with the type of technical assistance being offered “We were able to advance our HIV treatment and care programme and if I dare say, one of the best in the Caribbean.” He was at the time speaking at the Guyana’s first HIV/STI Conference held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) on Sunday.
Guyana is confident that ending AIDS by 2030 is highly achievable.
“And so, today we are at a place if we work a little bit harder towards this objective that we have in the world of ending AIDS by 2030, we can actually do so. It is just not an aspiration but I think it’s within our grasp,” said the minister.
Further, Dr. Anthony noted that based on the 95-95-95 targets set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, in Guyana, 94 percent of HIV-positive persons know their status, 76 percent of those diagnosed are receiving antiretroviral treatment and 28 percent of those diagnosed have achieved viral suppression.
The minister highlighted that government has already procured a vital load-testing machine which is expected to be in the country early next year. When installed, the machine will become available to every HIV-positive patient.
“So, I am sure that once we start using viral loads that 28 percent that we now have would go up significantly. I think the estimate is that we probably have 89 or so percent of the people, who are receiving treatment virally suppressed but we can’t demonstrate that. With this machine and testing, we will be able to demonstrate that and I am sure we can work towards making sure that we get to that target by 2025,” Minister Anthony stated as he reiterated government’s commitment to spreading awareness on health-related issues and so, the conference will be hosted annually.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch said that the U.S. Government is proud of its long-standing partnership with Guyana in a number of areas through USAID dating back to 1961; and specifically to combat HIV.
She said that since 2004, through PEPFAR, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has supported Guyana Ministry of Health’s HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts. To date, the U.S. Government has provided more than $189M to support HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment services in the country through PEPFAR. It has been a remarkable partnership – and one that saves lives.
PEPFAR’s investment in laboratory system strengthening included construction of the National Public Health Reference Laboratory in 2008 through CDC. The facility conducts HIV and related testing to diagnose and monitor patients on treatment, while supporting diagnostic capacity for other diseases.
“In recent years, Guyana has made significant strides in the fight against HIV. Notably, more than 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status. This is critical knowledge, as it allows individuals to be initiated on life-saving HIV treatment. With treatment, individuals’ health can be sustained and the levels of virus can be reduced to an undetectable level, preventing transmission to others. However, of every four individuals diagnosed, only three are on treatment,” the U.S. Envoy said.
Further, the Ambassador said that the CDC and USAID have worked with vulnerable populations and community and faith-based organizations in Guyana to help more people reduce their risks, initiate treatment, and remain on treatment to achieve viral suppression.
“PEPFAR support has led to the development and implementation of protocols, guidelines, SOPs and manuals aimed at providing quality HIV services and strengthening the supportive environment for key and vulnerable persons in Guyana. To ensure sustainability of programmes, we have worked with the Ministry of Health to support training of health workers and to strengthen the supply chain to ensure life-saving treatment is available,” she said.
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