World Aids Day will be observed tomorrow, December 1, 2020. In a statement to mark the occasion, UNAIDS said that Guyana has exceeded the target for testing, with 94 per cent of people living with HIV diagnosed.
Barbados, on the other hand, has reached the target. Haiti has gotten 98 per cent of diagnosed people on treatment.
Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have achieved viral suppression among at least 90 per cent of people living with HIV who are on treatment.
Reacting to the accomplishment, UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office Director, Dr James Guwani said: “This shows that within the region there is the capacity to deploy the people, policies and programmes to end AIDS.”
Notwithstanding this, UNAIDS said that the Caribbean will not meet the Fast Track targets set for the end of this year. In a report titled, “Prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre,” UNAIDS noted that while the global response to AIDS was off track before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid spread of coronavirus has created additional setbacks.
“Modelling of the pandemic’s long-term impact on the HIV response shows that globally there could be at least 123,000 additional new HIV infections and 69,000 additional AIDS-related deaths between 2020 and 2022.”
According to UNAIDS, insufficient investment and action on HIV and other pandemics left the world exposed to COVID-19. It noted that had health systems and social safety nets been even stronger, the world would have been better positioned to slow the spread of COVID-19 and withstand its impact.
“COVID-19 has shown that investments in health save lives but also provide a foundation for strong economies. Health and HIV programmes must be fully funded, both in times of plenty and in times of economic crisis.”
According to UNAIDS, at the end of 2019, an estimated 330,000 people were living with HIV in the region. Overall, it added that the Caribbean adult HIV prevalence was 1.1 per cent last year. In 2019, 77 per cent of people living with HIV in the Caribbean knew their status.
This compares to the worldwide average of 80 per cent. Eighty-one per cent of diagnosed Caribbean people were on treatment last year, while 80 per cent of those on antiretroviral therapy were virally suppressed.
The global average was significantly higher, at 88 per cent.
Some countries have achieved elements of the 90–90–90 targets (90 per cent of people living with HIV aware of their HIV status, 90 per cent of diagnosed people on antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment virally suppressed). Barbados has reached the target for testing while Guyana has exceeded it with 94 per cent of people living with HIV diagnosed.
“Deaths due to AIDS have decreased by 37 per cent since 2010. Total antiretroviral treatment coverage for the region was 63-71 per cent for women and 56 per cent for men. New HIV infections have decreased by 29 per cent in the region since 2010. One-third of new HIV infections in the Caribbean in 2019 were among young people ages 15-24,” UNAIDS noted.
While most Caribbean countries have been able to sustain HIV treatment access during COVID-19, it pointed out that there are concerns that other branches of the AIDS response have suffered. “We need innovative strategies to ensure we do not lose ground around HIV testing and prevention because of COVID19,” said Dr Guwani.
UNAIDS is collaborating with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) on an advocacy strategy in support of HIV self-testing.
The initiative will be launched today.