With some 8000 persons said to be living with HIV/AIDS in Guyana, Government, through the Public Health Ministry, is hoping that a high-level meeting set to be hosted by the United Nations in New York next month will aid in the push towards total eradication.
Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton said Guyana and countries across the Caribbean remained in second place, having the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases. They fall just beneath the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. On an average, there are about 5000 new cases diagnosed each year, with at least 200 persons dying from AIDS-related complications.
The Minister, along with UN Secretary General Special Envoy, Dr Edward Green and Country Manager UNAIDS for Guyana and Suriname Martin Oudit, met with journalists on Wednesday to brief them on the high level meeting. The officials also spoke to the state of affairs in Guyana, as it relates to the epidemic.
According to Dr Norton, it is important for Guyana to make representation at the high level meeting slated for June 8-10 at the UN Headquarters.
At the meeting, UN Member States will be expected to adopt a political declaration on ending AIDS, to scale up the pace of progress and reassess time-bound targets.
The UNAIDS Country Manager for Guyana and Suriname said by participating in the meeting to end AIDS, Guyana would be taking part in a unique moment in history. He said focus must remain strong to ensure that gains of the national AIDS response are leveraged rather than lost during this period of transition and hope.
He said Guyana has made significant gains in its HIV response over the past decade. According to UNAIDS estimates, in 2015, about three of every five people living with HIV were receiving Antiretroviral therapy (ARV).
Meanwhile, Dr Green told journalists that the meeting will attempt to move the world toward the end of AIDS.
“What the meeting will do in 2016, it will try to advance our direction in the AIDS epidemic. In 2000, the epidemic was sort of despair. Having the disease was like despair. This is not the case in 2016,” Dr Green said.
He related that by the end of 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end, there were advances and reductions in death rates and increased access to ARVs. He said they exceeded that target and AIDS related deaths were reduced by 42 per cent.
According to him, the position now reached is that at the high level meeting there will be hope for people living with HIV/AIDS. The UN Secretary General Special Envoy said it was also hoped that at the meeting, Guyana and other countries would be able to achieve the objective of fast tracking the response to HIV/AIDS.
“We are hoping that at least 90 per cent of the people with HIV be tested and of those, 90 per cent are treated by 2020, bringing the viral load low enough as not to transmit.”
Dr Green said “fast tracking” spoke to testing and treatment. It also speaks to prevention. Prevention strategy, he said, means that each country should contribute at least quarter of the budget on health to prevention.