National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) Manager, Dr. Tariq Jagnarine has reported that 55 per cent of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Guyana has been vaccinated against the deadly Coronavirus.
He was speaking Wednesday, during the Ministry of Health’s observation of World AIDS Day, 2021.
“The COVID-19 vaccination coverage in persons living with HIV is at 55 percent and that number is climbing. This was achieved through medical outreaches combined with vaccination drives, one on one counselling session with persons living with HIV that better facilitated their concerns and problems related to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Jagnarine noted.
The health official said both patients and the secretariat faced many challenges over the last year of the pandemic. Among the challenges was the delay in the shipment of consumables – ARVs (Antiretrovirals), condoms, lubricants and kits.
He said stigma and discrimination faced by persons living with HIV/AIDS were worsened by the pandemic. This led to gender-based violence, lack of regional ownership and involvement in the HIV programme, low viral testing, slow vaccine uptake and weak paper-based system, among others.
According to Dr. Jagnarine, the challenges proved that for HIV/AIDS and the pandemic to be defeated, there must be an end to the inequalities contributing to stigma and discrimination.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, MP is calling on more persons living with the disease to become inoculated. He said the only way to protect HIV/AIDS patients against COVID-19 is for them to be vaccinated.
“We have been talking to people, all the key population and we have been saying, please encourage your membership to get vaccinated. We have had experts from NAPS going out and talking and answering questions, but yet the rates are very low…now if we are going to protect those persons, they really need to take their vaccines,” Dr. Anthony noted.
The Minister added that the pandemic has caused disruption in treatment for HIV patients when the country was on lockdown. However, he related that his ministry is working towards getting those persons back into their treatment schedule.
“In that period when things were closed, I think a lot of people probably ran out of medication and that could’ve interrupted their treatment schedules, but luckily, we were able to bring that back and make sure that a lot of people came back, but we still have persons who have not returned…we need to find them and bring them back into care,” Minister Anthony said.
World AIDS day 2021 was observed under the theme “End inequalities, end AIDS, end pandemics.”