T&T Health Minister announces free healthcare for all migrants

Dr Lilan Pedros, portfolio manager of The Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and Malaria, left, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Office of the global Aids and health diplomacy Caribbean/ PEPFAR Coordinator Victoria Nibarger, during the opening day of the seventh meeting of the National Aids programme for managers and key partners at Hilton Trinidad, St Anns, yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Mi­grants will re­ceive the same free health care as na­tion­als, par­tic­u­lar­ly in re­la­tion to sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­eases, Min­is­ter of Health Ter­rance Deyals­ingh said on Monday.

The Min­is­ter said treat­ment of mi­grants was im­por­tant, giv­en that they are like­ly to min­gle with the pop­u­la­tion.

He was speak­ing dur­ing the sev­enth meet­ing of Na­tion­al Aids Pro­gramme Man­ag­er and Key Part­ners at the Trinidad Hilton.

“On the is­sue of mi­grants, we have tak­en a de­ci­sion in Trinidad and To­ba­go, you know we have Venezue­lan mi­grants, to treat them as na­tion­als. Be­cause mi­grants don’t live in iso­la­tion in the coun­tries they mi­grate to. They mix with the rest of the pop­u­la­tion, they in­te­grate them­selves with the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Deyals­ingh, “so we have tak­en a pol­i­cy de­ci­sion at the Min­istry of Health to treat all mi­grants re­gard­less of their coun­try of ori­gin as cit­i­zens of Trinidad and To­ba­go when it comes to pub­lic health.”

Dur­ing the con­fer­ence, the Min­is­ter said an es­ti­mat­ed 1,000 per­sons in this coun­try have HIV/Aids but don’t know it.

He ad­mit­ted that lo­cat­ing this group proved to be dif­fi­cult de­spite the in­tro­duc­tion of rapid test­ing in com­mu­ni­ties.

Deyals­ingh not­ed that men, in par­tic­u­lar, were averse to get­ting test­ed for the dis­ease.

“It is nigh im­pos­si­ble to get men to be re­spon­si­ble to get test­ing. Our men need to be lead to the well and we are go­ing to have to re­fo­cus on get­ting men’s clin­ics be­cause women see no prob­lem in get­ting test­ed. Women are much more re­spon­si­ble,” said Deyals­ingh.

“For Trinidad and To­ba­go’s re­al­i­ty the com­mu­ni­ty rapid test­ing pro­gramme has been seen to be a low yield pro­gramme to get the 1,134 per­sons that rep­re­sent our gap, that is where we have to fo­cus to get our first 90 (per cent erad­i­ca­tion),” said Deyals­ingh as his Min­istry con­tin­ued the push for the erad­i­ca­tion of the HIV epi­dem­ic by the year 2030.

“That gap of a 1,000 peo­ple will be found dur­ing a pe­ri­od of scaled-up test­ing go­ing in­to com­mu­ni­ties and re­al­ly fo­cus­ing on what we call the key pop­u­la­tions. To test them and to find that gap of about 1,100 per­sons who we es­ti­mate are liv­ing with the dis­ease but don’t know their sta­tus,” the Health Min­is­ter ex­plained the key pop­u­la­tion in­clud­ed sex work­ers and ho­mo­sex­u­al men.

An es­ti­mat­ed 11,000 peo­ple are liv­ing with HIV in the coun­try, the Min­is­ter said. It is a num­ber that has been on the de­cline since 2010.

How­ev­er, the di­rec­tor of Pan Caribbean Part­ner­ship Against HIV/Aids (PAN­CAP) Dereck Springer said while this es­ti­mate had been pro­vid­ed via an on­go­ing pro­gramme called Spec­trum, they were set to meet with UN­AIDS from to­mor­row to re­vise their meth­ods of tab­u­lat­ing num­bers.


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