Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Caribbean AIDS response too slow - UNAIDS director

Published:Thursday | August 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Fifty-seven per cent of all persons living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are on treatment and 40 per cent are virally suppressed, but to reach targets that will set the Caribbean on track to end the AIDS epidemic, the region must close the gaps in testing and treatment, noted Dr CÈsar Nunez, UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team director.

"Central to this goal is the 90-90-90 treatment targets. Here in the Caribbean, the AIDS response is at a precarious point. There has been partial success in saving lives and stopping new HIV infections, but the pace of progress is not matching global ambition," Nunez said.

Nunez was speaking at the Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society Expert Summit (CCAS) 2018 opening ceremony in St Lucia on Monday.

This year's summit falls at the halfway point to 2020. That's the deadline the global community agreed upon for meeting targets that will set countries on course to end the AIDS epidemic.

Nunez said that through the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, the community of nations has agreed to adopt a fast-track strategy that involves increasing prevention, testing and treatment services while working to eliminate stigma and discrimination.

 

AWARE OF THEIR STATUS

 

Data published last month in the UNAIDS 2018 Global AIDS Update show that there were an estimated 310,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean at the end of 2017. Seventy-three per cent of people living with HIV in the region were aware of their status.

"The gap to achieving the second target of 90 per cent of diagnosed people on treatment was 74,700 people. And the gap to achieving the third target of 90 per cent of people on treatment virally suppressed was 103,000 people," Nunez stated.

He said that the Caribbean must increase its use of proven strategies, such as community-led services, for early diagnosis, enrolment in treatment, retention in care, and treatment adherence.

Nunez said that disaster risk reduction is essential to lessen the time and investments required to recover from the effects of natural and man-made disasters and to avoid diverting resources for health and development.

"Perhaps the biggest lesson of last year is that no development priority stands alone. In our policies, plans, and budgets, we must increasingly address interconnections," he urged.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com