Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Alarm bells due to slippage in AIDS response in the Caribbean

Published:Sunday | July 24, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Activists stage a peaceful protest in Montego Bay, St James, for more to be done to fight AIDS.

"Complacency is largely responsible for the slippage in the AIDS response in the Caribbean".

This is the view of the United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean, Dr Edward Greene, who was speaking from Durban, South Africa, where more than 18,000 scientists, practitioners, and members of civil society are meeting at the 21st International AIDS Conference.

Greene was referring to the recent 2016 Prevention Gap report issued by UNAIDS just before the Conference began on 18 July.

That report shows that after years of steady decline, the Caribbean saw a nine per cent rise in new infections between 2010 and 2015 and only Eastern Europe and Central Asia with a rate of 57 per cent had a higher increase.

The Caribbean statistics compared with a two per cent increase in Latin America, three per cent in Asia and the Pacific, four per cent in the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern and southern Africa for the same period.

Elaborating on the situation for the Caribbean, Greene said that it is necessary for a thorough analysis of the causes and direction of the prevention gap.

 

POSSIBLE CAUSES

 

Based on his close monitoring of developments in the region, he identified the possible causes as: inadequate attention to testing and treatment, including late testing of people with HIV, lack of care centers and fall in the rates of retention of infected people in care.

These he said are compounded by equity in access to care especially for the vulnerable populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, those who inject drugs and prisoners.

" In the Caribbean generally, HIV-related stigma and discrimination is one of the major barriers for key populations' access to prevention options, since people do not feel safe or have the means to access combination services.

"Each time you describe this as a violation of human rights, there are some 'elements' that equate this with pushing a gay agenda. Now we are seeing the consequences which could be devastating for the Caribbean," said Green.

According to Greene, the complacency and/or inefficiency on the part of several governments has resulted in inadequate supplies of medicines and inadequate treatment regimes which fail to immediately treat those that have been diagnosed as HIV-positive, one of the cardinal principles of arresting the spread of the disease.

In addition, he feels strongly that in too many countries in the region, sex education in being insufficiently promoted or implemented.