Over the last three to five years, the Region has made progress towards reversing the HIV epidemic. This has translated to the reduction in the number of new HIV infections by 18 percent and deaths by 23 percent.
This is according to PAHO/WHO Technical Advisor on HIV/STI, TB and Viral Hepatitis, Ms. Sandra Jones. Speaking at a recent Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS in Trinidad, Jones said, “As demonstrated by the evaluation of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2014-2018, there are gaps and challenges, resulting in uneven progress in the region.”
She noted that while there has been progress in placing more people living with HIV on treatment, much more needs to be done to increase the numbers and to retain people on treatment. In fact, she added, significant effort is required for the Caribbean to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets”. The 90-90-90 targets makes reference to 90 percent of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90 percent of diagnosed people on treatment and 90 percent of those on treatment virally suppressed.
Jones noted that the region has a unique opportunity to address the challenges, accelerate actions and close the gaps with specific indicators for HIV, the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas, the HIV fast-track targets and evidence-based interventions. She also stated that Regional Frameworks such as the CRSF, the Caribbean Cooperation in Health coupled with a strong primary care system in each of the Member States, and committed partners can assist the region in achieving the 90-90-90 targets.
She further emphasised that paramount to achieving the 2030 goal of ending AIDS is a paradigm shift. She stated, “The time to be innovative is now, given the overwhelming evidence for HIV prevention and treatment that are currently available. The rapid implementation of different innovations and evidence-based interventions for HIV prevention, care and treatment,” said Jones.
This, she said, must include Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), Post Exposure Prophylaxis-PEP, self-testing, Treat All, as well as sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention and Control, with emphasis on key populations and migrants, should be delivered in a more cohesive, integrated manner, focusing on universal access and coverage for everyone. The delivery of an integrated service for HIV and STI must continue to include civil society organizations. Providing linkage to care will ensure that “the unreached is reached, leaving no one behind,” Jones asserted.