— says President Ali, underscores policies will see inclusion of vulnerable groups, mental-health component
PRESIDENT, Dr. Irfaan Ali, on Tuesday, addressed a United Nations’ High-Level Meeting on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), where he recommitted Guyana’s efforts to providing universal access to prevention, care and treatment for persons living with the virus.
“When my country launched its HIV National Strategic Plan 2021-2025, we recommitted to the UNAIDS Global AIDS Strategy, which aspires to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” President Ali said. He related that during the upcoming period, Guyana’s HIV efforts will focus heavily on a number of areas, including making the discrimination of HIV unacceptable, illegal, and punitive, throughout society. The Head of State also said that reaching out to vulnerable groups such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community, sex workers and immigrants would be a priority.
President Ali said too that there are plans to integrate a mental-health component in all of the administration’s HIV policies and programmes.
In keeping with technological advancements, Dr. Ali said that efforts will also be made to transform the current paper-based HIV monitoring system into an Information Technology (IT)-based system. “Guyana is keen on ensuring that these areas of focus are reflected in the 2021 Political Declaration,” President Ali said.
He noted that Guyana’s HIV programme results are among the best in the Caribbean, with a total of 95 per cent of those living with HIV having been properly diagnosed. “Seventy-three per cent who are aware of their HIV status are on treatment and almost nine out of every 10 of these were virally suppressed,” the Head of State posited.
He said that over the past 20 years, Guyana has reduced new HIV infections by more than half. “While impressive, like many countries around the world, we came close but missed the UN 2020 90-90-90 targets,” President Ali said.
The 90–90–90 targets refer to ensuring that 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status; that 90 per cent of people who know their status are on antiretroviral (ARVs); and lastly, that 90 per cent of all patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) are virally suppressed by 2020.
Dr. Ali said that during the 2021-2025 period, Guyana is committed to reaching the new global 95-95-95 goal set out by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
“Guyana has already embarked on a comprehensive pre-exposure prophylaxis programme, ensuring that anyone, anywhere in Guyana, who is at risk of an HIV infection, can access pre-exposure prophylaxis,” the President indicated. He said that another innovative focus of Guyana’s comprehensive response is increasing self-testing. “We have already integrated testing, diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases in our primary healthcare system.
In addition, we are committed to the elimination of gonorrhoea and syphilis in our maternal population,” President Ali noted.
He added too that “the global inequity that facilitated AIDS to leave a trail of death for 40 years is very much evident as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The truth is we still live in two very different worlds. COVID-19 vaccine inequity is a moral dilemma.”
The High-Level Meeting was hosted even as UNAIDS observes its 25th anniversary of its formation, and President Ali believes that the 2021 Political Declaration emanating out of the meeting must ensure funding for UNAIDS and the Global Fund.
“This 2021 High-Level meeting must become a trigger for concerted and sustained action over the next decade so as to root out the conditions which contribute to and fuel the HIV pandemic,” the Head of State noted.