Guyana aims to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030 with new National Strategic Plan
The National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) has embarked on the development of a new National HIV Strategic Plan which will focus on eliminating HIV/AIDS in Guyana by the year 2030.
The new National HIV/AIDS 2021/2025 Strategic plan was officially launched Tuesday by Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence at the Ocean View Convention Centre in Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
Minister Lawrence said the national fight against HIV/AIDS in the past seven years was guided by the National HIV Vision 2020 document which comes to an end this year.
Stakeholders in the fight against the virus came together on Tuesday to formulate the framework for a new plan which will focus on improving treatment literacy and coverage and also create an enabling environment to prevent the spread of HIV.
The Minister highlighted that Guyana still continues to face challenges with the UNAIDS 90/90/90 goals. This is where at least 90 per cent of the population knows their status, 90 per cent are on treatment and 90 per cent stays on treatment.
“Some of the major barriers that continue to hinder progress in this area includes stigma and discrimination, lack of family support, limited community involvement, reduced number of active stakeholders, supply chain management as well as systemic hurdles that we continue to address,” the Minister said.
She also highlighted that approximately 20% of the persons aware of their status have not accessed treatment.
The Minister noted that there have been increases of new infections specifically in persons ages 20 -29.
Minister Lawrence also said that since last year they have seen a small increase of infections in women, while the men are not accessing testing sites.
“This signals to us changes in sexual behaviours and perceived risks for contracting HIV,” the Minister said.
However, within the last seven years, Guyana adopted a combination of preventative measures – the intervention of PReP – an HIV preventative pill – extended clinic hours, social contracts and universal coverage for HIV testing among pregnant mothers.
Minister Lawrence said the significant reduction in international donor funding has proven to be challenging but will encourage governments to step up its resources to make a difference to reduce the prevalence of the disease.
Country Representative of PAHO/WHO, Dr William Adu-Krow said that the formulation of the new national plan should include recommendations for targeted screenings and the implementation of self-testing.
“I think we need to look at targeted HIV screenings at chronic disease clinics and this will also include the STI clinics and hospitals. We need to look at and implement self-testing, I think self-testing is a major issue there are some people who travel outside of the country to have their HIV testing done, and therefore implementing self-testing goes a long way,” Dr Adu-Krow said.
He also recommended the implementation of new systems such as e-registers and unique identifiers.
He said when he came to the country in 2001, there were talks of getting funds to create e-registers and unique identifiers. He highlighted the difficulty when using hard copy paper documents to check medical records.
“We had 18 cases that we were trying to find where the problem is, where the linkage is between HIV and maternal and child health. If we had an e-register, if we had electronic means, if we had a good record locator and identifier, this will not be a case,” Dr Adu-krow said.
The Director of Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Nadia Liu said they will assess the performance of the current plan before implementing the new plan.
“We want to get to the root of the problem, we want to anticipate the impact of the epidemic, deal with the obstacles and find solutions, learning from experiences, planning realistically and assuring resources are available for us to do our jobs,” Dr Liu said.