Guyana gets US$1.5M to support fight against HIV
By Vishani Ragobeer
Guyana’s fight against HIV/AIDS will be further boosted through an additional US$1.5M grant from the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
On Friday, during a joint press conference, US Ambassador, Sarah Ann-Lynch, highlighted that since 2004, through PEPFAR, the US has provided more than US$185 million to support HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment services in Guyana.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition that is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus causes harm to the immune system and resultantly, interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide an additional US $1.5 million to support the fight against HIV in Guyana. This funding will support the Ministry of Health and civil society partners through September 2022,” the Ambassador related.
This grant, she acknowledged, is especially timely given the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the country’s healthcare system. Though much attention has been placed on the pandemic, Guyana continues its attempts to mitigate the effect of HIV/AIDS.
The United Nations (UN) developed a “90-90-90” target for the fight against HIV globally. The 90-90-90 targets are: by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral (ARV) therapy; and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Speaking at the press conference, the Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, highlighted that Guyana has been able to achieve the first 90 target, with about 93 per cent of people tested able to know their status.
For the other two targets, however, the country has lagged behind. Only about 74 per cent of people tested have been able to receive ARV therapy while only 69 per cent of people have viral suppression.
“For us to really work to achieve the 90-90-90 and even to get to the 95-95-95 by 2025, there is still a lot more to be done and that’s why it is so important that this grant is coming at this time… It is going to help us to focus on all three of these 90s and to try to get us close to where we ought to be and even to aspire to get to 95-95-95,” the Health Minister said.
While the country has achieved the first 90 target, Minister Anthony noted that emphasis has been placed on ensuring that HIV testing continues. To aid in this regard, he highlighted that self-testing has been introduced.
The minister also noted that efforts are being made to eliminate mother to children transmission of HIV/AIDS since there is currently only a low number of cases of this. He could not state how many cases have been recorded, however.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister also noted that the ministry is seeking to rollout pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an anti-HIV medication that HIV-negative individuals take to lower their chances of contracting the sexually transmitted infection (STI), to all interested people
“We see these as essential elements in this programme so that we can really move treatment and care for HIV patients further,” he said, explaining that the US $1.5 million grant will help to sustain the already-introduced programmes while the Ministry transitions to funding from the government and from the Global Fund.