PrEP for community clinics soon as Guyana ramps up HIV prevention efforts
Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony on Monday said the government was looking to make HIV prevention options more widely available to Guyanese by ensuring public services in this regard are more accessible with eligibility widened.
He made the statement at the opening of a two-day training for more than 100 health care workers across the country on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) – the medicine people at risk of HIV take to prevent getting the virus.
The training is being facilitated by the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Pan American Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP)
With the aim of ramping up combination prevention, improving HIV care and paving the way towards the elimination of HIV by 2030, Dr. Anthony said the government was looking to end the limited use of PrEP in Guyana.
“It’s a very important tool in the prevention of HIV; we should utilise it,” Dr. Anthony said while delivering remarks during the opening session of the training on Monday.
He said the oral medicine will soon be available at all clinics as a countrywide rollout of the treatment is done.
It is for this reason that the training of healthcare professionals has become necessary at this time.
Dr. Anthony has promised strict attention to ensure that there is a ‘back up facility’ which would ensure that there is no shortage in the medication and it is always readily available.
The rollout of this comprehensive plan this year marks the culmination of years of advocacy and partial PrEP implementation. The existing PrEP policy is a programme for serodiscordant partners only, so couples in which just one person is living with HIV have been able to access PrEP through the public health-care system to avoid transmission to the HIV-negative partner.
According to the NAPS Programme Manager, Dr. Tariq Jagnarine, the plan is to now evaluate anyone with risky sexual behaviour.
This would include men who have sex with men, female sex workers, drug addicts and partners of HIV positive persons.
Since 2015, the World Health Organisation has recommended that “people at substantial risk of HIV infection” should be offered PrEP. Several countries have prioritised key populations, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people, for PrEP programming. In Guyana, those groups also have higher HIV prevalence: 8% for transgender women, 6% for sex workers and 5% for gay men and other men who have sex with men.
Last year, Guyana’s Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) moved from calling for a more inclusive PrEP programme to offering the service itself.
Guyana’s HIV programme results are among the Caribbean’s best.
On Monday Dr. Jagnarine provided updated statistics showing that Guyana is well on its way to ensuring that 95 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those people being on anti-retroviral treatment and 95 percent on those on treatment being virally suppressed.
He endorsed PrEP as additional preventative choice that is highly effective.