Authorities to ‘track down’ HIV patients who do not show up for treatment

--revitalised focus on fighting stigma also part of plans

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By Lazeena Yearwood

Lazeena@newsroom.gy

There are about 9,500 people in Guyana living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) but some patients do not regularly seek continued treatment. As such, the local authorities have started to track down these persons.

Dr Tariq Jagnarine, the Programme Manager of the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS), told the News Room on Friday that there are sufficient medication and treatment options available for persons infected with HIV.

The challenge, however, is getting those persons to adhere to strict clinic schedules. And so, the authorities are trying to find ways of encouraging patients to take their treatment.

“We’ve had challenges with the care treatment programme.

“Persons join and for whatever reason, they had to change locations so we recognise that we need to get a robust programme towards treatment so several strategies we’ve developed one of it is the lost to follow up programme,” Dr Jagnarine said.

Using this strategy, the clinics will track down persons who joined but do not show up for an appointment at least 30 days after the last treatment.

Case navigators, social workers, and doctors will carry out this ‘track down’ process and try to find out the reasons preventing persons from accessing treatment. If necessary, persons will be encouraged to join a new clinic.

There are sites and centres for treatment and testing across the country and all doctors, medics and counsellors are being trained to provide much-needed healthcare.

“…We are trying to ensure that even nurses can, medics and social workers can [treat persons], we are also trying to integrate HIV treatment into all the primary healthcare centres for HIV prep as well hepatitis treatment.

“So if you show up at a site that is not a care and treatment site for the basic HIV treatment, you can receive from any clinician,” Dr Jagnarine said.

STIGMA REMAINS

Dr. Jagnarine also pointed out that fear, bullying and shame placed on infected persons are barriers that prevent persons from getting life-saving treatment.

“Stigma is a big issue that revolves around HIV and other chronic infectious diseases. There is no eliminating HIV if you can’t get rid of the human rights issues such as stigma, and bullying.

“One of the things that our programme has been doing is ensuring that individuals can start educating people from their own homes and then shifting that to the community,” Dr Jagnarine said.

Other measures are being employed.

A new app to track HIV in Guyana- the Guyana HIV quickRes Web App- was developed through a collaborative effort by the JAB Company, the Ministry of Health, NAPS, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Project.

This helps ensure persons are protected from discrimination when seeking treatment.

Information on exposure, family planning and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) testing such as hepatitis B and C, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia, among others, are available on the app.

In addition, there are multi-assistance options available for infected persons to get public assistance and food hampers.

As NAPS and other local authorities try to help more persons affected with HIV get the treatment they need, Dr. Jagnarine also said about 87 per cent of viral load suppression is confirmed.

That simply refers to people who have been taking their medication so that the virus in their system can become manageable and in some cases, practically undetectable.

According to him, if persons use the medication offered, that is, Tenofovir, Lamivudine, and Dolutegavir (TLD), the virus does not increase.

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