As Guyana begins the process to introduce Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as a regular part of its HIV/Aids health campaigns, a local activist group has hit out at the TT government for not even considering the drug as an option locally.
“Government has zero social policy to address the vulnerability of the populations that get HIV most, and we have a punitive policy of withholding drugs they would like to have to stay alive and a (Minister of Health) who preaches about risky behaviour,” Colin Robinson of the Coalition Advocating for Inclsuion of Sexual Orienatation (CAISO) told Newsday.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which left untreated can manifest into the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids), is often disproportionally represented in certain high risk groups, especially among the homosexual male community and sex workers.
PrEP is an option to these high risk groups, a drug taken before infection that significantly reduces the chances of catching the virus. If Guyana is successful, it will be the third country in the Caribbean to introduce PrEP, after the Bahamas and Barbados. In TT, however, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has been adamant that it is the government’s policy not to encourage risky behaviour, and PrEP, as far as the government is concerned, encourages risky behaviour.
Government’s position, Deyalsingh told Newsday in a recent interview, was to provide drugs for those who already knew their status. The key reason though, why certain populations have higher HIV rates is because government will not speak boldly against the stigma of HIV/Aids, Robinson said, nor will it decriminalise the laws that make these populations outlaws and legitimise social stigma. “The least they can do is get people some drugs to keep them alive,” he said. But, Robinson argued, since PrEP can prevent new infections, if fewer people contract the disease, then fewer people will transmit — and fewer people will have to be on anti-retroviral drugs.