HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said this country was far from a global target to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic when the current administration came into office. He was speaking yesterday at the opening day of the three-day 6th Meeting of the National AIDS Programme Managers and Key Partners at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
He spoke about the 90-90-90 target which was signed on by Caricom in 2016 at the United Nations. Deyalsingh represented the Prime Minister at that meeting. The target is 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 therapy, and 90 per cent of all those receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression, which will make transmission difficult or impossible. It is part of a plan to end the global AIDS epidemic by 2030.
At the meeting yesterday Deyalsingh said the 2020 deadline for the 90-90-90 fast-track target was approaching. “On coming into office we were far away from 90-90-90. Very, very far away. If we had continued with the policies inherited we would have been nowhere close to achieving 90-90-90 by 2020.”
He said 2016 data showed 75-83-75, “which is an excellent place to be in,” and the ministry was still “crunching” 2017 data. He reported a funding stream is President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding, a United States governmental initiative to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. He said from 2010 to 2015 PEPFAR did not receive political support in this country and the stream of grant funding was ignored and not accessed, but when he came into office he took notes to Cabinet and was able to save the PEPFAR stream.
He said because of the use of PEPFAR funding and other funding streams and implementation of policy the ministry had been able to bring 575 people who had gone off their ARV treatment back onto treatment. “Now 575 in a population locally of approximately 11,000 persons is a huge achievement.”
Deyalsingh, speaking with the media after his address, said health agencies had the capacity to reach the 90-90-90 goal once they receive global funding.
“The key to all of this is to have those streams of funding accessible and willing to be used here. And that is what we have to be fighting for, because these international agencies can use their monies other places. So local funding is there but you also need external funding.”