THE number of people contracting AIDS/HIV fell drastically from 1,000 per year in 2010 to less than 500 in 2016, Ministry of Health HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit head Dr Keven Antoine told Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) last week.
Moments earlier Medical Research Foundation of TT (MRFTT) head Dr Jeffrey Edwards said patients who take retroviral medicine won’t transmit the virus. “Things have changed dramatically. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence.”
Antoine then said 8,530 people are enrolled at the MRFTT, of whom 6,693 are receiving anti-retroviral medicine. Some 75,000 tests have been performed at the institute, which now treats all HIV/AIDS cases unlike what occurred ten years ago. Health policy director Lawrence Jaisingh said the MRFTT receives $5.9 million per year in subvention.
PAAC member Nicole Olivierre said she was not aware of any mass campaign of HIV awareness to schools. Antoine admitted that little if any HIV campaigns are done at schools but rather at university level. “We have some programmes going on, not necessarily at the level of primary and secondary schools, but tertiary.”
The committee, chaired by Bridgid Annisette-George, also heard of the devastation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in TT. Ministry advisor Dr Rohit Doon said TT has an NCD epidemic, declaring, “35 per cent of all deaths are from cardio-vascular disease.”
Doon said 56 per cent of TT’s population are obese, with more women than men affected, largely due to physical inactivity. Permanent secretary Richard Madray said 25 per cent of children are currently already obese.
He hoped an ongoing US$51 million project by the Inter American Development Bank would create a “culture change” locally, such as curbing bad-eating habits in children.
He said the ministry uses 17 private health providers to supply dialysis to kidney patients.
Otherwise from 2006 to 2018, some 174 kidney transplants have been done at public hospitals, said Jaisingh.
PAAC members voiced concerns on patient welfare. Annisette-George lamented cases she had heard about of hospitals losing patients files, and lamented the run around they get if having to seek treatment at a fresh institution and so start filling out a fresh form again.
Olivierre lamented a lack of medical social workers whom she highly suspected turn up just once a month.
External Patient Programme head Beesham Seetaram said San Fernando General Hospital has full-time social workers but admitted they were only part time at Point Fortin Hospital.
Replying to Annisette-George, Seetaram admitted that a means-test is used to screen patients applying to the ministry’s Special Healthcare Services Programme such as kidney or heart treatment.