THE US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) has donated 110,000 HIV test kits and US$1,100,000 in funding, totalling US$2.5 million for fiscal 2019, to community service organisations, with the intention of providing HIV services to Venezuelan migrants and other under-served communities.
US ambassador Joseph Mondello presented the kits to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh at the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (Nipdec) Central Warehouse, Chaguaramas on Wednesday. Nipdec is responsible for managing pharmaceuticals for the local health supply chain.
Speaking during a brief ceremony, Mondello said: “The 110,000 test kits and funding we hand over today will help ensure everyone in TT knows their HIV status, including migrants.
“Knowing one’s status is essential not only to ensure an individual’s health, but also to bring under control the HIV epidemic.
“Community organisations are critical in this effort. In the near future, we hope to collaborate with non-governmental organisations to launch community HIV testing,” he added.
Mondello said the TT government has made “real progress toward reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, which aim for 90 per cent of people living with HIV to know their status; 90 percent of those diagnosed to be on treatment; and 90 percent of those on treatment to achieve viral suppression.”
Programme director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health specialist at the US Embassy Dr Nyla Lyons said the programme is extended to migrants, with US$350,000 specifically targeted to the growing community, while another US$250,000 has been provided for community-service organisations to expand treatment.
“We are very much interested in supporting the government of TT to reach Venezuelans. And we are not just reaching with HIV, we are screening for high blood pressure, etcetera, to make sure the government can absorb some of the (increased demand),” Lyons said.
“We have invested in the establishment of community organisations.
“And these community testing sites will use these kits to reach out to those people who don’t want to go to the hospitals. Deyalsingh thanked Pepfar and the various arms for their commitment to the cause, adding that it will ultimately benefit all citizens.
“The HIV and AIDS agenda continues to be an area of focus for the Ministry of Health due to the wider socioeconomic impact of the epidemic,” he said. Deyalsingh also reiterated that medical services are available to all – citizens and migrants – who visit the nation’s health centres and hospitals.