The following message from is from Dr César Núñez, UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team Director.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is an occasion to remember the millions of people who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses because they couldn’t access HIV services or because of stigma and discrimination. This year UNAIDS is campaigning for people to know their HIV status and their viral load.
In 2017, 9.4 million people living with HIV globally were not aware of their status. If people don’t know their HIV status, those who are living with HIV can’t start treatment, and those who are HIV-negative can’t get the knowledge and skills they need to stay that way.
Access to HIV testing is a basic human right, and UNAIDS is calling for a global commitment to remove the barriers preventing people from testing. This includes eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination and ensuring confidentiality in HIV testing and treatment services.
Countries are also urged to deploy an optimal mix of HIV testing strategies including community-based testing and home testing to help mitigate many of the logistical, structural and social barriers to people learning their status. This is particularly important for men and members of key population communities.
Worldwide, an estimated 19.4 million people living with HIV did not have a suppressed viral load last year. If people living with HIV don’t know their viral load, they won’t be sure that the treatment is effective, protecting their health and stopping HIV transmission. Countries are therefore encouraged to expand access to viral load monitoring.
The Latin America situation
In 2017 there were an estimated 1,800,000 people living with HIV in Latin America. There were 37,000 AIDS-related deaths last year. Deaths due to AIDS have declined by 12 per cent in Latin America since 2010. The region experienced an estimated 100,000 new infections in 2017. Since 2010 there has been virtually no decrease in the rate of new infections (one per cent decline).
Latin America has achieved strong progress related to HIV diagnosis. In 2017 77 per cent of people living with HIV were aware of their status. The region is therefore on track to reach the Fast Track target of diagnosing 90 per cent of people living with HIV by year 2020.
Despite the region’s solid progress toward the testing target, late diagnosis remains a challenge. In 2017 29 per cent of newly diagnosed cases were at an advanced stage of infection.
Last year 79 per cent of diagnosed people in Latin America were receiving antiretroviral treatment while 85 per cent of those on treatment were virally suppressed.
The Caribbean situation
There were an estimated 310,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean in 2017. The region experienced 10,000 AIDS-related deaths last year. AIDS-related deaths have declined by 23 per cent in the Caribbean since 2010. In 2017 there were an estimated 15,000 new infections. New infections have decreased by 18 per cent in the region since 2010.
Seventy-three percent (73 per cent) of people living with HIV in the Caribbean were aware of their status in 2017. Late diagnosis is also a challenge for several countries in the region. In 2017 nearly quarter of HIV diagnoses occurred among people with advanced HIV infection.
Seventy-nine percent (79 per cent) of diagnosed people were receiving antiretroviral treatment in 2017 while 70 per cent of those on treatment were virally suppressed. This viral suppression rate is far below the global average of 81 per cent.
“The Caribbean must strengthen strategies for successful treatment including increasing viral load monitoring, scaling up support for organizations that provide psychosocial services to those on treatment, and working to reduce stigma and discrimination,” said UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr. César Núñez.