More needs to be done in the Caribbean to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
That is the finding of a recent study carried out by the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), which has called for greater emphasis to be placed on preventing the sexually transmitted infection.
The study was carried out by the PANCAP Priority Areas Coordinating Committee (PACC), which commissioned an evaluation of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2014 – 2018.
“The evaluation found that while the Caribbean has made progress in responding to the HIV epidemic, the impact of the prevention response has been inadequate, particularly among key populations,” the study stated.
“Of concern is that the annual number of new HIV infections among adults in the Caribbean declined by only 18 per cent from 2010 to 2017… [with] key populations; men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients and partners of key populations, transgender persons and persons who use drugs, accounted for the majority of the new HIV infections (68 per cent) during this period.”
The study also revealed that although significant progress has been made in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the region, “available data for the period 2015 to 2017 showed that HIV infected pregnant women receiving ART [antiretroviral therapy] to reduce HIV transmission declined from 92 per cent in 2014, to 79 per cent in 2015 and 75 per cent in 2016 and 2017 respectively, illustrating a significant decrease that requires investigation.”
It also showed that although progress had been made in helping to place more people living with HIV on treatment, much more needed to be done to increase the numbers and to retain people on treatment.
One area where notable success was evident was in the reduction of HIV transmission to children, with new infections among children in the region falling from an estimated 2300 in 2010, to 1100.
However, according to the study, the Caribbean was in danger of not achieving its 2020 targets.
“In fact, significant effort is required for the Caribbean to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets which aims to have 90 per cent of people living with HIV aware of their infection, 90 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV linked to antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 90 per cent of those on ART adhering to and having undetectable levels of HIV in their blood.
“However, the gap to achieving all three 90s at the end of 2017 was the need for an additional 103,000 people living with HIV to be on ART and be virally suppressed. Given this situation, the Caribbean is at risk of not achieving the 2020 targets,” the study stated.
Interestingly enough, the study also revealed that Global financial resources to support the HIV epidemic have been progressively decreasing since 2011. (RB)