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Caribbean must double down on HIV fight, says UNAIDS director - Region way off target for 90-90-90 goal

Published:Tuesday | December 1, 2020 | 12:11 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Several Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, are shaping up to miss the ambitious 90-90-90 United Nations target for the end of this year to help end the AIDS epidemic.

Set in 2013, the target called for countries to have 90 per cent of those with HIV knowing their status, 90 per cent of those diagnosed having antiretroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of those on treatment to have viral suppression by the end of this year.

UNAIDS Caribbean Director Dr James Guwani painted a grim picture of the progress made by the region in a World AIDS Say 2020 Caribbean virtual panel discussion and launch of the In Your Hands HIV self-testing advocacy campaign last Thursday.

It is estimated that in 2019, there were 330,000 people in the Caribbean living with HIV.

Describing this as a “staggering” figure, Guwani lamented that the region continues to lag behind global averages in testing and viral-load suppression, among other areas.

Guwani disclosed that the region was behind in the first 90 category by 42,000 persons, was missing the second target by 61,000, and was all of 75,000 off in meeting the third.

“We just have 30 days to get to the end of the year and certainly would not be able to get to these targets, and this is a huge difference. So it looks like we in the region need to double our efforts if we are to catch up in the next iteration of the target process,” he suggested.

It is not all bad news for the Caribbean, though, as Guwani disclosed that “solid progress has been made in reducing AIDS-related deaths in the region”.

He noted that of significance is the fact that treatment for men is significantly lower than for women.

“So in the Caribbean, we need to put more effort into getting our men tested, into treatment, and we also realise that in terms of new-infections reduction, new infections have also been slower for men as compared to women,” he said.

The UNAIDS Caribbean director did not provide a country-by-country breakdown of the figures.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com