Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony on Tuesday announced that Guyanese would be allowed to self-test for the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and that more at-risk persons would be given preventative drugs.
“Another area we want to look at is self-testing. This is relatively new and it has been advocated around the world and some countries have implemented it with relatively good success and this is one of the areas that is, of course, we would like to put in place here in Guyana,” he said.
The Health Minister gave no specific time-frame by which self-testing would actually start in Guyana.
He made the announcements in an address to stakeholders at the launch of the HIV National Strategic Plan. which aims to bridge past achievements with the objective of ending the disease by 2030. The Minister also disclosed that Guyana would be submitting a proposal to the Global Fund for support to fight disease.
The Health Minister said a “more comprehensive” Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) programme would be rolled out this year to build on the introduction of the prevention that was introduced last year to target couples one of whom is HIV positive and the other is not. “We want to take that a step further so that anybody who is at risk , they would be able to access PrEP so this is something that in the next year that we will see a better roll-out of and to ensure that this is at all of our clinics and tyat we can work with all of our stakeholders to ensure that this also available in the services that they provide,” he said.
Dr. Anthony said Guyana has been suffering from a lag in two of the three areas identified globally by UNAIDS for bringing the viral disease under control as far as knowing one’s status, receiving antiretroviral therapy and suppressing the disease all by 2020.
He said statistics show that 94 percent of HIV positive persons in Guyana know their status, 73 percent of them have been tested and on treatment and the virus has been suppressed in 75 percent of them. In that regard, he remarked that, “we still have a lot of work to be done over the next five years,”
The Health Minister noted that weaknesses in the fight against HIV included stock-outs if reagents that have adversely affected tested, treatment and care. He hoped that this could be remedied through proper quantification by clinical staff and procurement. “While we fix existing problems, we also have to look forward to how we can improve and also use new methodologies to ensure that we can get to those targets by 2025,” he said.
Dr. Anthony said “more effective” anti-retroviral therapies were being rolled out along with co-morbidities such as tuberculosis as well as fight other sexually transmitted diseases including the human-papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer.