PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago. Statistics show that 83 percent of reported persons with HIV in the Caribbean are in the 15-54 year age group, with 50 percent of that group being 25-34 years old.
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. C. James Hospedales said “This means the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been moving steadily into younger and younger population groups.” He cautioned that “although significant gains have been made in reducing deaths due to HIV/AIDS mainly through treatment, and in prevention of mother-to-child transmission, challenges still remain. Efforts must continue to sustain and improve the progress that has been achieved.”
The theme for World AIDS Day on Thursday was “Take the Challenge: end AIDS.” This involves strengthening the response for HIV and taking innovative steps so that the Region can reach the global goals and end the epidemic by 2030. To end HIV transmission, the focus should be on HIV combination prevention, early detection and access to antiretroviral treatment.
Dr.Hospedales said “To end AIDS as a public health threat, our combined efforts are important. It is therefore critical for us to have a multisectoral approach involving community participation. The community must play its role in advocacy, the fight against stigma and discrimination, and support those affected and prevent others from being infected. By strengthening community participation and working together we can end this epidemic.”
Many of the obstacles that have impeded effective HIV prevention and treatment still exist today – the Region still reports the second highest prevalence of the disease in the world, after Sub-Sahara Africa. Additionally, 1 in 3 persons with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean do not know that they have it. This can only result in further spread of the disease, and undermine measures that have been put in place to end the epidemic. Everyone should know their HIV status and ensure that it is managed properly, in order to prevent the spread of new infections.
There are factors that can decrease someone’s chance of getting or transmitting HIV. Prevention options include:HIV testing, HIV drugs for persons at high risk for HIV infection, Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, Female and male condoms.
For persons infected with HIV, an important measure to prevent transmission to others, is to stay on treatment.
Dr.Hospedales said “HIV/AIDS is not just a serious health issue in the Caribbean, it also impacts negatively on the economy and our social life. Let us all take the challenge to end AIDS.”