By Theresa Goodwin
After achieving the ambitious milestone of becoming one of six countries in the region to have successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis in 2017, the staff at the AIDS Secretariat is working to achieve a similar accolade.
AIDS Programme Manager Delcora Williams told Observer yesterday that the 2017 target was set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Her team is now working to satisfy the requirements to meet UNAIDS goal, which is to end AIDS by 2030 with its 90-90-90 campaign.
The target refers to three key steps that are essential to better health and care for HIV positive people and to limit new infections and the further spread of the HIV virus.
It speaks to 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of all those who are diagnosed as HIV positive to be on sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of those on ART having an undetectable viral load.
Williams explained that in order to meet the target, her department has to ensure that they are able to give account of the health status of everyone in the country who has tested positive for the virus since the first diagnosis was made in the 1980s.
“We have to make sure that we can say, these are our patients, these are who are in care and treatment. We have to validate what we are saying.
“We went to the courthouse to check to see what happened to some of our patients like those we do not have information on, that information would have been recorded at the old Holberton Hospital,” Williams said.
She said over the past six months, staff at the department have independently reach out to each individual that is affected to verify their information
Based on current statistics, 634 adult males, 591 adult females, 12 male children and 70 female children in Antigua and Barbuda have tested positive for HIV. To date, 301 people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
The AIDS programme manager also stressed that the numbers will be changed by next June based on the extensive research that is now being conducted by her department.
“We do not want Antigua and Barbuda to be shocked if by next year June the numbers are different. There is going to be a change because we have already subtracted some deaths and we are still working on the numbers. There will be some changes,” Williams stressed.
Antigua and Barbuda joined with the rest of the world yesterday to commemorate World Aids Day under the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”.
The AIDS Secretariat will be spearheading a month of activities to mark the occasion as it continues on a path to ensure that the general public is aware of the virus and how to access necessary care and treatment.