Viral load testing to be available next year for HIV patients
…as Guyana works to end HIV/AIDS by 2030
The Health Ministry will be able to offer viral load testing for HIV/AIDS patients by early next year, in keeping with the efforts to achieve UNAIDS targets.
In December 2020, UNAIDS released a new set of ambitious targets, calling for 95 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 95 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2025.
At the HIV/STI Conference on Sunday, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony shared that it is within Guyana’s grasp to eliminate the disease by 2030. In this light, they are working to achieve targets.
“I think it is within our grasp. Why do I say that? When you look at the parameters UNAIDS would have set, 95-95-95, we’re already at 94 for persons who know their status; 76 for persons who are in care; and we’re down to 28 for persons who are virally suppressed. That is because we don’t have universal viral load testing.”
He also announced, “But we’re changing that. The Ministry has already procured a machine to do viral load testing that would be in the country early next year…Viral load testing would be available for every HIV patient that needs to get their viral loads checked.”
Once the testing commences, the 28 per cent will be increased significantly to a projected 89 per cent. Meeting these 2025 targets, he added, places Guyana in a position of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030.
“I think that’s where we’re headed. We have to get there because if we don’t, then we will have to keep pouring a lot of resources to deal with HIV,” the Health Minister said.
Guyana recorded its first case of HIV in 1987 – a time when the country was challenged with the shortfalls in making diagnostics and treatment was still new.
Dr Anthony recalled, “When we heard about having the first case here in Guyana and we didn’t have the diagnostics, it was a big challenge. To think 35 years ago to where we are today, we’ve really made a transformation in how we’re managing this disease.”
Speaking about progress in tackling the disease, he referred to partnerships that led to the introduction of paediatric anti-retroviral medications, and the development of the National Public Health Reference Laboratory, among others.
The United States, PAHO/WHO, UNAIDS, the World Bank and other agencies would have played a crucial role in such projects and technical assistance.
“We were able to advance our HIV treatment and care programme to one of the best in the Caribbean…We’re at a place where if we work a little bit harder, this objective that we have in the world of ending AIDS by 2030, we can actually do so.”