World AIDS Day 2022: NAPS call for expansion to reach poor, rural communities, least educated population
…only 73% of HIV positive persons in Guyana on treatment
Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, Dr Tariq Jagnarine is calling for more focus on the poor, rural communities, and least educated populations as it relates to education, care and treatment for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Dr Jagnarine in his World Aids Day message said that those are the groups that bear the brunt of these diseases.
This year World AIDS Day is being observed under the theme ‘Equalize’.
World AIDS Day brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international harmony in the face of the current pandemic.
“On this day we pay tribute to those who have died of the disease by raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and placing emphasis on the increased access to treatment and prevention services available in Guyana. We also recognize the efforts of public and private partners and highlight their progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care around the world,” the NAPS head said.
Since the first HIV case was identified, forty years later we still face many challenges that hinder the progress toward the elimination of HIV/AIDS.
According to Dr Jagnarine, inequalities stand at the forefront of many of those challenges toward ending HIV/AIDS – fed largely by ignorance and hatred.
The stigma and discrimination he says persist and continue to have an adverse impact on people living with HIV.
“This year we celebrate world AIDS day under the theme ‘Equalize’ – an appropriate and apt theme if we are to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Guyana, over 94% of the persons living with HIV know their status, while only 73% are on treatment with antiretroviral and an estimated 90% are virally suppressed. This clearly indicates to us that to end HIV/AIDS we must eliminate the inequities contributing to stigma and discrimination, put people at the center of our interventions and ground our responses in human rights and gender-responsive approaches. Now even more so there is the need to end the social injustices that put people at risk of contracting HIV and fight for the right to live healthily. Women and young girls must have their human rights fully respected, and the criminalization and marginalization of gay men, Trans and other gender-diverse people, sex workers, migrants, youths, and people who use drugs must stop,” Dr Jainarine said in his message.
He pointed out that this will not be a simple process and requires that the law and government policy properly protect against discrimination and not perpetuate stigma.
“This must be done while changing public attitudes to end stigma. Stigma remains deeply bound up in other discriminations, with racism, xenophobia, transphobia, sexism, and homophobia all playing key roles in continued stigma and misconceptions about people who live with HIV.”
This he notes, hampers attempts to get people to come forward for testing and means too often those living with HIV are diagnosed late and risk complications. It stops dialogue about HIV in families, health settings, and communities that could otherwise educate people about the modern realities of HIV and its treatment options. With the right medication, HIV is life-changing, not life-threatening – this is often poorly understood among healthcare professionals and the public alike.
Pandemics thrive on inequalities and exacerbate inequities he added, noting that we have learned this with HIV, TB, and Malaria, and we have seen it again with COVID-19.
Although great strides have been made to expand health services and prevention efforts, we must focus more on reaching the poor, rural communities, and least educated populations who bear the brunt of these diseases Dr Jainarine says.
‘To tackle the inequities, we must go beyond simple notions of equal access or one-size-fits-all and deliberately create ‘compensating inequalities’ in service provision to focus resources on the most vulnerable.”
Our new National Strategy-HIVISION 2025 embodies this approach by placing people and the community front and center of the fight against HIV, TB, and Malaria, putting an even greater focus on removing human rights-related barriers to health services, the NAPS Programme Manager emphasizes
“This year as we join together to celebrate World AIDS DAY, we need to put people at the center of our focus by removing social and structural barriers that prevent people from accessing HIV services, empowering communities to lead the way, and strengthening and adapting systems so they work for the people who are most acutely affected by stigma and other inequalities and fully mobilizing the resources needed to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”