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Minister: HIV/Aids statistics not real ‘Data from private facilities still confidential’
A true picture of the HIV/Aids population in T&T will never be known because the statistics do not reflect what is real. So said Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Rodger Samuel at the launch of the Interim HIV/Aids Agency and awards ceremony at the Trinidad Hilton, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
For there to be a correct figure of people living with HIV/Aids there must be a cohesion in the compiling of statistics from the private and public sectors, Samuel added. He said at present statistics were only available from public hospitals, health centres and other testing facilties but those from the private facilties remained confidential.
He added: “What we have to deal with is the fact that all of the data is only derived from the public sector testing agencies and it says there is a sector of society that depends and can only visit and be treated privately.
”It means that statistics that we talk about is really shortlived because the data from private sector testing agencies is not brought to the Ministry of Health and there is no way we have a realistic idea of what is happening with HIV/Aids in T&T.”
The agency, Samuel said, which would operate out of the Office of the Prime Minister, was given the nod by Cabinet for two years to provide co-ordination to the strategic response to HIV/Aids and to lay the necessary foundation pending the approved legislation to establish the National Aids Co-ordinating Committee as a statutory body.
The agency comprises various government ministries, non-governmental organisations, representatives of trade unions, the business sector, faith-based bodies and people living with HIV/Aids.
Samuel said: “This legislation is presently in the hands of the attorney general. To give support and efficacy to the HIV/Aids Agency Cabinet also agreed to the establishment of a secretariat for effectiveness and efficiency in our quest to fulfil the United Nation’s millenium development goal to get to zero new infections by 2015.”
And despite intensive education drives and campaigning by Government, the fight against HIV/Aids was still being hampered by the local music industry, with some songs, particularily around Carnival, being laced with negative messages, Samuel added.
Giving an example of the financial burden HIV/Aids has on the State, Samuel said in 2010 and 2011 the percentage of adults and children living with the disease and receiving free treatment accounted for 75 per cent and 73.1 per cent respectively on an annual basis.
By 2015, it was also the goal to reach zero new mother-to-child transmissions and zero Aids-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination. With the world still recovering from an economic crisis, Samuel said there was need for T&T to tighten its belt and ensure it got value for money in everything it did.
Functions of the agency
1. Building and deepening multi-sectorial partnerships.
2. Establishing national goals and targets of priority strategic areas.
3. Collating information and preparing reports for local and international bodies.
4. Monitoring and evaluating all aspects of NGOs responses to HIV/Aids and establishing systems to ensure accountability.
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