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Minister at workshop: Cost for treating HIV/Aids not known

Published: 
Saturday, July 29, 2017

While this country has saved close to $55 million in HIV/Aids antiretroviral drugs over the last year the total cost of HIV/Aids treatment in this country is still not known as it took into account several variables including personnel, equipment and the loss of productivity.

Making the comments was Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who delivered the feature address at the launch of T&T System of Health Accounts Sensitisation Workshop held at the Works Ministry, Port-of-Spain yesterday.

He said due to the lack of data it meant that spending was not being accurately measured but added that initiatives would be put in place to address this.“What are we really spending as a society on HIV/Aids? But we know we spend about $40 billion a year on drugs,” Deyalsingh said.

He said the $55 million saved on HIV/Aids antiretroviral drugs was due to access from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) strategic fund. The minister said the drugs were no longer being brought in by local distributors but were purchased directly from the PAHO fund, resulting in “a lot of profit being cut out.”

“We reviewed the protocols also for oncology where we would provide a guaranteed supply of a basket of drugs and also for HIV/Aids. “Also we are relying more on the PAHO strategic fund to purchase these drugs and this would make the drugs more accessible and more affordable at all the sites that we want to make them available. We have saved $55 million without jeopardising the amount of drugs and we have also ordered more,” Deyalsingh said.

Asked about the availability of HIV/Aids drugs especially in rural areas the minister said such difficulties no longer existed as the protocols regarding drug classification has been reviewed.

He said HIV/Aids strategies were also expected to be strengthened with the reintroduction of the US’s (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) aimed at assisting small countries like T&T.

Deyalsingh said when the HIV/Aids Coordinating Unit was placed under the previous health ministry it “lost some momentum and focus” and access to PEPFAR funding was temporarily stopped.

“It took me about a year to save PEPFAR and I am hoping we would continue to benefit from PEPFAR in the new financial year. So it’s a total revamp of our HIV/Aids response,” Deyalsingh said.

He said close to 11,000 are living with HIV and of that figure 80 percent know their status.

“We need to get that figure up by 90 percent and then those 90 percent should be on drugs and 90 percent who are drugs should have their viral load suppressed enough to be HIV free.

“And that is how the world is going to move....to being HIV free by 2020,” Deyalsingh said.

Regarding the infection rate, he said there was an increase of this in men over 50 and in teenaged girls over 15.

Saying that education was key, Deyalsingh said there could be a “whole new generation coming up” which could be unaware of what the toll of HIV/Aids entailed. 

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