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PAHO director: Good progress made in fight against Aids

Published: 
Friday, December 1, 2017

On the commemoration of World AIDS Day 2017, a new report says that expanding access to all prevention options could reduce the 120,000 new cases of HIV reported each year in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report was released from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of WHO, and UNAIDS yesterday (Thursday).

The report, HIV Prevention in the Spotlight— An Analysis from the Perspective of the Health Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean, analyzes progress made and challenges facing health systems in preventing HIV transmission.

PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said important progress have been seen in the fight against Aids in Latin America and the Caribbean, with major reductions in childhood infections, improved treatment and fewer deaths from AIDS.

“But we have not yet seen the same success in terms of reducing new cases in adults,” Etienne said.

“Preventing new infections requires intensifying efforts and ensuring that the most vulnerable people have access to all options and new technologies in a discrimination-free environment,” she added.

The report advocates what is known as the combination prevention approach, which is based on scientific evidence, respect for human rights and nondiscrimination, and which includes three elements: offering a comprehensive package of biomedical interventions to users, promotion of healthy behaviors, and establishment of enabling environments that facilitate access to and use of prevention measures.

According to the report and UNAIDS data, the majority (64%) of new HIV cases occur in gays and other men who have sex with men, in sex workers and their clients, in transgender women, in people who inject themselves drugs, and in couples belonging to those key population groups. In addition, one third of new infections occur in young people aged 15 to 24.

Currently there are many scientifically proven prevention options that health services can offer to help people prevent HIV infection and protect their health. These measures include new options such as self-administered HIV testing, which can be done at home, and the availability of HIV testing in places other than health centers. In Latin America, two in 10 people with HIV and four in 10 in the Caribbean do not know they have the virus, which represents an improvement over last year.

Other recommendations include providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to people at high risk of contracting HIV and offering post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in emergency situations, such as when someone has sex with a partner without knowing that person’s HIV status.

The report also advocates distribution of condoms and lubricants, offering syphilis testing at the same time as HIV testing, and providing universal access to treatment, which significantly improves the health of people with HIV while also reducing the risk that they will infect their partners. The report also recommends the promotion of peer-led community outreach activities and providing health information and education.

The report calls on governments, civil society and international organisations to work together in partnerships to accelerate the introduction of new prevention technologies, expand the availability of prevention options and ensure universal access to HIV prevention services to reduce new infections and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.