Since the beginning of the HIV/Aids epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago in 1983, 29,000 people registered people with the Ministry of Health have tested positive for the disease.
This is the word from National HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit director Dr Keven Antoine at the ministry’s World Aids Fair at the atrium of the Piarco International Airport on Friday.
Antoine said while the number is high, the incidence of new cases had been decreasing in recent years.
“What we are seeing is a decline in the incidence - that is new cases of HIV. We were in the thousands, close to 1,000 and 1,200 ten years ago and we are down to about 500 per year and it has remained stable at that level,” Antoine said.
He said the only way that the disease has a chance of being eradicated is if every infected individual is properly treated to suppress his or her viral load. But this is a challenge as Antoine said.
“Many people are still afraid because they are afraid of doing an HIV test because they’re afraid of the result,” Antoine said, adding this is not the right mentality to have toward the disease, especially since detection is critical in the fight against it.
“Early detection is critical. With early detection, of course, there is less damage to the immune system and so the chance of successful treatment is improved. With late detection, of course, the immune system is already damaged. It’s not a death sentence, but of course, you have a better outcome with earlier detection.”
Despite this, however, he said the country is doing well in its fight against the disease with roughly 78 per cent of people with the virus being detected, 78 per cent of those detected being treated and 87 per cent of those treated have had their viral loads suppressed.
Ideally, he said their target is for all those figures to be at 90 per cent by the year 2020, as part of the United Nations 90-90-90 treatment target.