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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

-- serious epidemics in urban areas

By Neil Marks
A NEW global report on HIV/AIDS has painted an even grimmer picture of the epidemic here, pointing to the need for a better response in fighting the disease which is already the leading cause of death among the crucial 25-44 age group.

“High HIV infection levels among men and women seeking treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases and the rising trend in officially reported HIV infections underscore the need to improve Guyana’s AIDS response,” the 2006 UNAIDS report on the global epidemic stated.

The report added that in Guyana “serious epidemics have been observed in urban areas.”

It stated that while expanded counselling and testing services, along with the provision of antiretroviral regimens have reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV in some countries, like the Bahamas, evidence of similar progress is not yet visible in Guyana.

AIDS has become the number one cause of death in Guyana among people aged 25–44 years, and national HIV prevalence stands at an estimated at 2.4 per cent, the report stated.

At the launching of the Public/Private Sector Partnership Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS yesterday, Secretary to the Presidential Commission on HIV/AIDS Dr Frank Anthony stated that some 18,000 persons live with HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

It is the second leading cause of death in the country, he added.

He said very few of those infected with the disease may not know, and estimates suggest that some 3,600-4,000 may need treatment but only 1,200 are on the recommended medication.

The 2006 UNAIDS report notes that only half of the men and women known to have HIV/AIDS are on the requisite Anti Retroviral (ARV) treatment.

Guyana ranks as the country with the second highest HIV/AIDS population in the Caribbean, second to Haiti.

The report noted that a total of 330,000 people are living with HIV in the Caribbean, 22,000 of them being children younger than 15 years.

It shows that an estimated 37,000 people became infected with HIV in 2005.

It points out that the Caribbean’s epidemics and countries’ AIDS responses vary considerably in extent and intensity.

Young Haitians are becoming sexually active at earlier ages and condom use among 15–24- year-olds has become less frequent.

In Barbados and the Bahamas, expanded access to antiretroviral treatment appears to be reducing AIDS deaths, the report stated.

However, such progress has not been enough to undo the Caribbean’s status as the second-most affected region in the world, the report stated.

An estimated 27,000 died of the disease last year, and of those living with the disease, less than one in four persons in need of antiretroviral therapy was receiving it in 2005.

Guyana Chronicle