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Aiming for 90-90-90 by 2020

Published: 
Friday, December 1, 2017

T&T, like other governments across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), has made a commitment to end to the AIDS epidemic by 2030. This is in line with the United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS of June 2016.

The aim is to achieve UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Today, for World AIDS Day, reflections on this year’s theme, My Health, My Right, should necessarily focus on all the ways, individually and collectively, we can contribute to meeting that target.

Just-released 2016 data provide an insight into the current situation with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean:

• an estimated 310,000 people are living with HIV;

• some 9,400 people died from AIDS-related illnesses last year;

• between 2010 and 2016, the number of AIDS-related deaths in the region declined 28 per cent;

• treatment coverage now reaches 52 per cent of all people living with HIV;

• fewer than 1,000 new HIV infections occurred in children.

The good news is that there are scientifically proven options to help people prevent HIV infection and protect their health, including self-administered HIV testing which can be done at home, as well as the availability of HIV testing in places other than health centres.

However, there is also the sobering reality that four in 10 in the Caribbean do not know they have the virus. While this is an improvement from last year, it is also a hurdle to be overcome if were are to achieve the objective of more Caribbean people enjoying their right to health.

Awareness needs to be built around the fact that early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with HIV and helps prevent new infections. That should be the key underlying message of this year’s observances.

Avoid politics in anti-gang debate

Today, a vital piece of crime fighting legislation will be laid in the House of Representatives. This new Anti Gang Bill has already been scrutinised by a joint parliamentary committee and there have been consultations with the Law Association. What is needed is a real bipartisan effort to introduce a law to effectively combat the criminal gang culture that propels much of the violence and lawlessness in this country.

Statistics provided by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on Wednesday show the extent and reach of these criminal organisations, in all nine police divisions, threatening the safety and security of all law abiding citizens.

This Bill requires intelligent, constructive debate completely devoid of cheap politicking. Government and Opposition are urged to take a bipartisan approach to ensure passage of a strong law.

A worthwhile investment in T&T’s youth

Junior Achievement of T&T’s recently concluded Leadership Debate series is an example of the type of investment that organisations need to make in the nation’s young people. Indeed, any activity that promotes healthy debate adds value, and Junior Achievement, which has had a strong presence in this country for many decades, equipping young people for economic success, must be commended for this new venture.

Congratulations are also in order for the winners, the debate team from Presentation College, Chaguanas, as well as the runners-up, Queen’s Royal College.