Focus on youth in the area of health has once again reached the forefront with Guyana recording a 1.9% HIV prevalence among youths between the ages of 15 and 24 – a figure higher than the national average.
This was according to Minister of Health, Dr. George Norton, who in his World AIDS day message revealed that the prevalence of HIV in Guyana, as of 2015, was 1.5% of the total population.
Interesting to note though, was the fact that prevalence amount youths between ages 15 and 24 was 1.9% which the Minister said is a matter of “grave concern” for the Government.
Statistics at the end of 2015 show that more than 36.7 million people globally live with HIV.
And with Guyana’s youths being more at risk, Minister Norton disclosed that Government will be examining the possibility of introducing HIV/AIDS counseling and testing services in secondary schools across the country.
“We will be examining the possibility of introducing HIV/AIDS counseling and testing services in our secondary schools since this prevalence speaks to early initiation of first sexual contact and will therefore require structured interventions” he said in his message.
Notwithstanding this, the Minister boasted of Guyana’s remarkable achievement of being able to reduce the overall number of cases of HIV annually, and the overall number of AIDS related deaths. He said too that much has been achieved in the prevention of mother to child transmission, with transmission rate decreasing from 6.1% in 2010 to 2% in 2015.
Further, he pointed out that baseline data gathered also indicate that the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women attending antenatal clinics decreased from 3.1% in 2003 to 1.9% in 2015.
Meanwhile, intervention for key population at higher risk which includes mem who have sex with men, female sex workers, transgender, miners and loggers, saw a combined total of 14,942 persons being reached and some 6.755 tested and aware of their status during the first half of 2016.
And within a global context, Minister Norton noted that Guyana as well as the rest of the world is moving towards the “Fast Track” as part of the Sustainable Development Goal to end AIDS in 2030. As such, he noted that the country has intensified its efforts in reaching the 90-90-90 goal established by UNAIDS.
“With the reduction of new HIV infections in adults grinding to a halt and an upsurge of new infections in youths, especially girls, there is an obvious need for us to strengthen our HIV prevention efforts and to address cross cutting issues which infringe on the human rights of all Guyanese to freely access health care offered to people living with HIV/AIDS” the Minister said.
He added too that Government must examine the possibility of targeted intervention which will ensure that funds are invested in a rational manner, leading to “value for money.”