By the year 2020, 90 per cent of persons will know their HIV status; 90 per cent of those with a diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 per cent of those receiving antiretroviral therapy will have their infection virally suppressed.

This will happen in Barbados if Government is successful in achieving the ambitious 90-90-90 HIV treatment targets set by the United Nations AIDS Initiative.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, spoke on the matter as he addressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Caribbean Regional Office Partners Meeting this morning at the Hilton Barbados Resort.

The Minister added that much had already been learnt about preventing and combating HIV, especially in the delivery of effective and high impact services such as HIV testing and the linkage to care and antiretroviral therapy. However, he stressed, the challenge now was ???to build on what is known???.

???We are very fortunate in Barbados to experience the successes that we have had, including progressing to the point where Barbados has sought designation as having eliminated Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and syphilis; significantly reducing HIV-related morbidity and mortality; and reducing the incidence of HIV through the use of antiretrovirals,??? the Minister pointed out.

However, despite these achievements, Mr. Boyce listed several challenges in Barbados??? HIV response which need to be addressed, including increasing access to diagnostic and treatment services for key population groups, and enhancing HIV testing services for earlier diagnosis of persons with HIV.

One of the presenters at the meeting, Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Anton Best, said that while Barbados is currently ???at about 85 per cent in the categories of the 90-90-90 initiative???, Barbados still had some work to do in order to reach the 90-90-90 target.

???There is also still a high level of stigma and discrimination generally and in healthcare facilities, and this prevents certain people from accessing services??? For the people we have diagnosed with HIV there are still challenges, such keeping them in care for the same issue of stigma and discrimination. We have identified what is required to keep them in care. We are going to need more resources, financial sustainability and a lot of leadership and stewardship from our partners the CDC,??? Dr. Best noted.

The CDC Caribbean Regional Office Partners work with Ministries of Health and other stakeholders in the Caribbean region to strengthen national HIV and AIDS programmes and build public health capacity.

According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the Caribbean region ranks second behind Sub-Saharan Africa for HIV infection rates. The region has led the world in reducing the number of new infections between 2000 and 2014, with rates falling by 50 per cent.

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