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The region has one of the highest rates of antiretroviral coverage in the world.
Latin America has come to a halt in the response to HIV, which causes AIDS, as the implementation of the pre-exposure antiretroviral prophylaxis (PrEP) is still slow in most countries in the region, a worker of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said.
Massimo Ghidinelli (Director of PAHO’s HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections Unit) claimed that, despite good news about this disease in Latin America, progress is not being made to improve in this area.
“We have reached a critical stage because, on the one hand, we are in view of elimination, whereas, on the other hand, there are gaps which cannot be closed yet,” he said during his participation in the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019), a summit that gathers scientists and specialists in that field from more than 160 countries.
The specialist indicated that one of the most outstanding advances in the region is that almost every country has addressed the universal coverage policy. In fact, he said that the region has one of the highest rates of antiretroviral coverage in the world, with an average of 61%.
Likewise, he mentioned that, according to the recently published UNAIDS report, mortality rate decreased by 20% compared to 2010. Furthermore, countries have made efforts so that financing to fight this disease is public.
However, he regretted that new infections have increased by 7% compared to 2010, and that young people are the most vulnerable, as one out of three new cases are in people between 15 and 24 years old.
He also said that it has been detected that epidemics in the region are concentrated, as two out of three new infections occur in key populations, mainly in men who have sex with men.
He mentioned that another relevant point is that, although it is well known that prophylaxis helps avoid new infections, Latin America is not making the most of it. Moreover, late diagnosis still occurs, which compromises people’s lives, since they die within the first six months after being diagnosed.
“In fact, 25% of new cases match that profile,” he added.
Ghidinelli claimed there is a window of opportunity in the region, and that we have to improve prevention campaigns and combined prevention. In other words, people should have two or more prevention methods.
He also said we have to expand the response approach in key populations, so that it becomes quicker and more people have access to it.
He assured some advances, such as having solved the dolutegravir controversy (a medicine against HIV that was thought to be responsible for birth defects, but it has been proven safe now), will improve care services for pregnant women. Finally, he mentioned that people must take advantage of the tools and technologies available now. “The challenge will be to realize how to make the most of them,” he added.