BASSETERRE, St. Kitts & Nevis: The availability of free anti-retroviral therapy (ART), improved access to HIV and AIDS treatment and better information and education programs have resulted in a decrease in HIV-related deaths.
The St. Kitts & Nevis Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2012 has stated that the annual prevalence of AIDS-related deaths has remained at five per cent or less for the last 10 years (2002 to 2011), with one and four deaths recorded in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
“As of 2011, 58 persons living with advanced HIV disease are under medical supervision of which 50 receive ART. St. Kitts & Nevis has made significant progress in ensuring that persons living with HIV and AIDS are able to receive free of charge anti-retrovirals and supplements necessary to live healthy and productive lives,” the report said.
It went on to state that St. Kitts & Nevis reported its first HIV and AIDS case in 1984, and since then to 2011 a total of 335 HIV cases were documented while 115 progressed to AIDS.
Data regarding the HIV trend annually was not readily available because of the variability in reported cases between years.
The incidence rates in 2010 and 2011 were 17.3 and 32 per 100,000 populations respectively which represented 9 and 17 reported HIV cases for those years.
“Overall, there is a preponderance of males who are infected with the disease, evidence has emerged that the epidemic is infecting and affecting both sexes without any clear distinction, and likewise indicating that an increased number of women are also bearing the burden of the disease,” the report explained.
Additionally, data shows that in the distribution among the most sexually active age group of 15-49 (with the exception of the 15-19 age group), “males are most affected by HIV among all sexually active groups including 60 years and older”.
The report indicates that while some successes have been recorded in the voluntary counselling and testing program (VCT), there is a great need for preventative and VCT strategies to focus more on the vulnerable and most-at-risk populations (MARPs).
Despite the decline in funding from donors, the St. Kitts & Nevis government, guided by its 2010-2014 National Strategic Plan, is continuing to make HIV a priority and has reiterated its commitment “towards the reduction of HIV incidence, zero tolerance of stigma and discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths”.
This means that the Ministry of Health continues to prioritize its HIV and AIDS programming in keeping with the six priority areas of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2008 – 2012. The CRSF guides the work of Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP).
PANCAP is a regional partnership established by CARICOM Heads of Government in 2001 to respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean. It is a more country focused, goal-driven, learning organization that is able to respond flexibly to emerging needs.