‘Treat All’ programme a worthwhile investment


From the moment an individual is diagnosed with HIV in Barbados, they will start to receive Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). 
Announcing the island-wide launch of ‘Treat All’ recently, Health Minister John Boyce said the move will maintain the island’s low rates of HIV illness and deaths.
‘Treat All’ comes about as a direct result of the World Health Organization changing HIV treatment criteria and recommending that all HIV positive persons start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis, due to recent findings indicating that early and expanded use of antiretroviral treatment save lives by keeping people living with HIV healthier and by reducing the risk that they will transmit the virus to partners.
Previously, initiation of treatment was based on an individual’s CD4 count-the level of immunity, but all persons living with HIV will now be offered lifelong therapy irrespective of this.
Addressing the launch at the Ministry of Health’s, National Insurance Scheme building office, he said that the Finance Ministry has provided an additional $500,000 towards the wider use of ART.
Boyce outlined that a cost benefit analysis looking at the earlier initiation of ART in Barbados by the Caribbean Regional Office of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the benefits of such an action.
“The statistical model used showed the cost of providing treatment to all persons with HIV, not based on clinical criteria, and what the public health impact would be in terms of the number of new infections averted due to the wider use of ART. We presented this data to the Ministry of Finance who readily realized that starting ‘Treat All’ would be an investment that would reduce health costs in the long-term,” he stated.
The minister also pointed out that the implementation of this approach would be critical in helping Barbados achieve and sustain the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020. These include: 90 percent of all people living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receiving sustained anti-retroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy being virally suppressed.
“For ‘Treat All’ and the wider HIV response to be most effective, I implore my fellow Barbadians to assist in these efforts: practising safe sex; get tested for HIV; access HIV care services if necessary and most importantly stop discrimination against those with HIV or persons who are considered to be at greater risk of HIV. HIV-related stigma and discrimination remains one of our biggest obstacles in controlling this epidemic in Barbados,” Boyce stressed. (JMB)

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