AIDS retreat

Region ‘on the cusp of winning HIV fight’

Barbados and the Caribbean are on the “cusp of winning the whole HIV/AIDS fight” and most importantly, the battle of public perception, according to Chairman of the Caribbean Cytometry & Analytical Society (CCAS) Professor Clive Landis.

“Information is everything and we must first of all utterly demolish the ideas that this is a death sentence and use this information to kinda realize that there is only really one barrier left. That is, once you realize that actually the name of the game is to get everyone on treatment and therefore in the population – we use the term population viral load – it just comes down and then eventually the virus, the biostatisticians have told us, at some point when you have about 73 per cent of the population with undetectable viruses the disease will just die out,” he explained to Barbados TODAY as CCAS wrapped up its five day Experts Meeting and the Almond Beach Resort.

Held under the theme, From Care to Cure: Shifting the HIV Paradigm, the conference featured an array of experts and practitioners from Barbados, the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherland and South Africa, whose main aims was to review the advances in antiretroviral therapy and the public health benefits accruing from treatment and prevention.

Landis lamented that the public still believes that HIV is a “life sentence”, apparently unaware of treatment that allow people living with the virus to “live an extremely normal productive life”.

“The estimates are that smoking will take off more of your life than HIV will as long as it is treated. AIDS, if left untreated, you die from AIDS. Now it is going to be very difficult to eliminate HIV from the populations in the world, but nobody should be untreated and dying from AIDS. Nobody, but nobody in this world; because we’ve got the drugs and as soon as you treat someone, within the space of days, you can go from looking like a skeleton to looking healthy again,” Landis, the deputy principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, stated.

He also said HIV was becoming more of a chronic non-communicable disease once the infected person receives antiretroviral treatment.

“If you are treated you are non-infectious. Let me just say it clearly. If you are treated and the virus is suppressed in your body . . . undetectable equals un-infectious. Now this is the reason what the whole HIV epidemic is now turning in our favour and that is because when you place people on treatment, you suppress the virus in their body and they’re are noninfectious.”

The CCAS chairman referred to a study that tracked 58,000 acts of unprotected sex between couples where one partner was HIV positive, and it found that there was not a single case of transmissions

“None. And I am serious about this. So, at this point it is incontrovertible that when you suppress the virus you cannot transmit it.

“So, what have we got now?  It basically is now a disease that you live with. It is a virus that we don’t really consider [to be] that potent a virus anymore, because we have all the treatments. If someone is on treatment that person is no longer infectious.  In my opinion that changes everything. It actually changes the way that the general public should even looks at the disease,” Landis said, adding that a key task for health officials was to ensure everyone knows his or her status, and for those with the virus to receive treatment.

One Response to AIDS retreat

  1. Tony Webster September 1, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Very good news…to a well-informed, mature citizenry. However, what about teenagers with rioting hormones: great news also?
    I salute our Health-Care professionals, for fighting the good fight , and critically, for our policy decision (Mr. Owen Arthur, I believe) to grasp the financial nettle and issuing anti-retroviral medications without cost to infected individuals.


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