By Shazia Islam
AIDS-related deaths in Haiti are on the decline thanks to funding initiatives by international donors, an expert said Tuesday.
Dr. Gordon Arbess runs the inner city health program at St. Michael’s health centre in Toronto and is one of the main organizers of the weekly discussion topics on HIV and AIDS.
Arbess told Humber News that a country like Haiti needs help from large organizations such as the United Nations Global Fund and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) so Haitians living with HIV can access life-saving anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs).
“The organizations want good outcomes,” said Arbess. “They go in there and set it up such that it’s done properly and monitored very closely.”
Arbess shared some surprising facts and figures about HIV in Haiti with his audience.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), in the last 10 years, the number of people who received a positive HIV diagnosis has witnessed a significant decline.
Although Haiti has the largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS among the countries of the Caribbean and is the poorest country in the region, at least 58 per cent are accessing proper medical treatment for the disease, said UNAIDS.
Subash Chandarana, a representative of AbbVie Corporation, a pharmaceutical company, attended Arbess’ presentation and told Humber News that PEPFAR provides free ARV medication to developing nations such as Haiti.
PEPFAR has spent US$144 million on HIV/AIDS treatment programs in Haiti, said Arbess.
Arbess told Humber News that he plans to return to Haiti on a second visit next year to offer HIV/AIDS care and support.
“Canadians are compassionate people,” said Arbess. “A lot of us in this country come from other countries where we weren’t as fortunate, and now we generally have one of the highest standards of living in the world. We should strive towards what we have here and help in any way we can to tighten the gap.”