Lifesaving Anti-retroviral (ARV) medication has been secured through an inter-American partnership agreement to maintain vital supplies for Jamaicans living with HIV.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), through country partnership agreements and the regional Strategic Fund, facilitated a loan of one ARV from Panama and a donation of one ARV from Brazil to cover lengthy delays in procuring the drug due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The loan from Panama and donation from Brazil will maintain supplies of these two ARVs for the next three months, preventing a stockout of these two ARVs in Jamaica, until deliveries are received later this year.
Dr. Rebekah Hoilett Duncan, a Programme Development Officer, with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) explained that delays were compounded by the lockdown of India and closure of manufacturing plants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has disrupted traditional supply lines with the forced closure of our suppliers in India, delaying procurement and threatening a stockout.” said Dr Duncan. “This loan and donation means we can continue to provide support to those that rely on ARV while global supply lines are repaired.”
Dr. Valeska Stempliuk, PAHO Advisor on Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control outlined how critical ARV drugs are in maintaining the health of those living with HIV.
“Standard antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of the combination of ARV drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease,” highlighted Dr Stempliuk. “ART also prevents onward transmission of HIV, including from mothers to their babies, so for those living with HIV, maintaining a regular supply of ARV is vital in suppressing the viral load of HIV.”
Furthermore, the MOHW Jamaica has been able to respond to a request from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to assist in maintaining its national ARV supplies, through a loan coordinated by PAHO for one ARV.
“The pandemic has shown that health emergencies have no borders, therefore regional support networks are critical to prevent other health emergencies while we are tackling COVID-19,” emphasised Dr Duncan. “We are pleased that we could answer the call for assistance from our neighbours just as others have done for Jamaica.”
Huge reductions have been seen in rates of death and infections when use is made of a potent ARV regimen, particularly in early stages of the disease.
World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommend initiating ART in all persons living with HIV, regardless of WHO clinical stage and at any CD4 cell count (also called "treat all"), and the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an additional prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination HIV prevention approaches.
For more information about HIV treatment and care visit www.paho.org/en/topics/treatment