While the government’s recent announcement that Guyanese would undergo self-testing for HIV soon attracted criticism from stakeholders, the new Program Manager for the National AIDS Program Secretariat (NAPS), Dr Tariq Jagnarine believes it is good for Guyanese.
In a recent interview with the Newsroom, Dr Jagnarine welcomed the announcement of Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony and used the opportunity to dispel the fears of those involved in the domestic HIV / AIDS response.
He said that self-testing has proved to be best practice in many developed countries and he is confident that, with the appropriate guidelines, he can work in Guyana as a majority contributor to help the government reach its target, and among these, it ends AIDS through 2030.
“It’s feasible … before the program is implemented, there is likely to be a guided policy on how it will be delivered and monitored,” Dr Jagnarine assured.
He acknowledged that Guyana has its own challenges with the distance of some regions, but said that with appropriate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), self-testing in Guyana can be done effectively.
When asked about the possibility that some people would test positive and fail to inform the authorities in line with the government’s effort not only to get people on treatment but to achieve viral suppression, Dr Jagnarine said he will not self-testing is done in an isolated manner. .
He said it will go hand in hand with all the other programs in NAPS that will allow for successful tracking and monitoring of people.
“It’s going to be very much scrutinized and tracked … I personally wouldn’t want to be tested and we lost them and can’t put them on ARVs,” he added.
The government has not said when self-testing would begin in Guyana. The announcement to begin self-testing coincides with the launch of the new HIV National Strategic Plan 2021-2025.
With approximately 8,000 people living with HIV in Guyana, statistics from the Ministry of Health at the end of 2020 show that at the end of 2020, 90 percent of those infected know their status, while 72 percent are on therapy antiretroviral and 75 percent of those receiving antiretroviral therapy are orally suspended.