Downward trend in new HIV infections

Director of the National HIV/AIDS Program Dr. Nikkiah Forbes said that while the fight against HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas has been a difficult one, one notable success is the downward trend of new infections.

According to the 2018 HIV surveillance fact sheet, there were 154 new HIV diagnoses in The Bahamas in 2018.

“We’ve had some successes over the years,” Forbes said.

“We are seeing a decline in new infections. At the peak in 1993, there were just under 800 new HIV infections per year. We’ve seen that number go down to less than 200.

“So, we are happy about that, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Sixty-five percent of new diagnoses were men and 35 percent were women. People between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for the largest group of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 at 21 percent.

However, Ministry of Health Epidemiologist Glenise Johnson said that does not mean there were more diagnoses than usual in that age group in 2018.

She said there were, however, significantly fewer in the 30-39 age group, which she said usually accounts for the largest percentage of new diagnoses.

Of the new cases, 79 percent identified as Bahamians. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with HIV in 2018 resided on New Providence.

New diagnoses also included one case of mother-to-child transmission, while 13 cases of HIV/tuberculosis co-infection were reported in 2018.

“We also have made significant progress not just in AIDS deaths, but in new transmissions and that is reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission.

“We used to talk about an AIDS-free generation. We’ve had different strategies over the years, but this is an HIV and AIDS-free generation.

“Before effective antiretroviral therapy, we had a number in the double digits of children that were born with HIV every year.”

Forbes said now only one to two children each year are born with HIV, usually only in instances where mothers refuse treatment.

According to the fact sheets, AIDS-related deaths decreased by 36 percent since 2009, with 87 deaths in 2018.

There were 5,728 people who died of AIDS-related illnesses in The Bahamas between 1985 and 2018.

The number of people estimated to have HIV in the country remained unchanged at roughly 6,000, a prevalence rate of 1.8 percent.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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