ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda’s AIDS Response Progress Report has highlighted successes in the fight against HIV but underscores the challenges associated with reaching men who have sex with men (MSM) and commercial sex workers – the most at-risk populations.
Released this week by UNAIDS, the document could not produce data on the percentage of men who have sex with men, reached by HIV prevention programmes.
Information on the percentage of MSM reporting the use of a condom the last time they had anal sex with a male partner was also not available in the 62-page document.
The percentage of MSM that has received an HIV test in the past 12 months and know their results and the percentage of men who have sex with other men who are living with HIV was also not known.
“It would appear as if most of our MSM are scared of providing information about their sexual preferences. They are very reluctant to give up data about whether they are givers or receivers or where they prefer to access care,” head of Antigua’s National AIDS Programme (NAP) Delcora Williams said.
She said the problem in collecting data means that Antigua & Barbuda was not able to meet its target from UN survey, the deadline for which expired on Tuesday.
Williams is hoping that data collection from MSM will improve in the coming years.
“They are the persons that are most at risk of contracting HIV because of the type of sex that is involved. Getting information from these vulnerable populations is vital to any national AIDS programme,” she said.
The progress report stated that “there is presently technical assistance being given to develop a survey instrument to collect information from MSM and Sex Workers.”
However, NAP said it has recorded a major success with preventing the spread of HIV from mother to child.
For the reporting period there was only one instance in which the virus was transmitted in that manner.
Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services are provided in conjunction with antenatal and delivery services at Mount St John’s Medical Centre.
The PMTCT services include pre-test and post-test counselling among other prevention measures.
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