NASSAU, BAHAMAS – After two persons were recently reported to have been cured of HIV, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said The Bahamas has made a commitment to be the first or one of the first countries in the world to eradicate the virus by 2030.
According to Dr. Sands, The Bahamas wants to modify its approach to addressing HIV by ensuring that everyone is tested and those who test positive have access to therapy.
It is hoped that this therapy suppresses the virus by 2030, Dr. Sands said. “We believe The Bahamas, if not the first country, will be among the first countries to eliminate HIV as a scourge and that is a real goal.”
Dr. Sands, who was addressing reporters before heading to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, said The Bahamas was once the world leader in preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child and he hopes to regain this lead.
“We have looked at where we could once again become the world leader,” Sands said. “The Bahamas was once the world leader in vertical transmission or mother to child transmission of HIV and we’ve lost some ground.”
In an effort to honour this commitment, Dr. Sands said he has been in talks with Gilead, a multi-million-dollar pharmaceutical company in Grand Bahama that manufactures most of the HIV medication that is exported around the world.
“That company has expressed a willingness to partner with us in our fight and so we have revised our approach to the management of HIV,” the health minister announced.
According to Sands, the ministry has also modified its plan for testing patients and will soon roll out a pilot program to conduct universal testing.
“It’s voluntary, obviously, but once you know your status then that’s the best way to avail yourself of treatment,” Dr. Sands advised.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post article revealed that a London man, Timothy Ray Brown, who was treated in Germany 12 years ago through a stem cell transplant is still HIV free. Brown, according to the Washington Post, is the second success story following a Berlin patient.
Dr. Sands described the article as a ‘landmark revelation’.
“This is the second person to be HIV free after bone marrow transplantation,” said Dr. Sands. He explained, however, that the transplant is not an easy procedure.
“Even though it is landmark, it is certainly not ready for prime time and certainly not the approach that we would want to take for people suffering with HIV,” Dr. Sands said. “Understand that getting a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplantation is a big deal.”
Dr. Sands said that there is about five-and-a-half thousand people at present with a confirmed case of HIV.