The National Commission for the Control of HIV (CONAVIH) began a campaign called “Tests that save lives”, aimed at promoting HIV testing and awareness. It is intended for the entire month of June to carry out activities at health centers where HIV testing will be offer for free along with pre and post counseling.
“We expect to carry out more than 20,000 HIV testing across the country to detect new HIV cases”, said Dr. Aurelio Núñez, head of the national HIV program.
Dr. Núñez said that the confidentiality of the results will be respected at all times, regardless of the results, since they have received dozens of complaints indicating privacy violation by health personnel in different health centers. That has led many people to feel forced to opt for private laboratories, while others simply never get tested.
According to statistics of the Panamanian Department of Epidemiology, there are more than 20,000 people with HIV who don’t know their HIV status. This mainly affects men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people.
Panama, like many of the countries of Latin America, is supporting the 90-90-90 strategy. However, the other two pillars of this strategy must be strengthened, especially the one referring to viral suppression, which is directly linked with the provision of timely and sustained anti-retroviral drugs.
This promising strategy, however, will be difficult to be implemented in countries that are reluctant to speak publicly of the epidemic and the populations most affected as men who have sex with men, transgender, among other people.
In short, speaking publicly about an issue of public health such as HIV is part of the strategy to eradicate it. However, many countries in the region still see HIV as a taboo and something that must be banned.