HIV/AIDS in ColombiaAcross Latin America, Colombia has the fourth-largest infection rate of HIV/AIDS, according to a 2021 BMC Public Health article. The incidence of HIV/AIDS in Colombia started increasing notably in the 1980s. As of 2021, 170,000 people are HIV/AIDS positive in Colombia. Fortunately, the Colombian government’s efforts and the expansion of advanced medical technology have strengthened the support system in order to reduce cases of HIV/AIDS in Colombia.

HIV Self-Testing Kits

In 2020, Colombia developed initiatives for advancing HIV self-testing policies. Some other Latin American countries implemented the same actions. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) helped strategize these efforts to combat the limitations of health care services once the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted the availability of testing and treatment services.

Earlier on, PAHO reported that Latin America’s HIV infection rate rose to 21% within the last decade, proving that support was going to be essential in terms of preventing the COVID-19 pandemic from weakening burdened health care systems and therefore escalating human suffering due to AIDS-related illnesses. Prevention and awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS in Colombia during the pandemic appeared to be isolated even further with health care facilities providing limited support options as the pandemic worsened. As a result, PAHO and UNAIDS got to work on promoting the self-testing kits.

Although HIV/AIDS testing had decreased at the beginning of 2020, PAHO, WHO and UNAIDS still recommend the self-testing strategy. According to PAHO, the kits play a vital role in moving toward the goal of “having 90% of people with HIV know their status” while also allowing for more privacy and autonomy for patients, a key objective in deconstructing the stigma around HIV/AIDS and reaching out to more people who could not receive HIV/AIDS testing before.

Health Sector PEPFAR Donations

Vulnerable populations in Colombia including Venezuelan migrants and refugees have been able to receive crucial HIV/AIDS health care services, bettering resources with the support of both Colombia and the United States (U.S.). In 2019, The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia prioritized life-saving treatment to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS in Colombia by giving antiretroviral treatment to 1,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants for one year, the U.S. Embassy in Colombia reports.

Many migrants and refugees would have previously not been able to receive clinical services for HIV/AIDS because of their exclusion from Colombia’s national health care system. The formalized letter of intent signed in August 2019 by the U.S. and Colombia has expanded efforts on behalf of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an initiative originally established by the Bush administration in 2003.

Colombian regions that have benefited from the 2019 PEPFAR agreement include Cúcuta, Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Arauca, according to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia.

Resolution 881

Resolution 881 by the Ministry of Health Of Colombia has been set for 2023, according to UNAIDS. The goal of this resolution is to issue affordable pricing on Dolutegravir (DTG)–an oral antiretroviral treatment–by having the World Trade Organization (WTO) supply a compulsory license. As a result, DTG could have more than an 80% price drop.

Access to medication such as DTG for HIV/AIDS in Colombia has been pivotal for expanding health care services and creating more protection for public health in Colombia. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized DTG as a primary treatment option for HIV/AIDS due to a lower rate of resistance development and adverse drug reactions, according to UNAIDS.

For people living with HIV/AIDS in Colombia, community-based organizations could provide greater support to manage their condition. And for the general populace, increased HIV testing presents hope for success in preventing future infections.

– Lucy Cosme Vera
Photo: Flickr