Campaign Launched for Persons Living with HIV to Take Medication for Life

Photo: Mark Bell Director of Health Services Planning and Integration in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Simone Spence (left), listens as Senior Medical Officer of the National HIV/STI Programme, Dr. Nicola Skyers (right), makes a point, at the official launch of the ‘Test and Start: Get on yu meds and get on wid life’, social-marketing campaign at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on August 10. Others (from second left) are Director of Health Promotion and Protection, Dr. Beverley Wright and Acting Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sara Buchanan

Story Highlights

  • A social-marketing campaign has officially been launched by the Ministry of Health to encourage persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) to take their medication and to continue to do so for life.
  • Director of Health Services Planning and Integration in the Ministry, Dr. Simone Spence, said the test and start recommendation and, by extension, the campaign are based on current scientific evidence from clinical trials and observational studies.
  • Acting Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sara Buchanan, said the campaign will change lives.

A social-marketing campaign has officially been launched by the Ministry of Health to encourage persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) to take their medication and to continue to do so for life.

The campaign, which has been dubbed, ‘Test and Start: Get on yu meds and get on wid life’, goes further to encourage persons to get tested for HIV in order to know their status and, if confirmed positive, to commence antiretroviral treatment.

Director of Health Services Planning and Integration in the Ministry, Dr. Simone Spence, said the test and start recommendation and, by extension, the campaign are based on current scientific evidence from clinical trials and observational studies.

“It demonstrates that initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) earlier results in better clinical outcomes in persons living with HIV, versus delay in treatment,” she said, at the launch at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on August 10.

“Treatment as a method of prevention is another benefit of these new guidelines. As more PLHIVs are virally suppressed, the risk of transmission… decreases. Testing is, therefore, a critical tool in the management and treatment of this disease,” she continued.

Citing data from the United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Spence informed that persons who use ART can be kept healthy for many years.

“Antiretroviral medications lower HIV in the blood, reduce HIV-related illnesses and reduce the spread of HIV to others,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Acting Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sara Buchanan, said the campaign will change lives.

She said that, through it, more persons will realise that HIV is no longer a “death sentence but a manageable illness”.

Ms. Buchanan lauded the Health Ministry for initiating the campaign and informed that as part of its push, new staff was hired and the capacity assessment of regional testing sites was undertaken, among other things.

Country Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Jamaica, Manoela Manova, is elated that Jamaica has initiated the campaign, which, she indicated, required a great deal of planning, resources and courage.

“This proves that Jamaica is a strong regional leader, and Jamaica is one of the first countries to have initiated the 90-90- 90 (treatment target),” she said.

This means that by 2020, 90 per cent of all persons living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 per cent of all persons diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 per cent of all persons receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

For his part, Executive Director of the Jamaican Network of Seropositives, Ricky Pascoe, said it is a campaign being welcomed by his organisation, which will be a “big boost for them”.

Mr. Pascoe noted that there is need to improve treatment sites, address the shortage of ART and reduce the stigma and discrimination that exist with HIV.

Jamaica has an estimated 30,000 persons living with HIV or 1. 7 per cent of the adult population.

The most urbanised parishes, such as Kingston and St. Andrew, and St. James have the highest cumulative number of reported cases of HIV.

Radio, television and poster advertisements will form part of the social-marketing campaign of Test and Start.

JIS Social