Health Ministry to Adopt WHO HIV Guidelines

Photo: Garwin Davis In this file photo, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Elaine Foster Allen (left), has the attention of (from 2nd left): Caribbean Regional Director for the AIDS Health Care Foundation, Dr. Kevin Harvey; Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye; and Regional Director for the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Ken-Garfield Douglas. Occasion was the handover of a new mobile HIV testing unit donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Western Regional Health Authority. The presentation was made during the Ministry’s 26th Annual Review and Planning Retreat at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel in St. James on November 16.

Story Highlights

  • Come January, the Ministry of Health will be incorporating two key World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in the National HIV/AIDS Programme.
  • The first is the ‘Test and Start’ which recommends that all patients should be put on antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately after an HIV-positive diagnosis.
  • The second guideline, ‘Treatment as Prevention’, calls for the use of a daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.

Come January, the Ministry of Health will be incorporating two key World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in the National HIV/AIDS Programme.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye, made the disclosure as he addressed the Ministry’s 26th Annual Review and Planning Retreat at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel in St. James on November 16.

The first is the ‘Test and Start’ which recommends that all patients should be put on antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately after an HIV-positive diagnosis.

Dr. De La Haye said the ART recommendation is based on scientific evidence from clinical trials and observational studies, which demonstrate that starting therapy early results in better health outcomes for persons living with HIV versus delayed treatment.

The second guideline, ‘Treatment as Prevention’, calls for the use of a daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.

“As more persons living with HIV/AIDS are virally suppressed, the risk of transmission decreases,” Dr. De La Haye noted.

The Chief Medical Officer said it is anticipated that new patients will be eligible for treatment once these new guidelines are introduced.

He noted that the successful implementation of the measures will require strengthening of capacity in various areas of the national programme, which is already under way.

These include improving peer support and linkages; ongoing training of treatment and support staff; improving supply chain management to provide a reliable and uninterrupted supply of healthcare products; improvement of data collection at treatment sites, with databases updated to enable better identification of clients, including those out of treatment.

Meanwhile, Dr. De La Haye said that more persons are getting tested for HIV and are becoming aware of their status.

He noted that 81 per cent of persons living with HIV know that they have the virus, which is an improvement over the 50 per cent of persons in 2010.

“This significant achievement is partially attributable to the introduction of outreach testing being conducted by outreach workers, non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners and the added resource of the mobile testing units,” Dr. De La Haye said.

According to a Spectrum 2015 report, there are an estimated 29,000 Jamaicans living with HIV, representing 1.6 per cent of the adult population.

Approximately 85 per cent of all cases reported between 1982 and 2015 were persons between 20 and 59 years old.

During the function, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) handed over a $12-million testing unit to the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), which is expected to boost underground HIV and syphilis testing and continue to provide much-needed services to those who are in need.

“I am pleased today that we will improve our capacity to test in the western region with the handing over of this mobile unit,” Dr. De La Haye said.

“The Ministry of Health is grateful to the USAID for their continued support… . I charge the region to handle this donation to the best of their ability, allowing it to do the job that it was designed to do,” he added.

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