Jamaica Has Made Strides in HIV Treatment and Care


Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Jean Dixon, said that Jamaica has made significant strides in HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support.
She said that the HIV prevalence rate has remained fairly stable and approximately 80 per cent of persons living with HIV are on antiretroviral drugs. “More than 90 per cent of HIV positive infants receive antiretroviral drugs and over 85 per cent of HIV infected (mothers) receive highly active antiretroviral therapy,” she informed.
In addition, she said, the abolition of user fees policy has provided an opportunity for HIV infected persons to have greater access to services and drugs “without the added stress of finding out of pocket payments.”
Dr. Dixon was addressing the opening of the 20th annual National HIV/STI Programme Retreat on Wednesday (October 7) at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios.
Jamaica reported its first AIDS case 27 years ago in 1982. It is estimated that 27,000 persons are living with the HIV virus and 66 per cent or 18,000 are unaware of their status.
Dr. Dixon, who was speaking on behalf of Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, said that efforts must be focused on finding those 18,000 persons, who do not know their status. “We can increase screening and testing by making use of every opportunity to screen and test in the public and health sector,” she stated.
She noted that aspects of culture, stigma and discrimination have isolated risk groups such as homosexuals and sex workers and partnerships must be forged to reach those groups.
“There are certain factors that are driving the epidemic that are outside the control of the Ministry of Health and so we must expand our partnerships beyond the public sector to reach people and communities that are at this time hard to reach,” she stated.
She further noted that the widespread practice of multiple sex partners, insufficient condom use, early initiation of sexual activities, limited life skills and sex education, and gender inequity, were some of the challenges that must be overcome as a society.
“We do not now have the capacity to take on everything but we have an obligation to be outward looking and to take the lead in bringing the nation together, and to inspire all sectors to work together to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Dr. Dixon stated.
The three-day retreat is being held under the theme: ‘Solid Achievements, Critical Gaps and Future Priorities’.

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