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More than 10,000 AIDS cases have been reported in Jamaica since the disease was first discovered in the island in 1982, with some 6,000 deaths to date.
As contained in a Ministry Paper now before the House of Representatives, about 1,000 persons are newly reported as developing AIDS annually in Jamaica.
The document, which looks at the performance of the National HIV/STI Control Programme, noted that while the programme had prevented an estimated 100,000 new HIV infections, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continued to grow.
In fact, the paper noted that while some 25,000 Jamaicans are living with HIV, approximately 15,000 persons were not aware of their HIV positive status.”Because HIV affects persons at an age when they are most productive, the implications for health and development are particularly grave,” the paper stated.
The document also pointed to a number of factors, which contribute to the growing spread of the disease in Jamaica including poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and gender relations.
“The continued stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS also contributes to increased vulnerability of the population, by driving the epidemic underground and by persons failing to correctly assess their risk,” the document also noted.
The Ministry Paper pointed to the need to address sensitive social issues and to ensure that young persons were effectively reached with HIV/AIDS education and safe sex skills.
“HIV/AIDS education programmes need to be expanded considerably in the schools, the workplace and the community. This requires an effective multi-sectoral response as well as an increase in resources for HIV/AIDS and the promotion of healthy lifestyle,” the document said.
The National HIV/AIDS/STI Control programme, which is based in the Ministry of Health and headed by Dr. Peter Figueroa, is recognized internationally as one of the strongest in the world.
The main components of the programme, which is funded by the World Bank and the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS, are treatment, prevention, policy, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation.