Boost for Fight against HIV/AIDS

The fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS has been boosted with the allocation of $38.8 million to the AIDS/STD Programme, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Health.
As set out in the 2007/2008 Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House of Representatives, the money will be used to continue the control of HIV/STD infections as well as reduce the transmission of the disease, while improving the health status of Jamaicans.
The programme, which started in May 1999, is a joint venture between the Ministry and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Targets outlined for the period 2007/08 include the continued strengthening of services in sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics; the maintenance of HIV testing among sentinel groups in all parishes and offering of counselling; the improvement of laboratory efficiency; and, increased training for counsellors in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI). High on the agenda for the year also, is the reduction of prenatal HIV/STI transmission and congenital syphilis and the improvement in contact investigator services. There are also plans to establish sustainable quality assurance and standard for HIV care.
Under the programme so far, there have been a number of achievements such as, studies on sexual behaviour of high-risk groups and special surveys on HIV/STD; the development of guidelines and protocol for rapid HIV testing and the conducting of behaviour change community training for guidance counsellors and peer educators.
A draft protocol for vaginal discharge study has also been completed, while a draft manual on antiretroviral theraphy, tuberculosis (TB) and home-based care was prepared.
In addition, to date, a million persons have been reached through the continuation of HIV/STI awareness efforts through the media and live positive campaigns, and some 300 children developed songs, skits, dance and poetry focusing on the theme: ‘Abstinence 100 per cent Safe’.
Ongoing activities include targeted media campaign, upgrading of Comprehensive Health Centre for STI services, counselling on HIV/STI help line, the procurement of HIV test kits for sentinel surveillance, updating websites for the National Programme and National AIDS Committee, and ensuring a safe blood supply through continued education.
Condom machines have been installed at the University of Technology (UTech), UWI, Caymanas Park and hotels in the western region of the island, while some 33,000 condoms have been distributed through summer party interventions. The South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) has also distributed approximately 60,000 condoms.
Stemming from these initiatives, there has been a noticeable decrease in congenital syphilis and a reduction in multiple partners among men.

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