State Minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Hon. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, says Jamaica has initiated several programmes to ensure that persons living with HIV (AIDS) are cared for.
Delivering the opening remarks at the Treatment, Care and Support Annual Programme held virtually on Monday (September 20), under the theme “Retention for Optimisation”, the State Minister said efforts are continuing to improve the linkage of persons diagnosed with HIV, to care, retain in care on antiretroviral support, to “achieve the ultimate goal of viral suppression”.
“The collaboration with other partners has allowed the response to achieve some success in this regard [and the forum] provides an opportunity for all stakeholders involved in the treatment response for HIV, for sharing of key updates, collective analyses of the status of the programme, and charting the way forward,” she said.
Organisations represented at the forum included the United States (US) President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFEAR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Caribbean Training and Education Centre for Health (C-TECH), Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), and Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN).
The State Minister said her Ministry understands the challenges associated with retaining persons in care, some of which are access to service delivery, stigma and discrimination, fear of disclosure and social issues, and it has taken “measures to address these factors”.
“Increased access points to care in the public sector, development of a stigma and discrimination curriculum for non-medical staff,” and empowerment of persons through treatment literacy and peer leadership, she pointed out.
The HIV Treatment, Care and Support Programme is the technical arm of the national HIV/STI/TB programme, with a major goal being to continue management of HIV/STI/TB programmes to ensure universal access to treatment, care and support services for persons living with the virus.
Launched in 2004, in recent years it has resulted in significant reduction of transmission of the illness.