JIS News

The Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance (CHAA) was officially launched, at the Holiday Inn Sunspree resort, Montego Bay, on Wednesday (March 11), under the theme “Serving communities and vulnerable populations throughout the Caribbean region”.
Some 30 member countries pledged to step up the relentless struggle to reduce the prevalence and serious effects of HIV/ AIDS in the Caribbean region.
The newly established organization is expected to provide new and exciting challenges and opportunities to deliver services to at-risk populations, and provide a strong regional governance structure from which the new body could prosper and grow.
Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health’s National HIV/STD Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, congratulated CHAA for the work done throughout the Caribbean region since its inception in 2003, and for being promoted as an independent linking organization.
“Since beginning work in the region in 2003, the alliance has contributed significantly to reducing HIV/AIDS risks in vulnerable communities, through the support of prevention programmes and improving access to treatment, care and support services,” he said.
Through these efforts, the Alliance has been contributing to minimising the effects of the epidemic in the Caribbean, Dr. Harvey told participants.
He observed that, notwithstanding successes in the ongoing efforts of CHAA, too many persons were being affected by the disease, indicating that new resolve and innovative strategies must be pursued in controlling the spread.
“In Jamaica, there is an estimated 27,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS. Of that number, 18,000 persons are still unaware of their status, despite increasing the number of persons tested from 40,000 per annum in 2002 to over 250,000 in 2008. Approximately 6,000- 7,000 persons are in need of antiretroviral, with 5,000 persons now on treatment,” he said.
He added that, as a result of increased access to antiretroviral treatment, more persons are on medication and are living longer.
“With the current global economic meltdown and the increasing unavailability of funding, even for HIV interventions, I want to implore all of us to think of sustainability in all our work,” Dr. Harvey said.
“Think of creating long lasting community interventions, by building the capacity of local community-based organizations to carry on the interventions beyond the life of the short term projects,” he pointed out.
“Let’s focus on community ownership and participation, rather than short-term consultants to quickly deliver project outputs that may be transient. Lets us focus on planning our work and integration of efforts, rather than duplication and competition,” Dr. Harvey noted.
He stated that the HIV epidemic was far from over and only as a united force, with a well thought out and agreed plan of action, would Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean region be able to succeed against it.
President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Wayne Cummings, pointed to the need to educate each other about the critical importance of safe sex and tolerance.
“In this business of tourism, we are in fact the gateway to many things, much of which we appreciate. We are also in the business of constantly creating integration and interaction of human beings, and we must take the responsibility within the walls of our hotels and our businesses to educate each other about the need for safe sex and tolerances,” he said.
“We have a real challenge, but we also have great opportunities. The fight has only just begun and, hopefully, in another 25 years or so, we must be able to say we have made a difference and the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance is certainly one additional step in that direction,” Mr. Cummings said.

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