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KINGSTON — There has been a 31 per cent decline in the number of paediatric AIDS deaths since 2006, Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has informed.

The reduction, he said, is significant, and is due to the increased access to treatment by HIV-infected children and mothers.

“We would like to see an even more significant reduction in the number of paediatric AIDS deaths and in the number of children contracting the disease,” said the Minister, who was addressing the launch of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2011 yesterday at the Scotiabank Centre, downtown Kingston.

He informed that the access to free antiretroviral drugs has reduced mother-to-child transmission to less than five per cent from a prevalence of more than 25 per cent in 2004.

“I am urging all women, who are pregnant to get tested. Treatment is available for you. Your unborn child can be spared the consequences of living with the disease,” he said.

Minister Spencer also appealed to men to get tested for HIV so that they can know their status and take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their partners, families and loved ones.

“Knowing your status is the first step in the fight against HIV/AIDS that every one of us can make at a personal level. From the level of the Ministry of Health, we continue to provide treatment, care and support to persons living with the disease,” he noted.

He informed that more than 225,000 tests were carried out at public and private laboratories last year and 58,000 were done from January to March. “We hope to significantly increase these figures with outreach initiatives,” he said.

Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2011, to be held on June 24, is a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Health; Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV and AIDS; Scotia Bank; and PAN Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP).

The initiative aims to heighten public interest in voluntary counselling and testing as an effective mechanism for preventing the spread of HIV and help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.

 

By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter