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Minister of Health, John Junor has pointed out that with the advances in HIV/AIDS care, individuals who are diagnosed early with HIV could live healthy normal lives with the appropriate treatment and monitoring.
The Minister was addressing the opening of the Immunology Centre at the National Laboratory, on Slipe Pen Road recently. He reiterated that equipment, facilities and drugs to improve quality of life and the life span of HIV infected persons were accessible and available island wide. “Let me stress the point that early diagnosis allows for timely treatment interventions preventing deterioration and significant illness,” he said.
The Minister said the National HIV/STI Control programme was leading a process to increase significantly the number of persons who participated in Voluntary Testing and Counselling (VCT) each year. The programme, he said, was currently increasing its activities to offer VCT to all pregnant women, all persons attending Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Clinics and to persons admitted to hospital or attending casualty departments.
“At these points, an HIV test can help reduce mother-to-child transmission to under five per cent if the mother’s status is detected early and she adheres to her programme of antiretroviral treatment and the use of infant feeding substitutes,” he said.
Mother-to-child transmission accounts for about eight per cent of all reported HIV/AIDS cases in Jamaica.Minister Junor said persons who attend STI clinics were among those having unprotected sex, who could have contracted HIV and account for about 62 per cent of those living with the virus. “We are also encouraging other persons who visit their doctors in public and private facilities to request an HIV test with pre and post testing counselling,” he said.
The National HIV/STI Control Programme, he informed, has also adopted new methods of identifying persons who are likely to contract the virus during new sexual encounters. “Our new research and intervention called Priorities for Local AIDS Control Efforts (PLACE) allows us to identify and confirm sites where people are likely to meet new sex partners,” the Minister said, adding that free HIV testing using a rapid test and accompanied by pre and post-test counselling is offered at such sites.