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The fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS has received an additional boost, as the AIDS/STD Programme implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Environment, has received $46.5 million.

This is set out in the 2008/2009 Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House of Representatives.

The allocation will be used to continue the control of HIV/STD infections as well as reducing the transmission of the disease in Jamaica, while at the same time improving the health status of Jamaicans.

A joint venture between the Ministry and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the original duration of the programme was from September 2001 to April 2004; however it has been extended to 2009.

Targets outlined for the period 2008/09 include the continued decentralization of the National Programme to the Regional Authority as well as funding for approximately 50 regional peer educators.

This is in addition to the further strengthening of services available in Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) clinics; the maintenance of HIV testing among sentinel groups in all parishes and the offering of counselling; the improvement of laboratory efficiency; and increased training for counsellors in collaboration with the University of the West Indies.

On the agenda for the year also is the continued 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 in HIV/STD; the development of AIDS/HIV procedure 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 anti retro-viral therapy, tuberculosis (TB) and home based care prepared.

In addition, to date, a million persons have been reached through the continuation of HIV/STI awareness 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.'

A study, which will assist in providing institutional strengthening of 15 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), has been completed and funding for implementation is in progress.

Ongoing activities include targeted media campaign, upgrading of Comprehensive Health Centre for Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) services, counselling on HIV/STI help line, the procurement of HIV test kit 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), University of the West Indies (Mona), 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.

There has been a noticeable decrease in congenital syphilis and a reduction in multiple partners among men, stemming from some of these initiatives.