Gov’t Increases Access to Anti-Retroviral Drugs


Up to 1,000 persons with advanced HIV, who could not afford treatment, will have access to anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy by the end of June.
“Our goal is to have universal access to anti-retroviral drugs for all persons living with HIV/AIDS who need treatment,” Health Minister John Junor said.
Mr. Junor, in his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House earlier this week, said that up to September 2004, anti-retroviral therapy was only available to those who could afford it and to a limited number of individuals who could be supported in the public sector through donations mainly from LASCO pharmaceuticals.
Meanwhile, anti-retroviral distribution to pharmacies and clients will be monitored through a partnership with the National Health Fund (NHF) and each client will be given a NHF card to access their medication in a confidential manner. This feature should be in place by August, Mr. Junor said.
The Health Minister pointed out that HIV/AIDS posed a serious threat to health in Jamaica and the treatment of the epidemic lay in the provision of a legislative framework as well as expanding the prevention intervention.
Already, a draft National HIV/AIDS policy has been launched, a workplace policy is being developed, programmes are being put in place to reduce HIV related stigma and discrimination, while the government has committed to meeting the targets set by the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/ AIDS.
With an estimated 65 per cent of persons living with the disease not knowing that they are infected, the Ministry will also be expanding HIV testing this year.Voluntary Counselling and Testing is provided at all major health centres and all antenatal clinics and these clinics are screening 90 per cent of attendees and over 50 per cent of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) patients.
Figures for 2004, suggest that close to 1100 new AIDS cases have been reported to the Ministry, which is less than a four per cent increase over the figures for the previous year.
Minister Junor noted that even with the increase in new AIDS cases, there were encouraging signs of increased knowledge and improved sexual practices. “Results of a knowledge Attitude Practice and Behaviour (KAPB) survey done in 2004, indicates that there is a significant increase in knowledge and awareness and individual sexual practices, compared to 2000,” he informed.
He said that the National STI/HIV Prevention and Control programme and its partners, have made significant progress in increasing interventions to reduce the spread of HIV in the general population.
“These include the increasing condom usage by sexually active men and women, promoting abstinence, treating STIs and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs for over 800 persons living with HIVand providing access to voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) to all pregnant women attending public health services,” the Health Minister pointed out.
He informed that the Ministry would continue to focus on the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS, through a grant received from the Global Fund. “The Ministry has been able to increase and improve service to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Fifteen specialized treatment centres have been established in the Regional Health Authorities and 12 are functional,” he said.

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