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Health and Environment Minister, Rudyard Spencer, has said that several initiatives implemented through the efforts of sector stakeholders and other interests, are resulting in a reduction in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and the number of cases of malaria, dengue fever, and leptospirosis detected and diagnosed in Jamaica.
Speaking at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) staff awards luncheon at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Thursday (Dec. 4), Mr. Spencer said that with regards to HIV/AIDS, there has been significant scale-up of prevention activities, including educational campaigns and promotion of voluntary counselling and testing. These efforts, he said, have assisted the decline in HIV rates, both among the general population and attendees at sexually transmitted infections (STIs) clinics.
“These services are available islandwide, resulting in a 62 per cent increase in testing last year, up from 80,000 to 130,000,” he stated.
He informed further that testing for pregnant women has increased from 39 per cent in 2003 to 95 per cent in 2006 and mother-to-child transmission coverage has increased by 38 per cent over the last three years. “In the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), which includes Kingston and St. Andrew, pregnant mother-to-child transmission coverage, now stands at 100 per cent,” the Minister stated.
Mr. Spencer said the Ministry has also recorded success in its vector control programme, as it relates to curtailing the incidence of malaria, dengue fever, and leptospirosis.
“Through technical cooperation with PAHO, the Ministry has been working on the development and approval of sanitation and vector control policies and guidelines, and the strengthening of the surveillance capacity for the diagnosis of malaria, dengue fever, and leptospirosis,” he disclosed.
These interventions, he explained, have resulted in significant declines in the number of cases in all three areas, noting that the greatest challenge was with malaria, following the 2006 outbreak.
“No country that has experienced a re-introduction of malaria has been able to eradicate it a second time. While we have not fully eradicated it for a second time, we have significantly reduced the number of locally transmitted cases from 186, during the period November 2006 to December 2006, to 187 for the period January 2007 to December 2007. For the period January 2008 to September 12, 2008, local transmission stood at 12. Jamaica is now classified as a low risk malaria transmission country. No deaths have occurred so far. The world is taking notice of Jamaica’s successes, (but) we could not have done so without our workers,” Mr. Spencer stated.
Five employees of PAHO and the CFNI were presented with awards for 10 to 30 years of service. The awardees included PAHO’s representative in Jamaica, Dr. Ernest Pate, who was recognised for 15 years of service to the organisation.