JIS News

Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, on Tuesday (June 10) called on the world community to increase its commitment toward achieving universal access to healthcare for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
“The commitment and partnership of all stakeholders will be required to achieve universal access, including access to antiretroviral treatment and strengthening the provision of existing care and support systems,” Minister Spencer said.
He was making his contribution to the High Level meeting, to review progress by member states of the United Nations (UN) in realizing the Declaration of Commitments on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, at the UN headquarters in New York City.
Speaking from the floor of the General Assembly, Minister Spencer told the meeting that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not a country-specific issue and that despite some progress, a number of challenges still persist.
Noting that international co-operation remains critical to the response process, Minister Spencer called on the world body to continue to place HIV and AIDS within the macro-economic agenda for poverty reduction and achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015.
He told the meeting that the Government of Jamaica remains committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS and the national focus is on four priority areas namely: prevention with emphasis on vulnerable groups; treatment and care with the removal of barriers to access and the provision of free health care inclusive of antiretroviral therapy; developing an enabling environment and human rights framework; and empowerment and governance for commitment and sustainability.
Minister Spencer informed that as a result of the Government’s coordinated and comprehensive HIV/AIDS response programmes during the past two decades, the HIV prevalence rate has slowed; stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV and other marginalized groups have decreased considerably; and Jamaica has started to experience a downward trend in AIDS mortality.
He pointed to progress in access to antiretroviral treatment with more than 60 per cent coverage for people living with HIV and needing treatment. In addition, vertical HIV transmission plummeted to five per cent in 2007 from 25 per cent in 2004, largely due to Jamaica’s robust programme of prevention of mother to child transmission, and more than 90 per cent of pregnant women between 15 and 49 years received counselling and testing for HIV.
The Health Minister noted however that despite considerable progress and achievement, “the risk of sexual transmission of HIV has been compounded by a dramatic shift in access to explicit sexual message and material available for all age groups on the Internet and via cable TV,” and women and girls are not sufficiently empowered to negotiate condom use. He also stressed the need to accelerate the response in the education sector.
Minister Spencer said that Jamaica HIV/AIDS support mechanism, is being assisted in large part by visible commitment from leadership at the highest levels and from donor agencies as well as a national policy and plan that embraces the protection of human rights, including the right to work, regardless of real or perceived HIV status.
The one day review meeting came against the background of the 2001 Declaration of Commitments on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration, adopted in the General Assembly in 2006.

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