KINGSTON — Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has welcomed the newly launched Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS (JaBCHA) National Foundation, which he says is crucial to the Government’s efforts to effectively combat HIV/AIDS.
“HIV/AIDS is not just a health problem; it is a developmental problem and it’s an issue that requires support from every sector,” he stated at the launch of the Foundation on July 6, 2011 at the Wyndham Kingston hotel.
A private sector initiative established with support from the United States (US) Government, the foundation will assist national efforts to increase access to health care and garner financial resources to sustain the response to HIV/AIDS.
Its main objective is to raise funds to provide universal access to treatment, care and support for the persons living with the disease, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
JABCHA has been partnering with the Ministry of Health through the National HIV/STI Programme, to address the disease.
The Minister emphasised that the establishment of the Foundation was critical as the response to HIV/AIDS is multifaceted and costly, and “we are operating in an environment of declining budgets and our donors do not have an unlimited source of funding”.
He said that Jamaica has had “tremendous success” in the slowing down of the epidemic, reducing mother-to-child transmission from 25 per cent in 2004 to under five per cent, and there has been an increase in testing, with 1,167 persons screened across the island on HIV Regional Testing Day on June 24.
He noted however that despite the gains made, efforts need to be redoubled to reduce stigma and discrimination, increase awareness and promote tolerance of persons living with HIV and AIDS especially in the workplace.
Leader of the Opposition, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, in her remarks read by Opposition Spokesperson on Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, also commended JaBCHA for taking “the bold and appropriate step to establish a fund that would, among other things, seek to address the sustainability aspect of the work that we all do and must continue to do in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and the stigma and discrimination that increase…vulnerability to the epidemic”.
US Global AIDS Co-ordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby, for his part, said the establishment of the Foundation has been “strategic at this time and I think commendable”.
He noted that it is a country-owned effort that promises to increase the engagement of private sector, civil society and the government through partnership. “Creative partnerships and revenue generators like this are becoming a critical contributor to the overall response in virtually every country we are in, including the United States,” he said.
Founded in 2006, JaBCHA was established to facilitate a structured and coordinated response by the leadership of Jamaican businesses, to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS, eradicate stigma and discrimination associated with the disease in the workplace, and contribute to the eradication of HIV/ AIDS in Jamaica.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter