Jamaica Leads Caribbean in Fight Against AIDS


Minister of Health, Rudyard Spencer has revealed that Jamaica is leading the Caribbean in the fight against AIDS, having reduced the prevalence rate of HIV in Jamaica to about 1.5 per cent, thereby reducing the number of persons in the country who die of AIDS.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of the US$44.1 million Global Fund Agreement on Tuesday (July 9), at the Ministry of Health in Downtown Kingston.
This agreement is Jamaica’s second HIV/AIDS proposal to the Global Fund, following the Ministry’s successful implementation of the first HIV/AIDS proposal to the Global Fund (2002-2009).
According to the Minister, the agreement signals “another step in Jamaica’s commitment to the HIV/AIDS programme.”
Lauding the successes of the first Global Fund programme, led by outgoing Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS, Dr. Peter Figueroa, the Minister reported that there was a 35 per cent decline in deaths due to AIDS between 2004 and 2006. This, he accredited to an overall improved access to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“The mother-to-child transmission rate has also witnessed a dramatic decline from 25 per cent in 2004 to less than 10 per cent in 2007,” he noted.
However, while Jamaica has achieved much success in HIV control, particularly in treatment and care, risk taking behaviours have not decreased significantly, especially among vulnerable groups and young persons.
Mr. Spencer announced that the new Global Fund would be rolling out a number of initiatives that would target vulnerable groups, such as casual sex workers and their clients, drug users, prison inmates and young persons, among others.
The three priority areas under the 2007-2012 National Strategic Plan are prevention, universal access to treatment care and support, and creating an enabling environment for the successful implementation of national HIV/AIDS policies and human rights.
“This project will also seek to improve the quality of life for those currently in need of treatment. The strategies and interventions will help us to move toward universal access to free anti-retroviral drugs,” he explained.
The Global Fund Agreement, which takes effect this month (July), will provide part financial support for the proposed National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan, which the Minister said would require funding of US$201 million. The balance will be supplemented by smaller grants and a second World Bank loan of US$10 million, which Minister Spencer revealed, was signed last month. The Government of Jamaica will also be providing some of the resources.
“Jamaica is also qualified to receive an additional grant of up to US$23 million from the Global Fund,” the Minister mentioned. “Again, based on our track record of meeting our targets, we have been invited by the Global Fund to apply for more money under the Rolling Continuation Channel and we have applied,” he added.
The Minister expressed thanks to the Global Fund for their generous donation, and appealed for potential partners, who are willing to provide additional support to the programme. “This is critical if we are to sustain and improve on the gains that we have made thus far,” he said.
The Global Fund was created to finance a dramatic turn around in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. These diseases kill over six million people each year and the numbers continue to grow. To date, the Global Fund has committed US$10.7 billion in 136 countries to support aggressive interventions against all three diseases.

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