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Story Highlights

  • A project of the United Nations Children's Fund, the five-year campaign, which will be launched on October 25.
  • The first area is preventing mother to child transmission by providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV positive mothers.
  • What works in Jamaica, he says, is access to treatment, and innovative prevention interventions.

Jamaica has been selected to be part of an elite group of countries to spearhead a campaign aimed at uniting the world in eliminating HIV and AIDS among children.

A project of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the five-year campaign, which will be launched on October 25, is designed to sensitise the global community about the pandemic and how it affects children and to galvanize political support towards addressing the problem.

The theme for the campaign is: ‘Unite for Children, Unite for AIDS’ and according to UNICEF representative, Bertrand Bainvel, the focus will be on four main areas.

The first area is preventing mother to child transmission by providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV positive mothers, making testing more widely available, encouraging voluntary testing and providing counselling for children and mothers.

The second area of focus is providing paediatric treatment, including drugs; the third area involves protection, care and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS; and the fourth area is prevention to reduce adolescent risks and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS by increasing access to and the use of gender sensitive prevention information and services.

As one of the four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean named ‘champion countries’ by the United Nations Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, for its work to protect against and educate children about the dreaded pandemic, a lot of attention is going to be brought on Jamaica, to lead the campaign in the region, Mr. Bainvel points out. The other three countries in the region so named are Brazil, Haiti and Honduras.

“The country is expected to play a lead role in showcasing to the world what has already been done here as well as to be a role model for the rest of the Caribbean region,” he states.

He notes that Jamaica was selected because “the country already has a lot to show in terms of what works in terms of a response for HIV/AIDS and what works for children.”

What works in Jamaica, he says, is access to treatment, and innovative prevention interventions, such as the recently launched ‘Bashy Bus’ mobile health service by the Spanish Town-based non-government group, Children First, with support from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the United Nations Global Fund on HIV/AIDS.

A gift from Infinity Tours Limited, the ‘Bashy Bus’, is a multi-coloured, air conditioned coaster bus, which will visit popular hangouts to provide young people with information on reproductive health and healthy lifestyle. On board will be peer educators and facilitators, who will distribute literature on adolescent reproductive health, encourage young people to delay sex, promote abstinence, as well as to increase the use of condoms where youngsters are sexually active.

Globally, over 15 million children have been made orphans by HIV/AIDS, while some 2 million others are HIV positive and more than 500,000 children died last year of AIDS-related causes.

The infection rate is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Mr. Bainvel is pleased at the fact that more African countries are becoming involved in the effort to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS. There are also other countries such as China, Russia, India and others, “which are now coming to the realization that HIV/AIDS is a big problem that has to be dealt with,” he notes.

Mr. Bainvel points out that an effort will also be made to accelerate some intervention programmes and to go the “full hundred” in terms of coverage, treatment and prevention.