“Protect Your Love, Use a Glove”
“Protect your love, use a glove” is the theme for this year’s observance of Safer Sex Week. The number of HIV/AIDS cases reported per year increased by 21% between 1999 (1436 cases) and 2009 (1738 cases). This situation is exacerbated by high incidences of multiple partnerships and low condom usage. Persons continue to engage in risky behaviour and thereby risking their lives and those of their loved ones. This year’s theme is an urgent call for persons to discontinue engagement in risky sexual behaviour and to protect themselves and their partner at all times.
The number of AIDS deaths has decreased with three hundred and seventy-eight (378) AIDS deaths (234 males and 144 females) reported in 2009 compared to 665 in 2004. This represents a 43% decrease in AIDS deaths since the inception of Universal Access to ARVs in 2004, and 31% decrease since 1999 (549 AIDS deaths). While there has been progress in this area, the fact still remains that more persons are contracting the disease and so we must place emphasis on reducing the HIV prevalence rate across the country.
Our young people must be targeted aggressively as they are becoming sexually active at a younger age and are having multiple partners. Since 1982, AIDS cases reported among girls in the 10-19 age group have increased. Parents and guardians must play a more active role in supervising their children and instilling good morals and values that will encourage them to abstain from sex. The use of communication technologies must also be pursued to distribute messages about abstinence and the methods of safe sex.
Adults are urged to act responsibly by using a condom every time and having one faithful partner. There must be a change in the behaviour of sexually active persons if we are going to see any meaningful reduction in Jamaica’s HIV prevalence rate. The 2008 knowledge, attitude, behaviour and practice (KAPB) survey indicates that men have an average of 6 partners while women have an average of 3 partners. Data shows that not only are incidences of multiple partnerships significantly higher among males; they are also high among persons 15-24 years old and those who are not in a married /cohabiting union.Women especially must take responsibility for their health and change their behaviour by buying and carrying their own condoms and urging their partners to use it.
During this week and beyond individuals must protect their love by using a glove. Encourage those around you to do likewise as it will be the determining factor in reducing our HIV prevalence rate and eventually halting the effects of the devastating disease that continues to ravage our country.
Hon. Rudyard Spencer, OD, MP
Minster of Health