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MONTEGO BAY — Approximately 275 delegates representing 21 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are participating in the International HIV Management Conference, which opened at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, on Sunday August 21.

The conference will continue over six days under the theme, “Harmonizing Quality Clinical Care and Laboratory Diagnostics on Behalf of Persons Most at Risk of HIV/AIDS”, and is being held in Jamaica for the first time. 

It brings together three important forums: the 8th Caribbean Cytometry  and Analytical Society (CCAS) HIV/AIDS Workshop; the Jamaica National HIV/STI Programme's 8th Annual HIV Management Workshop; and the CCAS and Caribbean Medical Laboratory Foundation’s (CLMF) Collaborative Meeting.

Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, in an address read by Director of the Western Regional Health Authority, Dr. Ken-Garfield Douglas, said that an event of such magnitude, bringing together regional delegates integral to the fight against HIV and AIDS, symbolised Caribbean unity on the subject.

“No country is exempt. It is thus fitting that we come together and share our knowledge, ideas and expertise, as we aim for one ultimate goal: Halting and reversing the spread of the disease,” the Minister’s statement read.

 He said that, as the world inched closer to 2015, the target year for meeting the United Nations' millennium development goal of combating HIV/AIDS, the collaboration of countries in the fight against the disease becomes even more critical.

He added that operating in an environment of declining budgets, requires that countries take a unified approach on the issues.

“The amalgamation of human and financial resources must become a reality, to achieve any significant decrease in individual vulnerability to HIV infection and improvement in treatment, care and support services for people living with the infection in the region,” the minister noted.

He indicated that throughout the region, there was an 18 per cent decline in the number of persons reported with advanced HIV and AIDS cases in 2009, compared to the previous year.

He reassured that the Government of Jamaica remains deeply committed to the fight against HIV and AIDS, and has an unfinished agenda in eliminating the stigma and discrimination against those infected and affected by the disease.

He said that the Government is planning amendments to the Public Health Act, and the relevant public health regulations, as one way of moving the agenda forward.

“The intention is for HIV and AIDS to remain as notifiable diseases, but certain provisions in the regulations that would be regarded as discriminatory would be removed, because they do not apply with respect to HIV and AIDS”, he disclosed.

However, the Minister pointed out that the task was formidable, and requires maintaining the level the kind of resiliency which has resulted in encouraging progress, so far.

                                              

By GLENIS  ROSE, JIS Reporter