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Come next year, another 2,300 Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS will be provided with antiretroviral drugs, under the National HIV/STI Control Programme.
Health Minister, John Junor, made the disclosure in Parliament last week, during his contribution to the debate on the report of the Human Resource and Social Development Committee on HIV/AIDS. He noted that some 1,200 persons afflicted with the disease were already benefiting from treatment.
According to the Health Minister, the aim was to provide antiretroviral drugs to every person in need across the country within a three to four-year period. Already, treatment centres have been established in almost every parish and drugs are available in these facilities in addition to all Drug Serv pharmacies operated by the Health Corporation Limited.
Minister Junor told the House, that the programme had not yet been rolled out to all pharmacies, as there was need to train personnel in the dispensing of the antiretroviral drugs. He said that the Ministry was in discussion with the pharmacy society for the development a training programme for pharmacists.
Meanwhile, he noted that there has been an increase in the number of persons being tested for HIV/AIDS and this was a positive sign, as it indicated that the stigma associated with the disease might be waning.
“The fact that we are now seeing a spike in the cases reported is to some extent a measure of success in testing more people for HIV/AIDS as well as reducing the stigma associated with the disease, so more people feel more comfortable to be tested,” he said.
He noted however, that approximately two thirds of people living with HIV were ignorant of the fact. Commenting on the recommendations of the committee that homosexuality and prostitution should be legalized, Mr. Junor said the issue warranted a national debate.
The committee in its report, made some 30 critical recommendations to address the disease, covering the broad categories of: leadership and advocacy; legislation and regulation; health, education and information dissemination; and social support and funding. The report also speaks to the importance of political and civic leadership in spearheading the fight against stigma and discrimination.
The report was approved by the House and a submission is to be made to Cabinet.