JIS News

The National AIDS Committee (NAC) has intensified its campaign to urge some 10,000 people to voluntarily test for HIV before World AIDS Day on December 1.
Acting Executive Director of the NAC, Vivian Gray, told JIS News that the organization has been conducting a series of outreach activities to encourage more people to get tested. Recently the Committee partnered with the National Youth Service (NYS), which organised several health fairs with assistance from the Social Development Commission (SDC).
“Rather than make it into a standard health fair, we appended it to have free HIV counselling and testing, whereby persons who visit the health fair would take advantage of voluntary testing,” he informed. The NAC, he said, was also continuing sensitisation sessions with the private sector as well as partnering with other agencies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Jamaica Employers’ Federation and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to get the message out about HIV.
“The reason for focusing on the workplace is that people spend so much time there that it becomes one of the best places for educating them about HIV, how it is contracted and the reason why it is not seen as a casual infection,” he noted.
The voluntary testing campaign, which started in August, is in line with the theme of World AIDS Day, which is: ‘Make the Promise: Get Tested’.
Mr. Gray told JIS News that the focus on voluntary testing was considered high priority in the National HIV/STI Control Programme. “There are other things that we want to achieve but we have intensified our efforts in this area,” he told JIS News.
“There is a continual need to impress upon people that the response to the HIV crisis is hampered because many are not aware of their HIV status and as a result of that, they unwittingly cause new infections,” Mr. Gray continued.
Although the NAC has yet to compile surveillance reports from its several sites across the island, Mr. Gray is very confident that the target of 10,000 would be met and even surpassed. “People are reacting positively to our voluntary counselling and testing initiative so it is more than likely we will have more than the 10,000,” he predicted.
In Jamaica it is estimated that there are some 22,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and there is no community or large workplace in Jamaica that remains unaffected by the epidemic.
It has become more apparent that HIV/AIDS is not only a health problem but also, a developmental problem affecting all sectors of the society. The role of the NAC, which was established in 1988, has therefore been critical as the umbrella organisation that facilitates and encourages the multi-sectoral involvement and approach to responding to this epidemic.