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For this fiscal year, the National HIV/AIDS Control Programme will be aiming to improve the way in which it can prevent the spread of the HIV virus among the most vulnerable in the society.
“We need to significantly expand the coverage and improve the quality of our prevention interventions among vulnerable populations and the youth,” states a Ministry Paper, which was tabled in the House on September 12 by Minister of Health, Horace Dalley.
“We also need to develop and implement a strategy that facilitates the institutionalizing of HIV/AIDS in the formal education sector. There is no other means to effectively reach our youths,” the document emphasises.
The Ministry Paper points out that there is a need to expand HIV/AIDS testing in order to identify persons who are living with HIV/AIDS. “This is essential in order to achieve universal access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. It also serves as an entry point for risk reduction behaviour,” the Ministry explains.
According to information provided in the document, 25,000 persons are estimated to be living with HIV in Jamaica, of whom approximately 15,000 are not aware of their HIV positive status. Over 1,000 persons are newly reported as developing AIDS annually in Jamaica and over 10,000 AIDS cases were reported since the onset of the epidemic.
The National HIV/AIDS Control Programme is also planning to develop an anti-stigma campaign profiling a number of persons living with HIV/AIDS, who are willing to disclose their status to the public.
“This will help to provide a face to the AIDS epidemic. More pro-active measures are needed to reduce discrimination against persons living with HIV/ AIDS (PLWHAs), including legislation. In order to achieve this, we need more champions for change and to strengthen the role of PLWHAs in the programme,” the document states.