Local business leaders are teaming to establish a foundation aimed at ensuring the financial stability of the National HIV/STI programme of the Ministry of Health.
The proposal was the subject of a consultation on Tuesday November 23 at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, New Kingston, at which stakeholders discussed how they could raise $1 billion over the next four years to help with the national HIV/AIDS response.
The project has become necessary in light of the worldwide financial crisis, which has forced global donors to reduce funding to efforts such as the National HIV/STI Programme. Funding for the national programme currently stands at US$81 million, which originates solely from external sources. The proposed project is being spearheaded by the Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS (JaBCHA)
Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development, Dr. Karen Hilliard (centre), responds to President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Milton Samuda (right), during a meeting of private sector leaders to discuss establishing a foundation to ensure the financial sustainability of Jamaica’s HIV programme, at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, New Kingston, Tuesday (November 23). At right is Chief Consultant at the Jamaica Business Council on HIV/AIDS, Earl Moore.
At the meeting, Head of the National HIV/STI Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, noted that, in addition to filling funding gaps, support from the local private sector could be a powerful bargaining tool, when the Ministry of Health approaches international donors for help.
“Once they see that you are taking on some of the responsibility, they are more lenient in giving you additional funds,” he outlined.
JaBCHA’s Chief Consultant, Earl Moore, disclosed that most of the legal work involved in setting up the foundation should be completed by the end of the year, and that February is being targeted for the official launch.
He said the vision is for an independent, non-profit foundation, established as a registered tax-exempt charity, to which the private sector can donate safely and securely.
President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Joseph Matalon (left), whispers to President of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, Wayne Chen, during a meeting of private sector leaders to discuss establishment of a foundation to ensure the financial sustainability of Jamaica’s HIV programme, at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, New Kingston on Tuesday (November 23).
Several companies have already expressed interest in contributing, as they recognise the importance of a healthy workforce, as well as the fact that increased spread of the disease could lead to reduced market size, he stated.
Mission Director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Karen Hilliard, commended local businesses for their interest in the venture. She argued that their interest signaled that the private sector realised fighting AIDS was not merely an expression of corporate social responsibility, but also that “reducing the spread of this disease will save Jamaican businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs”.
Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate currently stands at 1.7 per cent of the total population. The number of reported HIV cases peaked in 2006, with an 18 per cent decline in the numbers each year since then. In 2009, there were 378 AIDS-related deaths, which is a 43 per cent decrease since 2004.
Tuesday’s function was attended by the heads of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Employer’s Federation (JEF), as well as the local representative of UNAIDS and other interested parties.