Proper treatment can result in same life expectancy for HIV-positive persons – Dr. Harvey

Head of the National HIV/STI Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, has highlighted the fact that the life expectancy for HIV-positive persons, who are receiving proper treatment, is “exactly the same” as for an HIV-negative person.
Dr. Harvey was addressing a consultation with private sector leaders to discuss the establishment of a Foundation to ensure the financial sustainability of Jamaica’s HIV programme, held at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, on Tuesday November 23.
He recalled that when he joined the HIV/STI programme in 2001, there was no available treatment. “Once you got HIV, it was a downhill battle and once you developed AIDS, you would die within two years,” he told the group.
However, he noted that, today, the introduction of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in Jamaica has resulted in the life expectancy of HIV-positive persons receiving treatment and proper care being the same as that of someone without the virus.
“So, there is no difference in life expectancy if you take your medication. This is no longer a life sentence, you are going to live to 74 just like the rest of us,” he said.
Dr. Harvey informed that since 2004 when ARVs were introduced, the number of deaths related to the disease has decreased by 43 per cent.
He lamented the fact that treatment is only reaching about 43 per cent of persons infected with the disease in Jamaica. He pointed to studies which show that if the country was able to treat all the persons who are HIV infected, it could reduce the prevalence rate to almost zero within the next 25 years.
“Once you are treated and your viral load is undetectable, you are 90 per cent less likely to transmit HIV compared to somebody who is not treated,” he explained.
To support his argument, he pointed to Cuba which treats about 95 per cent of its infected population and has a prevalence rate of less than one per cent, whereas Jamaica has a prevalence rate of 1.7 per cent of the total population.
Members of the private sector used today’s function to discuss how they could set up a $1 billion Foundation aimed at filling funding gaps in the National HIV/STI Programme.

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