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Outgoing Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS in the Ministry of Health and Environment, Dr. Peter Figueroa has called on the society to come to grips with a number of sensitive social issues, in order to effectively control the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“We know our young people are sexually active. We have to put effective programmes in place to encourage them to abstain, and for those who do not want to abstain, they need ready access to condoms,” he emphasised.
Dr. Figueroa was speaking on Wednesday (July 9), at a press briefing hosted by the Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, to launch the Global Fund Agreement. The event was held at the Ministry in Downtown Kingston.
The proposed HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan will require funding at a cost of US$201 million. The Global Fund is providing US$44.1 million of this amount.
Giving a breakdown of the funds, Minister Spencer said: “Just over US$12 million has been earmarked for Prevention; US$25 million for Treatment and over US$7 million will be dedicated to Enabling Environment and Human Rights as well as Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration.”
Dr. Figueroa underscored the need for national dialogue on critical issues affecting HIV and public health and its role in guiding the formulation of effective HIV/AIDS health policies for Jamaica.
“We need to encourage and mandate our public health specialists to communicate more with the public on these sensitive social issues, because without having this public communication, without having the debate and dialogue, we cannot have an adequately informed public and population,” he said.
The Health Minister gave support to Dr. Figueroa’s viewpoint, when he announced that the proposed new HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan (2007-2012), which provides the framework for the implementation of the second Global Fund Project, would be targeting socially vulnerable groups, including casual sex workers and their clients, drug users, prison inmates and young persons.
The needs of this group, he said, would be addressed under the Prevention component of the new National Strategic Plan, which would focus on three main priority areas: Prevention, Treatment Care and Support, and Enabling Environment and Human Rights.
“Under the prevention component, we will scale up interventions for socially vulnerable and marginalized populations and those whom we consider to be most at-risk,” the Minister disclosed.
He said that a revised Health and Family Life Education curriculum would be introduced in a majority of schools, to ensure that sex education and HIV prevention are integrated into the regular instruction interaction. “This is of critical importance in ensuring that they understand the seriousness of the epidemic,” he added.
The Global Fund Agreement will also help to intensify treatment care and support efforts for people living with HIV/AIDS. In a bid to achieve universal access, the proposed new Strategic Plan will seek to increase the number of persons who are receiving anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) from just over 4,000 persons to 7,500. To ensure a comprehensive system of care, the plan also aims to strengthen adherence counselling efforts and improve standardised methods of tracking adherence and ARV resistance.
Mr. Spencer also stated that the agreement would embrace interventions to enforce the National HIV/AIDS Policy approved by Parliament in 2005 and the National HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy that was recently tabled in Parliament as a Green Paper. In reference to the Enabling Environment and Human Rights component of the new Strategic Plan, he said that this area would also “embrace various other HIV sub policies recently initiated to empower beneficiaries to understand their rights and seek redress in instances where their rights have been abused.”
The proposed New Strategic Plan, which aims to achieve universal access to HIV prevention and support, follows close on the heels of Jamaica’s successful implementation of the first Global Fund proposal (2004-2009), in which all the indicators were met.
The new HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan was developed following a series of consultations conducted throughout Jamaica with organizations and individuals representing civil society, HIV service providers, people living with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable groups.