The HIV/AIDS pandemic has had a devastating effect on societies all over the world with millions of people having lost their lives since the disease was first recognised. Approximately 30 million people worldwide have died from the disease over the last 20 years, with another 40 million said to be living with HIV/AIDS.
The situation is equally disturbing in Jamaica, with over 8,000 reported cases of the disease. Statistics indicate that the highest rate of infection occurs in persons in the 20 to 44 age group which represents our most productive age cohort. Between 1982 and June 2004 over 5000 of the 8,675 reported cases of HIV/AIDS occurred within this age group.
Sadly, we are seeing a growing trend of an increase in the rate of infection among our women and this will have far-reaching implications for family life and the care of children. It is therefore fitting that the focus of attention this year will be ‘Women, Girls HIV and AIDS.’
The Government remains committed to increasing public awareness about this disease and in identifying affordable drugs and improving the delivery of health care to persons affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the National HIV/STI Programme the government and donors have spent approximately $346 Million to address the problem of HIV/AIDS, including the implementation of public education and awareness programmes to control the spread of HIV/AIDS and treating patients affected by this disease. I commend the Ministry of Health and the National HIV/STI Control Programme for its efforts to bring public attention to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Considerable work has been done over the last decade to reduce the stigma associated with the disease. I also recognise our health care professionals who continue to play a significant role in caring for persons affected by this disease.
On this World AIDS Day we also remember those who have been affected by the disease including those who, although affected, are making a meaningful contribution to educating the public about HIV/AIDS and the importance of responsible behaviour.
As we focus attention on our women on this World AIDS Day, it is important for us to appreciate that HIV/AIDS is a problem that concerns all of us. In so doing, let us resolve to be more responsible and take action to prevent the spread of the disease.
I remain confident that the activities planned to mark World AIDS Day will go a far way in further educating the public about the disease and ultimately control and reduce its spread.

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