JIS News

It gives me much satisfaction to participate in commemorating World AIDS Day 2020 and further to add the City of Kingston’s influence to the initiative to recruit our sister cities in the English-Speaking Caribbean Region to join the global movement to become Fast Track Cities. Kingston remains the only city in the English-Speaking Caribbean to be a part of this commendable initiative aimed at providing a supportive, caring and sensitive environment for persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Kingston signed the Paris Declaration on December 1, 2014 which has allowed mayors and other elected leaders to join forces with public health departments and affected communities in 300+ cities and municipalities to action a commitment to end the HIV, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis epidemics by 2030 working in conjunction with Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, which is leading the process along with its international and multilateral partners such as the IAPC.

Fast Track Kingston has also taken a holistic approach for health services in the Shelter Health Programme which has been tailored for the most vulnerable sectors including the homeless population in Kingston and St Andrew.

The programme will expand services to include mental health and chronic diseases guided by our mantra of emphasizing deliberate planning, specific outcomes and strategic partnerships.

Among our other specific initiatives are dovetailing our initiatives to comply with achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets in the capital city of Jamaica. That means 90% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90% of diagnosed people on treatment and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed. To do so, we have embarked on the following:

We are compiling a directory of HIV Services available in the City; we are utilising data to drive the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission and better understand the way HIV intersects with issues like mental health, environmental health and non-communicable diseases across the City; we are also working to ensure the most vulnerable and marginalized have access to services. Soon our homeless shelters will help clients manage HIV and other health concerns.

If we get it right in Kingston, we will help propel Jamaica toward ending the AIDS pandemic.

Communities of people living with and affected by HIV have played a critical role in Jamaica’s HIV response for decades, leading national advocacy efforts for legal and policy review or reform, providing HIV services, holding stakeholders accountable and undertaking community-led research initiatives, among others.

Jamaica has made substantive efforts to reduce new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and stigma and discrimination. However, important gaps remain in reaching people living with and affected by HIV with testing, treatment, care and support.

In an effort to explore new alternatives that could contribute to the redoubling of efforts in the national HIV response, the Ministry of Health and Wellness of Jamaica has recently launched a call for proposals for civil society organizations interested in engaging in a collaboration with the Ministry to provide HIV prevention services. This process, led by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, has sped up the discussion on the role of communities, and community-led responses to HIV in Jamaica’s efforts to achieve the 95-95-95 targets.

This is especially in relation to the commitment made by Member States in the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, which centres around building people-centred systems for health by strengthening health and social systems, including for populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk of infection, by expanding community-led service delivery to cover at least 30 per cent of all service delivery by 2030, through investment in human resources for health, as well as in the necessary equipment, tools and medicines, by promoting that such policies are based on a non-discriminatory approach that respects, promotes and protects human rights, and by building the capacity of civil society organizations to deliver HIV prevention and treatment services.

The City of Kingston has done a great job at expanding HIV prevention, testing and treatment services – particularly over the last decade.

Through global solidarity and shared responsibility, people in the city can access the care and treatment they need, free of charge.

However, despite services being available, too many people are reluctant to receive care due to factors like stigma. That is why the City of Kingston will be partnering with JN+ to develop the Stigma Free Spaces certification programme. This initiative will train private and public sector entities in stigma and discrimination reduction strategies. This is one way of helping the people who live, work and play in Kingston become more caring of our countrymen who are living with HIV. Our consistent advocacy has raised awareness and broadened sympathy for persons living with and affected by HIV. Recently, someone came up with the idea of a Food Box where people could either donate foodstuffs or take what they need. Others have given laptops to families in need. This has been critical, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted firms and people’s capacity to assist. We are hopeful that as we emerge from the pandemic, our capacity will improve.

With the existence of HIV in the English Speaking Caribbean, I ask hat more cities join the cause and become a part of the Fast Track Cities initiative- working towards a common goal and purpose as we bring our hands and hearts together to achieve lasting change. I thank you.

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