|Health Minister Points to 50% Reduction in AIDS Related Deaths in Jamaica|
|Friday, 10 February 2012 06:55|
Health Minister, Dr. Fenton Ferguson has highlighted a 50 per cent decrease in AIDS related deaths among the local adult population from some 665 reported deaths in 2004 to 333 in 2010 since universal access to anti-retroviral medications was introduced by government, as well as other interventions.
Addressing the launch of Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training, (CHART) Open Day and Symposium at the Main Medical Lecture Theatre at the University Hospital of the West Indies at Mona yesterday (February 9, 2012), Dr. Ferguson said that there was a recognition that while AIDS was no longer a death sentence and was a manageable illness through medication and proper diet and exercise, there were a number of behavioural and societal issues that needed to change if the pandemic was to be significantly reduced.
He noted that despite some progress in reducing the transmission of the virus through public education and work with high-risk groups, Jamaica continued to have a relatively high HIV prevalence at 1.7 per cent of the adult population, with a general acceptance that the figure is underreported, as well as troubling signs of shifts in the most vulnerable groups from predominantly males to young females.
“The proportion of male to female AIDS cases has also narrowed recently. In 2010 males accounted for 53.2 per cent of reported AIDS cases, while females accounted for 46.8 per cent. The gap used to be much higher in favour of males locally…females in the 10 to 29 and 15 to 19 age group account for the bulk of this increase with four times as many young women in these age groups reported with AIDS than young men,” Ferguson observed.
He said the implications of such a shift was worrying and pointed to a trend of increased transactional sex among young females possibly due to growing poverty and the persistence of the superstitious belief that sex with a young virgin female could cure the disease.
Among the behavioural and other factors retarding progress in fighting the spread of the virus, Ferguson said were insufficient change in high risk behaviours; no major shifts in condom use; persistent inaccurate perceptions about HIV and AIDS; infrastructural obstacles; the high proportion of infected individuals who do not know their HIV status or do not access antiretroviral drugs, or when they do, they access at a late stage of the illness; and continued stigma and discrimination that discourages many from getting tested.
Contact: MOH, Public Relations Unit Tel: 967-1561
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