We have much to be proud of with respect to the work that has taken place under the National HIV/STI Programme. Significant strides have been made over the years achieving a 42 percent decline in new infections and we are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal 6A which requires us to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. We are also on track to meet the regional elimination goal of less than 2% mother to child transmission of HIV.
Through partnership we were able to increase anti-retroviral coverage to the current level of over 70% of those with AIDS or 60% of those with Advanced HIV. We have seen a reduction in AIDS deaths by 43% in 2010 compared to 2004 when our ART access program began. The National policy for HIV prevention as well as a workplace policy is being used in many Government and private sector entities. We are also in the process of completing a revised National Integrated Strategic Plan which will integrate family planning and HIV and focus on strengthening the capacity of Civil Society Organizations.
Despite the gains, stigma and discrimination continue to adversely affect HIV testing, as well as access and uptake of HIV treatment services with low retention rates of antiretroviral treatment. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day observance “Take care of the complete you: ask for a HIV test too” provides us with the opportunity to strengthen HIV testing and counselling through a wellness and prevention campaign to include other preventative screening procedures and services such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, dental, mental and family planning along with HIV screening at selected health facilities in some of our high prevalence parishes.
This year’s World AIDS Day commemoration will also be supported by a mass media campaign as well as community mobilization with the main objectives to increase the number of persons tested for HIV and to maximize the implementation of Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling in health settings to reach every patient utilizing the health centres with HIV testing and linkage to care. The aim is to increase the number of persons with HIV knowing their status to 90% by 2020.
Jamaica among other countries is charged with the ambitious goal of the fast track approach to accelerate action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The Fast-Track approach means rapidly scaling up effective HIV services during the next few years. It involves using rights-based approaches to reach the people who need these services and focuses the programmes in locations and among populations where they can have the greatest impact. We therefore need to aggressively review our implementation gaps and systems that pose a threat to reaching the target.
As a Caribbean Region, we have made several notable gains where HIV and AIDS are concerned. The Caribbean however, remains the second most affected Region in the world with an estimated 1.1% HIV prevalence rate. Jamaica has been able to keep the adult HIV prevalence rate at a stable level of an estimated 1.8% through partnership and support of various stakeholders as we have always had multi-sectoral involvement in the Response.
Faith-based organisations have been important partners in the fight against HIV and we hope to move forward in this same vein as we seek to address the gaps. I want to thank you for the tremendous work that you have been doing especially at the community level to educate and empower Jamaicans. Thank you also for your continued support and once again as our theme states, I urge everyone to ‘take care of the complete you and do ask for a HIV test too’.
Minister of Health, Jamaica