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Change Ja in order to tackle HIV/AIDS

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
- Harvey

DR KEVIN Harvey, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, said for a country to be free of persons living with human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), policymakers must have the courage to do things differently.

Speaking at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Treatment 2.0 Conference on Monday, Harvey said it cannot be business as usual.

"We have had demonstration projects within our own country, which shows that we can't continue to do business the same way if we are to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. If we don't refocus the programme on what the evidence shows, then we will be battling this for the next 20 years," he declared.

"Jamaica is at a critical stage in the HIV/AIDS response and, as the evidence emerges, as it relates to Jamaica's response, we have demonstrated the ability to adapt and to have the greatest impact, but we have to take it a step further," he said, while addressing the audience at PAHO offices at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Harvey called for more to be done to end discrimination against vulnerable groups in society.

"We will have to implement mechanisms that mitigate against stigma and discrimination, particularly where we provide treatment and care, and also to facilitate access to the vulnerable population to ensure that they can be reached," he said.

"We have seen where conversations have increased when it comes to vulnerable groups which is good, but we would appreciate if this conversation continues along with heightened action mechanisms," Harvey said.

Similarly, Denise Herbol, mission director for United States Agency for International Development, said there must be strategic approaches to curbing incidents of the illness.

"There is now ways to achieve an AIDS-free future without targeted approaches to our key populations, which would include men who have sex with men, their partners, commercial sex workers and their clients. These people often face inadequate access to services as persistent societal barriers stand in their way," she said.

"The implementation and scale-up of comprehensive prevention and treatment interventions are critical in order to address the burden of HIV that these marginalised groups face. We must also reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by these populations and expand access to services for these groups," she declared.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com