Mon | Oct 23, 2017

UN wrong on HIV - Jamaica dismisses claims of increase in infections

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr Winston De La Haye

An alarming claim that there has been a dangerous escalation in the number of persons contracting HIV in Jamaica has been rejected by chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Winston De La Haye.

Earlier this week, Dr Edward Greene, United Nations (UN) special envoy on HIV to the Caribbean, revealed to a Regional Testing Day 10th Anniversary Caribbean Launch in Bridgetown, Barbados, that the region has seen a nine per cent increase in new infections, placing it second only to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Greene fingered Cuba and Jamaica as the two countries that have contributed the largest to the worrying increases.

"The alarm is mainly due to the fact that progress in stopping the new infections has stalled among adults and increasing among older age groups in some countries," Greene said.

But speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, De La Haye said the data the health ministry has on the prevalence of the virus in the country contradict Greene's declaration.

"I am looking at the documentation and it doesn't fit what I have seen in the newspapers," the chief medical officer said, making reference to the claims by Greene.

"I give you an example. For the category of men, age 15 to 49, in 2000, the prevalence was 2.8, and by 2008, we got that down to 2.3. The following year it was down to 2.2, and the latest data, which is 2015, we got it down to 2.02," De La Haye pointed.

On the specific issue of progress being stalled in the adult category, he said the ministry's statistics and those of the UN were also at odds.

"In 2000, that prevalence was 2.2. Since 2013, it came down to 1.7, and in 2015 it became 1.6, so there is nothing proving that there is an increase," the chief medical officer stressed.

 

SEEKING CLARITY

 

Baffled by the report, the health ministry, De La Haye said, has reached out to Greene seeking clarity on the issue, as it was unusual that data from the ministry and the UN would clash, especially since international organisations such as the UN depend on Jamaican authorities to provide the information pertaining to HIV and AIDS.

"At this point, there is no reason to worry about any increase in the prevalence of HIV," De La Haye insisted.

The UN special envoy on HIV/AIDS also knocked the region for becoming complacent, and again spotlighted Jamaica for the low number of persons getting treatment for HIV/AIDS.

According to Greene, only 32 per cent of persons living with AIDS are receiving treatment in Jamaica.

He disclosed that across the Caribbean, Cuba has the highest coverage, with 67 per cent, and Jamaica the lowest, with 32 per cent coverage.

In the meantime, seemingly because of their grim outlook on HIV/AIDS, beyond the year 2020, Jamaica, along with Haiti, will be the only countries in the region benefiting from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - a United States governmental initiative to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com