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Health ministry to reach gays, prostitutes through Church

Published:Thursday | March 12, 2015 | 3:00 AM

The Church and other faith-based organisations have been targeted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) as part of a campaign to improve attitudes and behaviours among vulnerable high-risk groups such as homosexuals and prostitutes, and to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Under a programme dubbed the Surveillance, Prevention and Control of Diseases, the ministry is to dole out $22 million in the 2015/2016 fiscal year to faith-based organisations to develop and implement discrimination-reduction strategies.

In addition, $16 million is to be spent on supporting the capacity building of people living with HIV/AIDS and community-based organisations.

Approximately $298 million is to be spent next year on the programme, which is funded by grants from the United States Agency for International Development. At least 4,535 homosexuals are to be targeted for small-group level HIV preventable interventions.

Additionally, 6,537 prostitutes will be targeted for similar interventions during the course of the fiscal year.

The Surveillance, Prevention and Control of Diseases has among its objectives the reduction of HIV transmission by delaying initiation, promoting abstinence, and increasing condom use among sexually active adolescents. It also seeks to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS.

 

HIV statuses

 

Among the targets set for the programme is to increase the number of gay men who know their HIV status; increasing the number of prostitutes who use condoms, and to increase the percentage of registered businesses and public-sector institutions which have HIV and AIDS workplace policies and programmes.

Up to February, 2,853 gay men have been reached for small-group level HIV preventable interventions and 4,557 prostitutes reached for similar intervention. More than 71,700 persons who received testing and counselling services for HIV received their results.

The 2015/2015 fiscal year will see $148 million being expended on reaching the 4,535 homosexuals and the 6,537 prostitutes.

Meanwhile, another programme - the Transitional Funding Mechanism - is providing $114 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year to deal with HIV-related issues.

A $65-million programme is to be implemented includes the counselling and testing of 563 men who have sex with men, to make them aware of their HIV status. In addition, there is to be the testing of 1,320 female sex workers to make them aware of their status.

Up to December, the ministry reached 833 gay men, counselled and tested them, and made them aware of their HIV results. Some 1,534 female prostitutes were also counselled and tested and made aware of their status, and 2,994 gay men from the targeted audience were reached with HIV prevention activities.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com