Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Health Ministry kicks off Test and Start campaign

Published:Friday | August 11, 2017 | 8:56 AMLynford Simpson

The Ministry of Health’s HIV/STI/TB Unit began its Test and Start media campaign yesterday.

The campaign recommends that anyone who's diagnosed HIV positive be offered treatment immediately.

This new recommendation is from the World Health Organization’s 2015 guidelines.

It's based on current scientific evidence from clinical trials that show that initiating anti-retroviral therapy earlier, results in better clinical outcomes for persons living with HIV, versus delayed treatment.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Winston De La Haye, has welcomed the new initiative. He pointed to data from the UNAIDS commissioned START study that shows that the risk of progression to AIDS diagnosis was reduced by 53 per cent among people who initiated treatment shortly after diagnosis.

This, compared to those whose treatment was deferred until much later.

Jamaica has seen a 64 per cent decline in AIDS mortality rates between 2004 and 2015. The reduction is attributed to the introduction of public access to anti-retroviral treatment in 2004 and the scaling up of national HIV testing.

With the Test and Start initiative, it is anticipated that an additional 1,200 new patients will be eligible to initiate treatment. Treatment as a method of prevention is another benefit of these new guidelines as more HIV positive persons are virally suppressed and consequently the risk of transmission is decreased.