Thu | Apr 18, 2019

Jamaica lagging behind in HIV/AIDS target, says Tufton

Published:Tuesday | February 19, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (right) cuts the ribbon to officially open the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Jamaica Medical Centre on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew yesterday. Assisting the minister are (from left) Steadman Fuller, custos of Kingston; Dr Kevin Harvey, AHF Caribbean regional director; Manoela Manova, country director of UNAIDS; Rosie Stone; Dr Patricia Campos, AHF Latin America and Caribbean Bureau chief; and Member of Parliament Dr Angela Brown Burke.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (right) cuts the ribbon to officially open the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Jamaica Medical Centre on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew yesterday. Assisting the minister are (from left) Steadman Fuller, custos of Kingston; Dr Kevin Harvey, AHF Caribbean regional director; Manoela Manova, country director of UNAIDS; Rosie Stone; Dr Patricia Campos, AHF Latin America and Caribbean Bureau chief; and Member of Parliament Dr Angela Brown Burke.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says that based on current statistics, the country is likely to miss a global HIV/AIDS target on persons knowing their status, accessing treatment, and living healthier lives.

Jamaica is among countries participating in the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 initiative, which says that by 2020, countries should achieve 90 per cent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90 per cent of people who know their HIV-positive status accessing treatment, and 90 per cent of people on treatment having suppressed viral loads.

“So 2020, you have this 90-90-90 target. Target one in terms of known: 78 per cent. Target two in terms of treatment: 46 per cent. Target three in terms of viral suppression: 57 per cent. For me as a minister of health, it’s not encouraging.

“It is telling me that we need to do more, and the question is in terms of all the parameters and variables that need to be assessed. What are the areas we can do more in? Where are we falling down? Why are the obstacles so great? How does the collaboration strengthen its mandate?” said Tufton.

The health minister was speaking yesterday at the official opening of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) health centre on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew. The AHF health centre is a standalone facility that will cater to persons affected by HIV and other infectious viruses and will provide testing, treatment and counselling services.

‘We are all vulnerable’

At the same event, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of Health and AHF to enhance HIV/AIDS response in health centres across the island.

While saluting local and international partners who have committed financial and other resources to tackling HIV/AIDS in the country, Tufton lamented that there are still barriers to efforts aimed at tackling HIV/AIDS locally, including stigma.

“Jamaicans need to appreciate that in a sense we are all vulnerable. We are all vulnerable. Technically speaking, theoretically speaking, we are all vulnerable. Yes, there are more vulnerable groups than others, but it’s not a men-who-have-sex-with-men disease, to be absolutely frank and straightforward about it.

“That’s a vulnerable group, probably. So are the boys on the streets who don’t have homes [and] who sell themselves because of their economic circumstances – very vulnerable group. But guess what? Married people are vulnerable, too. People who don’t have sex at all could be vulnerable because of blood transfusion and other stuff,” Tufton said.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com