Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Persons living with HIV/AIDS get improved access to private health services

Published:Thursday | July 23, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Contributed photo

Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter

Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS will now be able to access clinicians, laboratories, and pharmacies within the private sector with the launch of Health Connect Jamaica (HCJ), which aims to provide an alternative to the public-health system for care.

The project was officially launched on Wednesday at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the amount of $45 million.

Health Connect Jamaica will provide an online reservation app that allows persons to gain access to a network of specialists in the private sector.

An HIV/STI risk assessment will be done and an appointment is then scheduled.

Health Connect will allow access to over 20 additional treatment access points in the private sector, starting in the wider Kingston Metropolitan Area.

A phased expansion is expected, which will be targeted at the regions with the highest burden of HIV.

These are private physicians with years of experience in providing HIV treatment and care, but who, through the programme, will now do so at no cost to the client or at a significantly reduced cost.

“Many clients shy away from accessing HIV services due to fear of their status being exposed or having to wait for long periods in crowded public facilities. The HCJ eliminates all of that and offers a modern appointment-based system for accessing treatment and support services,” said Dr Geoffrey Barrow, principal investigator of the project and director of the Health Connect.

Country representative for USAID, Jason Fraser, said the project has been in gestation for nine months and he hopes that it will contribute to attaining the goal of an AIDS-free society by 2030.

There are currently more than 32,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica, but only about 84 per cent of them know their status.

Deputy principal of UWI, Mona, Professor Ian Boxill, said that the institution’s support of the project demonstrates its commitment to being an activist university that pursues partnership to further promote the growth and development of the region.

“The principal goal of Health Connect at the Mona campus is to expand access to affordable, high-quality HIV services in the private sector. This critical role will lead to an increase in service obtained among people living with HIV, a reduction in the burden on the public- health sector, and contribute to the HIV epidemic control in Jamaica,” he said.

A partnership has also been forged with the Caribbean Institute of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

“This partnership allows access to psychotherapeutic services in the virtual space, which is an important component of providing comprehensive care,” Boxill explained.

Meanwhile, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Dr Tomlin Paul, asserted that the project fits within the strategic mission of the faculty and will allow it to engage “in innovative research and interventions in healthcare”.

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