HIV project under threat
Nagra Plunkett, Assignment Coordinator
Jamaica's bid to stem HIV/ AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis is poised to hit a snag, as the country's 'upper-middle income' classification renders it ineligible for further financial grants from the Global Fund.
The country has received US$26 million from the fund for the next three years, which will be used to continue prevention, treatment and care interventions.
"The significant gains we have made in combating these three diseases are in large measure due to the support from the donor community. I believe that the donor community must re-examine the classification, especially in light of the impact of the global financial crisis," Health Minister Rudyard Spencer said yesterday.
Spencer was speaking at the opening of the Global Fund Country Coordinating and Regional Co-ordinating Mechanisms Workshop at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay, St James.
"All sectors are in decline in Jamaica, the economy is weak and experiencing a protracted period of no growth and we continue to have a high debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio. The situation has implications for health spending, health-seeking behaviours and health outcomes."
Assist existing efforts
The Global Fund is a public-private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The fund works in collaboration with other bilateral and multilateral organisations to supplement existing efforts to deal with the three diseases.
Spencer said Jamaica has not won the war against HIV/AIDS, as some 27,000 Jamaicans are living with the virus, and half that number are unaware of their status. Men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, inmates and cocaine-crack users have the higher prevalence rate among the at-risk groups.
However, improved access to antiretroviral treatment has resulted in a reduction in mother-to-child transmission from 25 per cent to five per cent.
The Global Fund regional manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, Lelio Marmora, promised that the secretariat would lobby the board of the Global Fund for regional countries that are in a similar position as Jamaica in a bid to try to continue funding support.