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Sex workers, gays stay high on at-risk HIV list, says UN report

Published:Thursday | July 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter

The HIV prevalence of men who have sex with men (MSM) remains significantly high in Jamaica, resulting in the Ministry of Health taking steps to reduce the effects.

According to data released in Together We Will End AIDS yesterday, the HIV prevalence among MSM is approximately 32 per cent.

The report was released by UNAIDS ahead of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, next week.

The report also suggests that the prevalence rate for female sex workers is almost five per cent.

Dr Nicola Skyers, acting director of the National HIV/STI programme at the Ministry of Health, said the two are among the groups considered most at risk in the population.

Promoting access to health care

Skyers said the ministry was working closely with the groups to improve access to prevention, treatment and care services.

"In terms of prevention, we try to do a lot of outreach activities to reach these persons where they congregate because most of these at-risk groups do not readily access health-care services.

"So in terms of sex workers, we have outreach officers who go out on the streets and work at nights, prevention messages are shared with them, they are provided with condoms ... in terms of MSM, because of our culture, we are not able to interview or interact with the MSM who are in the higher socio-economic bracket. We are only able to reach those on the streets sides," she said.

The report also suggests that the prevalence rate for MSM is an estimated five per cent in parts of the Dominican Republic, 20 per cent in Trinidad and Tobago, 19 per cent in Guyana. The HIV prevalence for female sex workers is 4.8 per cent in the Dominican Republic to 24 per cent in Suriname, five per cent in Haiti and 17 per cent in Guyana.

Despite this, the report stated that the overall adult HIV prevalence for the Caribbean is one per cent and heterosexual transmission remains the main route of HIV infection.

In 2011, AIDS-related deaths stood at an estimated 10,000 - about half as many as in 2001.

According to the report, this is in large part due to the relatively high antiretroviral treatment coverage of 67 per cent for the Caribbean as a whole.

nadisha.hunter@gleanerjm.com