Horace Fisher, Gleaner Writer
MAY PEN, Clarendon:
THE 'GALLIS' (promiscuous male) culture is one of the many factors behind the spread of HIV in Clarendon, according to Georgina Daubon, a Southern Region Health Authority (SRHA) contact investigator.
Daubon, who spoke with The Gleaner at the Clarendon Health Department's HIV/AIDS World AIDS Day Commemoration forum in May Pen last Friday, said along with the pervading gallis sub-culture, unprotected sex and stigma are the other components driving the spread of the disease that was first discovered in Clarendon in 1983; just one year after the first case of HIV was reported in Jamaica.
She also pointed out that the current HIV rate in the parish is in line with the national average, which is declining steadily.
highest rate of HIV
"Clarendon has the highest rate of HIV infections in the SRHA's geographical purview, but like the national average, the figure is falling steadily, thanks to our initiatives that are contributing to the decline in the parish's figures," said Daubon, while noting that she was not at liberty to disclose the specific figures.
She added that: "Nationally, up to 50 per cent of all those infected with HIV do not know that they are carrier of the disease. Therefore, the parish is in an aggressive preventive programme. We continue to offer free HIV screening and counselling, with a focus on prevention in some of the most vulnerable groups in Clarendon."
Clarendon Health Service's acting parish manager, Nicholas Carlton, who delivered the national HIV/AIDS message on behalf of Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, told The Gleaner that the parish is committed to continue its successful programmes to drive down the rate of infection, in line with the national 2015 objectives.
"Clarendon has a number of HIV preventive programmes that are doing well so far, which include an in-school abstinence programme. All of these programmes will augur well for us in Clarendon and in the national's 2015 objectives to eliminate new HIV infections among children, plus ambitious reductions in sexual transmission of HIV and person who inject drugs, while ensuring that more persons are on ARV medications," Nicholas said.