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Gleaner Editors' Forum | Men targeted for increased HIV testing

Published:Monday | June 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Poor health-seeking behaviour by Caribbean men is exacerbating the already difficult job of having them getting tested for HIV, according to Kandasi Levermore, executive director of Jamaica Aids Support for Life and member of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

"Poor health-seeking behaviours by our men throughout the region are still cause for concern in regards to them coming forward to be tested for HIV. But at the same time, I must note that there has been some improved numbers," Levermore said.

Although data were not provided to show the actual increase, Levermore said that the CVC has had to develop specific programmes to target males, as against women, who have been taking advantage of opportunities to know their HIV status.

"In order to instigate this increase, we (the CVC) had to initiate specific programmes for men as means to encourage them to go out and get tested," she told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.

"Some of the methods include us offering incentives to the women that you will get X if you bring a man for testing. If it's a man who comes to get tested, then we can offer them some safe-sex commodities - stuff like flavoured condoms and other means that will enhance the changed behavior to get them coming out to be tested," Levermore said.

A 2017 study shows that an estimated 32,000 persons are living with the HIV in Jamaica, with as many as 50 per cent unaware of their status. The most urbanised parishes have the highest number of cumulative cases, with St James recording 2,094.6 HIV cases per 100,000 persons followed by Kingston and St Andrew, with 1,570.1 cases per 100,000 persons.

The total number of reported AIDS cases in Jamaica between January 1982 and December 2011 is 16,264, with the number of deaths associated with the epidemic for the same period being 8,498.

Males account for 689.3 cases per 100,000 of cumulative AIDS cases, compared to 504.9 cases per 100,000 females. Although the disease affects more men than women, over time, females are accounting for an increased proportion of the AIDS cases that are reported annually.

It means that women are accessing testing far more than their male counterparts, Levermore noted.

"Some men come to get the condoms; they'll come if the leader comes in to be tested. So we have to go behind the scenes and programme them; work on the leaders, work on the role models. We ask them to bring out their 'parries' (friends) and find ways to get them out," she said. "In the main, we are seeing more men being tested, but definitely not in the numbers we would want".