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St. James still has island's highest HIV infection rate

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas

Residents of Montego Bay got the opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS along with free counselling and testing during last Tuesday's World AIDS Day activities, which were staged by the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

The day's activities, which commenced at 8:30 a.m. at the Type V Health Centre in downtown Montego Bay, began with a public education campaign and screening for the virus. The activities were staged under this year's theme for World AIDS Day, 'Care of the Complete You, Ask for an HIV Test too'.

The attendees were also provided with family-planning information from representatives of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB).

Junnet Ferguson, behaviour change communication officer for the St James Public Health Services, outlined that knowing one's HIV status was important, especially in light of recent statistics, which indicate that St James has the highest HIV-infection rate in Jamaica.

"We (St James) are still number one in terms of the infection rate for HIV in all 14 parishes, and so we are pausing to recognise all those who have been directly or indirectly affected by the virus," Ferguson told the residents in her brief address. "When someone in your family is infected with the virus, it affects the entire family, the society, and the country on a whole."

"We want you to recognise and understand that your HIV status is just as important as your diabetes status, or any other test that you would come to access," continued Ferguson. "It is only by knowing your status that you can pause to find out what is next and know what to do next."

The WRHA and the NFPB have collaborated for this year's AIDS-awareness campaign with the aim of increasing the number of HIV-infected persons in Jamaica who know their status. The aim is to bring awareness to 90 per cent by the year 2020.