Jamaica's HIV/AIDS response praised
Jamaica's HIV/AIDS response and other social-sector intervention programmes have been praised by a leading United Nations technocrat as being among the best in the Caribbean.
Regional director of UNAIDS, Dr Ernest Massiah has observed that despite reductions in funding from multilateral sources, the country has led the way in the implementation of various projects and was also leading the region by example in areas such as drafting progressive legislation that was key to reducing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.
"Jamaica has an amazing leadership in relation to the rest of the region," said Massiah during a recent discussion with Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson at the ministry.
He cited the proposed amendments to the Public Health Order which if implemented would see HIV/AIDS being designated as a communicable disease only for reporting and surveillance purposes and suggested that such changes sent positive signals in relation to the profile of the country internationally.
He also urged Jamaica to leverage its popularity in athletics as a virtual "superpower" to gain increased attention from the donor community.
In response, Dr Ferguson noted improvements in treating with HIV/AIDS including increased access to antiretroviral drugs, regarded as the most effective in fighting the illness. Approximately 80 per cent of persons living with HIV in Jamaica are on antiretroviral drugs. He also noted that there was a significant decline in deaths from the disease, including among infants.
Dr Ferguson explained that the next major intervention would be the establishment of a national institution to manage Jamaica's sexual/reproductive health programme, which may require amendments to the Family Planning Act.