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Deaths of adolescents from HIV continues to rise

Friday, November 17, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is calling for Jamaicans to practise responsible sexual behaviour in order to prevent new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections.

He said results from an HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviour Survey conducted for 2004, 2008 and 2012 indicate that the factors driving the epidemic have not changed over time, with continuing insufficient condom use and high levels of multiple sex partners among the general population.

Dr Tufton, who was speaking at the media launch of World AIDS Day 2017 yesterday at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston, said adolescent deaths resulting from HIV infection continue to rise despite declines among other age groups.

This, he attributed to developmental, psychological and social factors, which place this group at increased risk of contracting the virus.

“As a society, we must do more to stop new HIV infections and untimely HIV-related deaths through both primary and secondary prevention and better management approaches,” he said.

Director of Health Promotion and Prevention at the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Andrea Campbell, informed that there were 1,222 new HIV diagnoses in 2017.

She said studies show that the population is aware of the methods of HIV prevention. However, there seems to be a resistance by people to change their risky sexual behaviour.

Among the safe practices that people should adopt to safeguard against contracting the virus are reducing the number of sexual partners, using a condom consistently and correctly, and abstinence. For those already infected, they are advised to adhere to medication, which will lead to viral oppression.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, through the National HIV/STI Programme, is reporting some successes, including an increase in the reporting of HIV cases and voluntary counselling and testing for the disease at antenatal clinics.

Additionally, a 2014 survey indicates a continued decline in the prevalence among female sex workers. The overall prevalence was 2.9 per cent, a reduction from 4.1 per cent in 2011. Currently, Jamaica has an estimated 29,000 people living with HIV or 1.6 per cent of adult population. Of this number, 85 per cent have been diagnosed.

This year, World AIDS Day will be observed on December 1 under the theme 'We Have the Right to Health: Keep the Promise, Don't Turn Your Back on Me'.

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