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AIDS funds fears allayed

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 06, 2012    

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FEARS that Jamaica's reasonably successful AIDS prevention programme could be dislodged by the country's promotion to middle-income status, and the subsequent loss of support from the Global Fund, were allayed Monday by Kingston-based United Nations' officials who suggested that funds would still be available from other sources.

"It is not a done deal," said UN Resident Co-ordinator Dr Arun Kashyap in response to questions about how the reduction of funding from the Global Fund could affect the local HIV/AIDS prevention programme at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"As you know, as you rise up in your economic status, you do come down in terms of accessing the funds. But, at the same time, if you are able to make a case as to why it should not be so, I am sure there are other UN agencies that can help you in pushing that point and I think we can keep our fingers crossed," he added.

However, Dr Kashyap urged Jamaicans not to consider promotion to upper middle income status as "a bad thing"."There are countries who want to become upper middle-income because there are other options that can come from that," he commented.

Jamaica was promoted to upper middle-income status with countries such as Brazil, India, South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Chile, Panama, Venezuela, China and other Caribbean Community countries with a per capita income of US$4,970, in 2010. This has threatened its access to loans for developing countries including AIDS prevention. It is in this context that Jamaica and several other middle-income countries have been advocating that the international community tailor cooperation agreements to particular circumstances.

Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator AJ Nicholson has said that in light of the development, it is critical that the country utilises fora like the Commonwealth Finance Ministers, the G20 and the World Bank to articulate its concerns.

With 1.6 per cent of its adult population estimated to be HIV positive, Jamaica appears to have stabilised its HIV/AIDS epidemic. First detected in 1982, HIV is now present in all of Jamaica's parishes, while Kingston, St Andrew, and St James -- the three most urbanized parishes — have the majority of cases. UNAIDS estimates 27,000 people in Jamaica are infected with HIV, and men and women aged 20 to 44 account for 65 per cent of reported AIDS cases.

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