Health

Jamaica leads the Caribbean region in HIV diagnosis

...but must strategise to improve treatment outcomes

Sunday, July 23, 2017



UNAIDS — the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS — on Thursday released its annual flagship report, which shows that Jamaica is leading the English-speaking Caribbean in terms of the proportion of people living with HIV who know their status.

However, according to Ending AIDS: Progress towards the 90-90-90 targets, in order to speed up progress, the country must improve strategies to ensure more diagnosed people start and stay on treatment and achieve viral suppression.

“Jamaica has achieved remarkable progress in expanding HIV testing and is close to achieving the 90 per cent target,” said UNAIDS country director for Jamaica Manoela Manova.

According to a release from UNAIDS, the report gives detailed analysis of progress and challenges toward achieving the benchmarks set to help the world reach the sustainable development goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. These targets are for 90 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90 per cent of diagnosed people to access sustained antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of all people accessing treatment to achieve viral suppression by 2020.

While Jamaica is on track to reach testing target, the country must close the gap on treatment and viral suppression.

According to the report, four of five people living with HIV in Jamaica (81 per cent) know their status. This is the highest percentage in the subregion and close to the 90 per cent target.

Jamaica's HIV diagnosis achievement is attributable to its range of testing options, including community outreach approaches, provider-initiated testing, and focused services for key populations, the report said.

Significant gaps remain with respect to treatment.UNAIDS said the country must intensify efforts to ensure that, once diagnosed, people are linked to treatment, retained in care and achieve viral suppression — which means that people living with HIV have been treated to lower the level of HIV in their blood to undetectable levels, thereby protecting their health while preventing transmission of the virus.

Just one in three people estimated to be living with HIV was accessing treatment in Jamaica in 2016 (35 per cent). And approximately 21 per cent of the estimated people living with HIV were virally suppressed.

There were an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica in 2016.

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