MOH implements measures geared towards ending AIDSSunday, November 28, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Ministry of Health and Wellness says it has implemented a raft of measures geared towards ending AIDS in Jamaica.
Acting Senior Medical Officer (SMO) in the HIV/STI/TB Unit in the Ministry, Dr Alisha Robb-Allen, informed that of the 32, 000 persons estimated by UNAIDS to be living with HIV in Jamaica, just under 50 per cent of them (15,000) are receiving care at a treatment site.
“Of that number, there are persons who are on antiretroviral (ARV) medication, which is used to ensure that persons who have HIV have a decreased viral load and makes them less susceptible to progressing to AIDS and contracting any other illnesses which would make them more likely succumb,” Dr Robb-Allen said during a JIS Think Tank on Friday.
She explained that once persons are on ARVs, they can live a normal life while indicating that under the national programme, all persons who are living with HIV have access to care and medication.
“In 2017, we adopted the World Health Organisation (WHO) Treat All Policy, so anybody who is positive is able to access ARVs at any of our 44 treatment sites,” she shared.
The Acting SMO further noted that the Ministry has expanded its testing by adding self-testing through the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) at the end of 2020. She added that another modality of prevention (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) has been added to the Ministry's offerings.
“Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) allows persons who are at high risk based on their sexual profile or their sexual behaviour to access ARVs to prevent transmission of HIV from their sexual partners,” she said, explaining that the latter decreases the possibility of persons who are in relationships with persons who are positive and planning to have children, of transmitting HIV to their partner and their unborn child.
Regarding the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTC) of HIV and syphilis, Dr Robb-Allen said, “Jamaica is moving toward elimination status as we continue to work in our antenatal clinics as well as our hospitals and our health centres to provide health care to pregnant mothers to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child”.
This, she said, is done through a PMTC programme that provides ARVs, as well as breast milk substitutes “so that we can stem, as best as possible, the transmission of HIV to our children.”
The Ministry has also partnered with Health Connect Jamaica, through the University of the West Indies, to provide an access point for persons with HIV to access care outside of the public sector.
Treatment sites have also been increased by 50 per cent between 2018 and 2020 moving from just under 30 to 44.
“We also have extended hours of care offered at our government facilities or health centres within our Regional Health Authorities,” Dr Robb-Allen stated. “The Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to partner through the national HIV Programme with several civil society organisations including Jamaica Network of Seropositives, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to ensure that prevention activities, as well as treatment, are available for persons living with HIV.”
Jamaica will observe World AIDS Day on Wednesday, December 1, under the theme 'End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics'.