America committed to helping achieve HIV epidemic control in Jamaica
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

THE United States has signalled its commitment to continue work through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in addressing the HIV needs and response in Jamaica.

Assistant secretary for global affairs at the US Department for Health and Human Services Loyce Pace, on Thursday during an interview with the Jamaica Observer at the US Embassy in St Andrew said Washington remains committed to getting people on treatment and reaching those really important goals in terms of suppressing viral loads.

Last Saturday, UNAIDS Regional Director Dr Richard Amenyah told guests at a Health Connect Jamaica Dinner and Awards Ceremony that "In the Caribbean there are 92,000 people waiting to go on treatment or yet to be diagnosed [with HIV]".

He also said that in Jamaica there are approximately 15,000 people yet to be put on treatment.

To this end, the Global Fund, which provides support for the treatment of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, is seeking to raise US$18 billion for its next wave of programming, which includes achieving HIV epidemic control in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Assistant Secretary Pace told the Observer that in addition to the Global Fund's need to raise the US$18 billion, it is important for those funds to be equitably distributed so that no one is left behind.

"The Global Fund is clear about that as well as the US President Emergency Initiative for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). To that end, we have a new leadership there — Dr John Nkengasong. Ambassador Nkengasong has talked about centering the work of PEPFAR on people and ensuring that he does so with an equity lens. We can talk about the science, we can talk about the systems, but if you're not addressing the social determinants of health, then we are still going to be talking about reaching the last mile. We will continue to work through CDC to address the needs here in Jamaica...but it's going to take some coordination between PEPFAR, Global Fund and the Government here for us to be successful," Pace said.

The updated UNAIDS targets for 2025 — 95-95-95 — aim for 95 per cent of those living with HIV to know their status, 95 per cent of those who know their status to be on treatment, and 95 per cent of those on treatment to be virally suppressed. While the previous 90-90-90 targets for 2020 were met by some countries, they were not met globally.

When asked if these targets are too ambitious, Assistant Secretary Pace said, "I ask the question of whether we can afford to be less ambitious. We got to get this done if we're going to make a difference. The hard part is reaching that last mile. It's going to get harder the better we do. But it doesn't mean we stop trying."

Kimberley Hibbert

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