UWI, health ministry sign MOU to govern operations of Health Connect Jamaica
(From left) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health andWellness (MOHW) Dunstan Bryan; Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, stateminister in the ministry; Professor Dale Webber, pro vice-chancellorand principal of The UWI Mona campus; Dr Geoffrey Barrow, principal investigator and director of Health Connect Jamaica;Jason Fraser, country director, USAID President's EmergencyFund for AIDS Relief; and Dr Tomlin Paul, dean of the Faculty ofMedical Sciences pose for a photo op following the signing of amemorandum of understanding with the MOHW and The UWIto govern operation of Health Connect Jamaica at the university,yesterday.

THE University of the West Indies, Mona, yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) that will govern operation of Health Connect Jamaica (HCJ).

Health Connect is a network that has a mandate to expand access to and utilisation of high-quality HIV-specific primary health services in the private health sector, which is funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and their implementing partner FHI360, as a special project of the Faculty of Medical Sciences (FMS) at The UWI, Mona. It expands the access to and utilisation of high-quality HIV-specific primary health services in the private health sector, filling the gap in quantity and quality that currently exists in the national HIV response, particularly for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Jamaica who are currently unable to afford access to HIV treatment and care in the private health sector.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Professor Dale Webber, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of The UWI, Mona campus, said the partnership exemplifies the alignment of The UWI with the needs of society. HCJ, he said, provides well-needed services for this vulnerable group and The UWI is a strong supporter of cutting edge research needed to make a difference in the lives of people living with HIV.

“We are pleased that back in July 2020 our impressive research capacity was expanded through this public-private partnership which will further contribute to growth and development in the region, specifically in the area of HIV treatment.”

State minister for health, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, who endorsed the initiative on behalf of the ministry, said “The MOU will see both entities pooling efforts and resources to increase efficiency and to improve the service delivery to people living with HIV. The alliance and consistent HIV prevention will strengthen care and treatment services as Jamaica strives towards epidemic control.”

The minister also thanked USAID which, through PEPFAR and The UWI, will provide technical and financial support for the partnership that will support the Government's vision of universal access.

Jason Fraser, country director, USAID's PEPFAR said, “Despite the coronavirus, gains made are being sustained with progress toward the acceleration of HIV epidemic control in Jamaica. However, the infrastructural and human resource constraints will require alternative health care delivery models to address the health care needs of the population. The current partnership between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and The UWI provides an opportunity to address these concerns in a manner that eases the burden on public facilities while providing affordable and accessible care to people living with HIV in Jamaica.”

Fraser said, too, that Health Connect Jamaica is COVID-19-ready, offering client-friendly, online, and socially distanced safe options through an online reservation application that allows prospective clients to engage the network for HIV risk assessments to be done and service to be delivered.

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