ROSE HALL, St James — Director for the National HIV/STI programme, Dr Kevin Harvey says that the country's "AIDS crisis" is far from over, as he called for more resources to be made available to tackle the deadly disease.
"AIDS is still the leading cause of death in Jamaica in the 22 to 49-year-old group, which is really the productive sector of the population," Dr Harvey told stakeholders Tuesday at the 21st HIV/STI Annual Retreat at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa.
"The prevalence rate of the adult population is going up and we have consistently high prevalence rate in the men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, prison inmates... so we are seeing that they are groups with some worrying prevalence rate and these rates have remained significantly high over the past three years," he explained.
He said despite the efforts of the Government and its international donor partners, the programme has never been properly funded.
"We have never been able to get adequate funding for the HIV programme. We have only really gotten about 40 per cent of the money required to fund the national strategic plan," he noted.
He argued that creative ways must now be found to adequately fund the programme.
"We need to come up with new approaches for funding the project, and that is why we are here for the next three days to see how and what are the new strategies that we can put in place," he said.
"We understand the global financial crisis but HIV is one of the most important issues that we have to deal with."
The Ministry of Heath has reported that between 1982 and 2009, the number of persons reported with AIDS was14,354, of which 7,772 had died.
The retreat which is being held under the theme 'Partnership for an Effective and Sustainable Response' ends today.
According to Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer, the objectives of the retreat are geared at enhancing the work of the National HIV/STI Programme and providing a forum for partners and stakeholders to contribute to further improving the programme.
He said the participants will, among other things, examine practical approaches and models for sustaining an effective national response.
Other objectives include reviewing the role of the International Development Partners in achieving universal access and the need for medium and long-term sustainability planning; highlighting major achievements, sharing best practices and assessing the progress of the National HIV/STI Programme and local partners towards universal access to HIV prevention and treatment services and strengthening and broadening multisectoral and civil society participation through the sharing of technical approaches in addressing most at risk population.
According to representatives from JFLAG recently and other sources there was not a formal invitation extended to advocates from the LGBT fraternity especially given the spike in infection rates in the MSM populations where at last count via the 2007/8 study and report stands at 31%.
Peace and tolerance