HIV a ma­jor global pub­lic-health is­sue

Jamaica Gleaner - - WORLD AIDS DAY 2016 -

HIV CON­TIN­UES to be a ma­jor global pub­lic-health is­sue, hav­ing claimed more than 35 mil­lion lives so far. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, there were ap­prox­i­mately 36.7 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with HIV at the end of 2015. As it re­lates to Ja­maica, it is es­ti­mated that over 29,000 per­sons are cur­rently liv­ing with HIV in Ja­maica; but ap­prox­i­mately 19 per cent are un­aware of their sta­tus.

Com­bat­ing HIV has been a dif­fi­cult task glob­ally as health pro­fes­sion­als glob­ally with each re­gion fac­ing its own chal­lenges in man­ag­ing the dis­ease. This year’s theme stems from the UNAIDS global slo­gan ‘Keep the Prom­ise: Hands up for #HIVPreven­tion’ and is most fit­ting as we find new and col­lab­o­ra­tive ways to fight HIV.

The Min­istry of Health, through its Na­tional HIV Unit, has con­tin­ued sev­eral pro­gramme ini­tia­tives to in­crease pub­lic aware­ness, test­ing and em­pow­er­ment and is com­mit­ted to stem­ming the in­ci­dence of the dis­ease. An­other ma­jor step in the man­age­ment of HIV will be the Test and Treat ini­tia­tive. In Jan­uary 2017, the Na­tional HIV Pro­gramme will adopt the 2015 WHO guide­lines, which rec­om­mend that any­one who is di­ag­nosed HIV­pos­i­tive be of­fered treat­ment (Test and Start). This new rec­om­men­da­tion is based on cur­rent sci­en­tific ev­i­dence from clin­i­cal tri­als and ob­ser­va­tional stud­ies demon­strat­ing that ini­ti­at­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy ear­lier re­sults in bet­ter clin­i­cal out­comes for per­sons liv­ing with HIV ver­sus de­layed treat­ment.

I am pleased that the last 15 years have seen re­mark­able progress against AIDS which has sparked a global com­mit­ment to end the epi­demic by 2030. In June 2016, the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly agreed that end­ing AIDS by 2030 re­quires a fast-track re­sponse to reach three mile­stones by 2020: re­duc­ing new HIV in­fec­tions to fewer than 500,000 glob­ally and AIDS-re­lated deaths to fewer than 500,000 glob­ally; and elim­i­nat­ing HIV-re­lated stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

We are aware that much more needs to be done to achieve our goals. As the world com­mem­o­rates World AIDS Day, the Na­tional Fam­ily Plan­ning Board – Sex­ual Health Agency, through ad­vo­cacy by the UN Joint Team on AIDS, will rein­vig­o­rate the HIV pre­ven­tion agenda. A mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary steer­ing com­mit­tee has been es­tab­lished to co­or­di­nate the var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties around HIV pre­ven­tion. To this end, the agency will lead the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners to give em­pha­sis to pre­ven­tion is­sues as well as cel­e­brate life and the achieve­ments of the HIV re­sponse ef­forts in Ja­maica.

I con­grat­u­late the team on your hard work and wish you all the best with this year’s na­tional event. DR CHRISTO­PHER TUFTON Min­is­ter of Health

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