HIV a major global public-health issue
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