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A Comprehensive Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Jamaica: A Review of the Past 20 Years

Jamaica has a well-established, comprehensive National Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) programme that has slowed the HIV epidemic and mitigated its impact. Adult HIV prevalence has been stable at approximately 1.5% since 1996. HIV rates are high among those most at risk such as sexworkers (9%) and men who have sex with men [MSM] (31.8%). Risk behaviour among adults with AIDS includes multiple sexual partners (80%), a history of a sexually transmitted infection [STI] (51.1%), commercial sex (23.9%) and crack/cocaine (8.0%). Approximately 20% of all reported AIDS cases, mainly women, give no history of any of the usual risk factors for HIV infection. The national programme is based in the Ministry of Health. Since 1988, Jamaica has had a national plan to guide its HIV response. A National AIDS Committee was established in 1988 to lead the multi-sectoral response.
Prevention approaches have included information, education and communication campaigns, condom promotion, sexually transmitted infections (STI) control, targeted interventions, cultural approaches, outreach and peer education, workplace programmes and HIV counselling and testing. Concerted efforts have been made to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination. Antiretroviral therapy (ARV) was introduced for prevention of mother-to-child transmission in 2001 and a public access treatment programme introduced in 2004. A national HIV/AIDS Policy was adopted unanimously in parliament in 2005. The National Strategic plan 2007–2012 commits Jamaica to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care. Awareness of HIV and how to prevent it is near universal though belief in myths remains strong. The condom market has increased from approximately 2.5 million in 1985 to 12 million in 2006 while condom use has grown significantly with nearly 75% of men and 65% of women reporting condom use at last sex with a non-regular partner. The proportion of women 15–24 years reporting ever having a HIV test increased from 29.8% in 2004 to 48.9% in 2008.
HIV transmission from mother-to-child has declined from 25% prior to 2000 to less than 8% in 2007. As of September 2008, 4450 persons or an estimated 68.5% of persons with advanced HIV and AIDS have been placed on ARV treatment resulting in a significant decline in mortality and morbidity due to HIV.
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e-Published: 25 Jul, 2013
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