THE United States Government has committed US$3.8 million from its worldwide fund of US$7 billion to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica for 2011, US Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater announced yesterday.
The money is allocated under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which the ambassador said is “the largest commitment of any nation” to fighting HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR was launched in 2003 by then US President George W Bush.
Ambassador Bridgewater, in making the announcement at a function to commemorate World AIDS Day at the United States Embassy in Kingston, emphasised the importance of reducing stigma against most at-risk populations, which experts say drives the number of persons living with HIV in Jamaica underground.
The US ambassador said in Jamaica most of the focus was placed on reducing stigma against at-risk populations, counselling, education, the provision of HIV tests and medication. She said a number of small grants have been made to local organisations from a part of PEPFAR administered by her office, particularly to address stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS. “We won’t be successful in our efforts without focusing on stigma and discrimination,” she said.
Recent grantees from the ambassador’s HIV Prevention Programme are ‘quick impact’ and community-based projects, including Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, the Women’s Resource & Outreach Centre, St Patrick’s Foundation, Eve for Life Jamaica, the Jamaica Red Cross and Children First.
According to UNAIDS estimates, Jamaica is one of the more heavily affected countries in the Caribbean, with an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 1.7 per cent or 32,000 persons living with the virus.
However, much higher rates of HIV are found among most at-risk populations — men who have sex with men at 31.8 per cent, and sex workers at 4.9 per cent, based on 2008 figures from the Ministry of Health.
In the meantime, Health Minister Rudyard Spencer said yesterday that the draft submissions to amend the Public Health Order to remove discriminatory provisions relating to HIV/AIDS has been completed and submitted for review.
The minister was speaking at a World AIDS Day Leadership Breakfast at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston, one of several activities planned to commemorate World AIDS Day.
“Those amendments represent a clear and practical demonstration of this Government’s commitment to address stigma and discrimination against persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS,” Spencer said.
The minister said that the participation of the Government and ‘non-state actors’ in the communities, churches and the boardroom, was necessary to securing the national agenda for HIV/AIDS. The agenda is to have zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths under the United Nations’ ‘Getting to Zero’ campaign, which will end in 2015.
“It will take much more than legislative and regulatory changes to effectively reduce stigma and discrimination. But government has a moral obligation to lead and to act. Government has a fundamental responsibility to protect and safeguard the human rights of every single citizen of Jamaica,” Spencer said.
"Why is there silence on this year's msm study figures/why the hush? and I bet we gonna still see the our community getting overlooked with very little frontline work and specially tailored prevention messages for msms as bareback sex seems to be growing on us .................."
Nice gratuitous speeches by ministers we have heard before.
also on audio on World AIDS Day 2011 I commented:
Meanwhile a full paged ad appeared in the Gleaner on December 1 (partially scanned seen below) from an organization I presume named The Isaachar Foundation of whom we know very little about so far with their motto "Confronting The Culture ... one mind at a time" of course sizing up the high infection rates in the men who have sex with men populations as their fault, they also made reference to France having no sodomy laws since 1791 while having staggering rates of infection.
Let us continue to watch. Also see Gay Jamaica Watch