Jamaica on track to end mother-child transmission of HIV

JAMAICA is on track to be among the first countries in the world to reach the targets for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, according to the Ministry of Health.

The country's status will be confirmed later this month, once the Ministry of Health submits its country report to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

UNAIDS acknowledged the major progress following a recent meeting with Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson.

“Jamaica has made good progress especially in the areas of the prevention of mother to child transmission and the availability and use if anti-retroviral drugs. The Government is moving towards ownership of the HIV Programme and has put in place several initiatives towards this including the integration of the National HIV/STI Programme with the National Family Planning Board to create one sexual reproductive health authority, the purchase of ARVs through the Government's budget and undertaking a sustainability study of the national programme,” said Ferguson.

“Under the leadership of Dr Kevin Harvey, the current permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Jamaica has come a far way in preventing the transmission of HIV to babies, from 10 per cent HIV transmission rate in 2004 to less than two per cent by 2012,” said Fergusaon.

He acknowledged the significant contribution made by the Jamaica Paediatric, Prenatal and Adolescent HIV/AIDS Programme under the leadership of Professor Celia Christie, as well as the support from the Technical Oversight Committee for EMTCT (elimination of mother-child transmission) which received support from international partners — UNAIDS, UNICEF and PAHO.

Jamaica's success in lowering the rate of HIV transmission in children to below two per cent is being attributed to Government's investments, improved collaboration between national, regional and international agencies, as well as partnerships involving the public health sector, private doctors, hospitals and laboratories.

This progress in preventing HIV among children joins other gains of the Jamaica AIDS response, including a 43 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths over the last decade and a 25 per cent reduction in new HIV infections. Jamaica has increasingly demonstrated interest through its leadership and investments in the programme to prevent HIV transmission to babies.

“This is a remarkable achievement; it shows leadership and commitment to ensure that no Jamaican child is born HIV positive,” said Dr Ernest Massiah, director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team.

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