Face of HIV/AIDS improves – health official

There has been a significant shift in the face and image of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica from one of persons being ill, losing a lot of weight, and hardly being able to help themselves, to one of an image of being a regular Jamaican.

JAMAICA HAS come a far way as it relates to the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS, according to Dr Kevin Harvey, senior medical officer in the Ministry of Health’s HIV/STI Control Programme.

Addressing a recent Gleaner Editor’s Forum, Harvey disclosed that there had been significant gains in the last five years in the management and care of persons who are HIV-infected.

“We find that most people are willing to sit beside, hold hands, talk to, and even take care of somebody who is HIV-infected, particularly family members. This has been a significant shift we are seeing now,” Harvey told the forum, which was held at the newspaper’s, central Kingston head offices.

Harvey added: “We still have a challenge where persons refuse or have difficulties buying food or eating from somebody who they know to be HIV-infected; but they are more willing to allow their children to go to school with HIV-infected individuals and work alongside them.”

Ministry of Health estimates indicate that of the 27,000 persons who are living with the disease, 18,000 are unaware of their status.

IMAGE SHIFT

Harvey said that there had also been a significant shift in the face and image of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica from one of persons being ill, losing a lot of weight, hardly being able to help themselves, to one of an image of being a regular Jamaican.

“We are saying you cannot tell by looking; anybody sitting beside you or working with you can be HIV-infected and you don’t know,” said Harvey.

He attributed this to the affordable treatments that were now available.

Harvey told the gathering that in 2003, it cost somewhere between $20,000 to $30,000 each month for anti-retroviral drugs.

Now, the most expensive regime costs approximately $9,000 per month, and is free in the public sector.

Harvey also revealed that the test to monitor persons who were HIV-infected had been reduced from $10,000 to $3,000.

Persons living with HIV are now living longer, Harvey also revealed. He said before the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs, the average life span after being diagnosed with the disease was one year.

“Now, we have people who are diagnosed with AIDS up to five years, and some people who have been on, before our major programme up to 14 years of anti-retroviral drugs and are living healthy, happy lives,” Harvey reported.

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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