Tue | Dec 18, 2018

Health ministry targets MSM for HIV testing, counselling

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Executive Director of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Kandasi Walton-Levermore.

The Ministry of Health is pushing to provide more than 1,700 men who have sex with men (MSM) with HIV testing and counselling services during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Up to December 2017, close to 400 MSM were engaged in the programme.

"Targets change depending on what is negotiated with the donor. The figures here are those for the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) grant," said Dr Nicole Sykers, director of the HIV and STI unit in the Ministry of Health.

A budget of $647 million for the project: HIV Prevalence in Most-at-Risk Population Reduced, was tabled last week in the Estimates of Expenditure 2018-2019. Other project objectives include the provision of preventative interventions for 2,125 female sex workers and sustained care to 14,650 children and adults who are on antiretroviral therapy.

Kandasi Walton-Levermore, executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, noted that there is an impending funding shift and stakeholders are moving to increase support for vulnerable groups.

"Whilst the targets seem high, it is a deliberate strategy to scale up services to the populations for improved impact as we seek to 'End AIDS by 2030'. Hence, the Ministry of Health continues to partner with civil-society organisations such as Jamaica AIDS Support for Life to engage these populations," she said.

The National Integrated Strategic Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health for 2014 to 2019 seeks to, among other things, decrease the number of new HIV infections by half and HIV-related deaths by 25 per cent.