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Children and AIDS: Second Stocktaking Report

Jamaica Gets Good Marks on Treatment of HIV-Positive Children and Pregnant Women, says UN Report

KINGSTON, 3 April 2008 ― Jamaica is among many countries across the world that should be applauded for significant progress in providing more HIV-positive children and pregnant women with treatment, according to a United Nations report released today.

Children and AIDS: Second Stocktaking Report reviews how HIV/AIDS is affecting children and young people, three years after UNAIDS, UNICEF and other partners launched the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign.

The report examines the progress made ― and the challenges remaining ― in four key areas: preventing HIV transmission from mothers to children (PMTCT), providing pediatric treatment, preventing infection among adolescents and young people, and protecting and supporting children affected by AIDS. The report focuses on low- and middle-income countries.

For the second year, the report commends Jamaica for major strides in the effort to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. National data reveals that eighty-eight percent of HIV-positive pregnant women in Jamaica now receive antiretroviral medication. The island has dramatically slashed its mother-to-child transmission rate, from 25 per cent in 2002 to 10 per cent in 2006.

Jamaica has also made significant progress in treating more HIV-positive children. According to the National HIV/STI Control Programme, over 340 children are now on treatment, moving Jamaica closer to providing universal coverage. Other national statistics indicate that sixty per cent of children and adults living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment.

The global report argues that while the progress made in Jamaica and other countries to reduce PMTCT and provide more pediatric treatment is encouraging, far more work needs to be done to address other major HIV/AIDS challenges.

Increased knowledge about HIV among Jamaican adolescents and young people, due largely to targeted interventions in schools and communities, is yet to bring significant results in terms of reducing risky sexual practices. Thirty-three per cent of females and 25 per cent of males aged 15-24 reportedly do not use a condom with non-regular partners. An alarming 24 per cent of girls are subjected to forced sex, and transactional sex with older men is emerging as an issue that continues to make girls particularly vulnerable to HIV infection.

Jamaica is falling behind most in the protection and support children who are orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. Despite being one of the first countries in the Caribbean to draft and adopt a National Plan of Action on Orphans and other Children Made Vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in 2003, uneven implementation of the plan leaves countless children without the appropriate social services they need.

While the news is mixed in Jamaica ― as it is across the globe ― the UN report argues that achieving an AIDS-free generation is still possible, noting that globally more resources are being pumped into prevention, treatment and protection efforts.

As the report recommends, the priority is now to implement new initiatives and scale up those that have already been tested and proven effective. The Government of Jamaica has worked with partners, including UNICEF and WHO ― within the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) ― in strengthening the health system to provide treatment to women and children. UNICEF, along with UNESCO and UNFPA, has actively supported the Ministry of Education and NGOs in several primary prevention efforts.

Further prevention work will need to be built around strong systems and partnerships to pursue the following priorities:

  • Scaling up gender-specific prevention interventions designed especially to reach vulnerable children, including those out of school. This includes the UNICEF-supported “Bashy Bus”, a mobile HIV prevention clinic operated by the NGO Children First. The Bashy Bus is staffed by peer educators who use music, dance and drama to engage young people about their reproductive health in HIV-affected communities in St. Ann, St. James and St. Catherine. Confidential counseling and testing for HIV are also offered.
  • Building on the success of the life skills-based Health and Family Life Education in schools, by training more teachers and other school personnel to effectively deliver the curriculum and to provide appropriate counseling and referrals for sexually active children.
  • Scaling up programmes that provide income-generating skills and opportunities for families caring for children affected by HIV, as part of a comprehensive package of social services for those most in need.

“Jamaica deserves to be congratulated for its hard-earned victory of saving more children and women from HIV infection,” said UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel.

“Now the country must apply the same determination to other tough challenges ― protecting more adolescent girls and boys from infection and reaching out to children, adolescents and their families who are affected by the epidemic. To get over these hurdles, we must also tackle the high levels of stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS at both the national and community level.”




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