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Friday, January 13, 2006 

Global Fund head says she is 'impressed' with Jamaica's HIV/AIDS programme

TANEISHA DAVIDSON, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, January 12, 2006

JAMAICA should know by March this year whether the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GTFAM), will continue to assist it in its efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Global Fund, which has given the health ministry grants to help fund its National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Programme, is expected to assess the progress made to date, and then decide if it will fund the second half of the island's five-year project. But Jamaica appears to have very little to worry about since the programme received positive feedback from a high-level delegation from the Global Fund that visited the island from January 8 to 10.

In fact, Global Fund chairman, Carol Jacobs, speaking at a media briefing at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston on Monday, said she was impressed with the programme, which started in June 2004.

"I can say that we knew on paper, even before we came here, that this particular grant has been doing well..," she said. "I am very impressed with the best cases programmes that we have seen in such a short time, and I am confident that the grant will increase the depth of the fight against HIV/AIDS," Jacobs remarked.

Dr Wolfgang Munar, Latin American and the Caribbean Cluster Leader and Professor Richard Faechem, executive director, were the other members of the GFTAM team that visited the island.

Jamaica has already received approximately US$7.6 million for the first phase of its programme, and if GFTAM is satisfied with it, then it will approve US$15.7 million for the second phase.

Meanwhile, Dr Peter Figueroa, head of epidemiology and AIDS at the Ministry of Health, said Jamaica has benefited significantly from the programmes funded by the GFTAM, namely through the establishment of the public access treatment using special antiretroviral drugs, which are critical in order to ensure the well-being of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

He further stated that if the second phase of the project is approved, the money would be used to strengthen existing programmes as well as evaluate its strategic plans, identify and corrects gaps in the programme.

Meanwhile, currently more than 1,500 persons who are living with HIV/AIDS are benefiting from antiretroviral treatment under the National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Programme and are also receiving adherence counselling, said Dr Figueroa. Additionally, Dr Figueroa, noted that the programme has also seen the establishment of an education outreach programme, particularly in sites where persons meet new sexual partners.

It has also provided support for the Jamaica Network of Seropositives (JN+), which is an organisation which advocates for person who are living with HIV/AIDS.

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