July 25, 2012
The non-governmental group Eve for Life has launched a new campaign, "Eve Teens Stories," to raise awareness about Jamaican women and girls living with HIV/AIDS. At the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, EFL is premiering a 20-minute film, "Together We Can," which tells the stories of these women.
"The statistics are clear: Girls are three times more likely to be infected in Jamaica" than boys, said Patricia Watson, a former journalist and EFL's executive director. While HIV infections among young females are not tracked as they are among other high-risk groups, Watson worries that Jamaica's teen pregnancy rate of 18 percent puts girls at high risk of the virus.
"Here is a set of young people for whom if we don't do something at this point and time, then we are going to have a horrible epidemic on our hands in another 20 or 30 years," Watson said. "If we don't give them the knowledge that they didn't get in the first place, including on HIV and how to navigate relationships, then we are going to have serious issues."
A UN report released ahead of the conference noted that the Caribbean's HIV infection rates and AIDS-related deaths fell sharply in the past decade thanks to improved access to antiretroviral treatment; however, many challenges remain to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Secrecy surrounding sex and other socio-cultural issues is affecting not only youths but also other high-risk groups, the UN reported, including men who have sex with men. Jamaica's rate of MSM infection, 32 percent, is the world's second-highest after Kenya.