Jamaica: HIV Project Under Threat
September 8, 2010
Jamaican Health Minister Rudyard Spencer is calling on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to reconsider its classification of the island nation as "upper-middle income," which renders it ineligible for further grants from the fund.
"The significant gains we have made in combating these three diseases are in large measure due to the support from the donor community," Spencer said Monday at the opening of the Global Fund Country Coordinating and Regional Coordinating Mechanisms Workshop in Montego Bay, St. James. "I believe that the donor community must re-examine the classification, especially in light of the impact of the global financial crisis."
"All sectors are in decline in Jamaica; the economy is weak and experiencing a protracted period of no growth; and we continue to have a high debt to GDP [gross domestic product] ratio," said Spencer. "The situation has implications for health spending, health-seeking behaviors, and health outcomes."
Jamaica has received $26 million in Global Fund grants for the next three years. While the country has successfully reduced mother-to-child HIV transmission rate from 25 percent to 5 percent thanks to improved access to antiretroviral treatment, its epidemic continues. Of the 27,000 Jamaicans living with the virus, around half are unaware of their status, said Spencer. Men who have sex with men, along with commercial sex workers, inmates, and crack cocaine users are the groups most at risk of infection.
Lelio Marmora, the Global Fund regional manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, pledged that the secretariat would lobby the fund's board on behalf of regional countries whose situation is similar to Jamaica's.
The Gleaner (Kingston)
09.07.2010; Nagra Plunkett
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