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The Ministry of Health’s free testing promotion at World AIDS Day in Falmouth, Jamaica

There is a high rate of new HIV infections among Jamaican bisexual men. Jamaican men continue to mask their homosexuality as expected, but this is being revealed in the latest figures from the health ministry. In a society that can be harsh towards known homosexuals, some men are choosing to have sex with women as is the accepted norm, but hide and have sex with men as well.

This spells trouble for the women, who innocently fall victim to these carriers, not knowing their “other lifestyle.” This increasing trend (bisexual men) is causing concern for the health ministry in its fight to combat the sexually transmitted disease, HIV AIDS.

MINISTER of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson yesterday disclosed that men who have sex with both men and women accounted for almost 40 per cent of new HIV infections in 2012.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the approval of funds for the National HIV/STI Programme at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, Dr Ferguson said although the HIV/STI programme has made significant strides in achieving a decline in new infections and is on track to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, it continues to face challenges with respect to the prevalence rate among vulnerable groups.

“While we have a prevalence rate of 1.8 per cent among the general population, female sex workers have a prevalence of 4.2 per cent, young men under 25 years who have sex with men are at 24.3 per cent as at 2013, and adult men who have sex with men (MSM) have a prevalence rate of 32 per cent,” the health minister explained.
“I want to further note that MSM who reported being involved in sex work, reported an HIV prevalence of 41 per cent, transgender women 45 per cent, and transgender populations in sex work reaching as high as 56 per cent.”

Insisting that the prevalence rate among these groups are “way too high”, Dr Ferguson said that much of the efforts must be concentrated on these vulnerable groups, adding that there is the ever present challenge of implementing mechanisms to effectively deal with the issue of stigma and discrimination.

The approved funds include US$14.9 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, to be used from January 2016 to December 2018; US$5 million from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief (PEPFAR)/United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the 2015/2016 financial year, and increased budgetary allocation from the Jamaican Government.

The funds, according to the minister, will facilitate support geared at reaching those most at risk of becoming HIV infected, as well as those who are already infected through the provision of treatment, care and support services.

Dr Ferguson said the PEPFAR grant has already been approved and that they are now in the final stages of completing the ministry’s work plan, while a mission from the Global Fund is now in the island working through funding requirements and guidelines with stakeholders to develop an integrated plan.

 

 

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