30,000 People Living With HIV/AIDS in Jamaica Leads Region Since 2016

The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has released its annual flagship report which shows that Jamaica leads the English-speaking Caribbean in terms of the proportion of people living with HIV who know their status.

But according to the UN's Ending AIDS, progress towards the 90-90-90 targets, in order to speed up progress the country must improve strategies to ensure more diagnosed people start and stay on treatment and achieve viral suppression.

“Jamaica has achieved remarkable progress in expanding HIV testing and is close to achieving the 90 per cent target,” said UNAIDS Country Director for Jamaica, Manoela Manova.

The report gives detailed analysis of progress and challenges toward achieving the benchmarks set to help the world reach the Sustainable Development Goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. These targets are for 90 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90 per cent of diagnosed people to access sustained antiretroviral treatment and 90 per cent of all people accessing treatment to achieve viral suppression by 2020.

Jamaica, on track to reach testing target, must close the gap on treatment and viral suppression, the UN report said.

Four of five people living with HIV in Jamaica (81 per cent) know their status. This is the highest percentage in the sub-region and close to the 90 per cent target.

According to the report, Jamaica's HIV diagnosis achievement is attributable to its range of testing options including community outreach approaches, provider-initiated testing and focused services for key populations.

Significant gaps remain with respect to treatment. The country must intensify efforts to ensure that once diagnosed, people are linked to treatment, retained in care and achieve viral suppression.

“Viral suppression” means that people living with HIV have been treated to lower the level of HIV in their blood to undetectable levels. This protects their health while preventing transmission of the virus.

Just one in three people estimated to be living with HIV was accessing treatment in Jamaica in 2016 (35 per cent). And approximately 21 per cent of the estimated people living with HIV were virally suppressed.

There were an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica in 2016.