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More youth having multiple sex partners, study finds

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More youth having multiple sex partners, study finds

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 10, 2019

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Health authorities are concerned that, despite interventions to change risky behaviours and stem the HIV infection rate, research has shown that more people in the 15-24 age group are having multiple sex partners, with the numbers rising from 58 per cent in 2012 to 65.3 per cent in 2017.

The findings have emerged in the latest Knowledge Attitude Behaviour Practice Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health among 2,000 randomly selected individuals in the 15-49 age group between August and October 2017, and involved 2,818 households.

Only 58 per cent of those with multiple partners used condoms during their last encounter at the time of the survey, and 21 per cent reported never using a condom in their last 10 sexual encounters. Over 63 per cent of those were males. Furthermore, the researchers found that just 60 per cent reported having done an HIV test in the 12 months leading up to the survey.

Speaking at the dissemination launch of the survey at Eden Gardens in St Andrew yesterday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said another key finding is that the knowledge of how HIV is transmitted had declined, as only 33 per cent of respondents were able to identify 100 per cent condom-use and sticking to one faithful partner as ways of preventing infection.

The ministry is particularly concerned about the persistence of stigma and discrimination, which has hampered progress in the diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV in Jamaica.

Dr Tufton lamented that stigma has been a significant hindrance to the country getting closer to the 90-90-90 target set by UNAIDS in 2014 to diagnose 90 per cent of HIV-positive individuals; provide antiretroviral therapy for 90 per cent of those diagnosed; and achieve viral suppression for 90 per cent of those treated by 2020.

“The survey revealed that accepting attitudes to persons with HIV not only remained low, but declined significantly in 2017 versus 2012. While we have made some progress in terms of the deadlines set by the UN, it’s going to be difficult to achieve those targets, it’s an admission that we have to come to terms with,” he said, but stressed that this is not an indication of failure.

“Rather, it is motivation for us to redouble our efforts to ensure that we take this issue on frontally, talk more about it, sensitise more, in getting stigma removed from our psyche as a people,” he said.

Noting that the country was lagging behind the UN targets related to stigma and discrimination, Dr Tufton said that public health is an ongoing progress in which the society has to confront and overcome current mindsets.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer on the uphill battle with stigma and HIV, the health minister explained that, “It’s a combination of things… part of it is because of perception and belief about how the virus is transmitted, and that’s a strong issue. The other is the fear of association — guilty by association type of thing. The stigma is big; we have to get people to understand that it’s an illness that we have made much progress on in terms of treatment and control. In days gone by, HIV would be a death sentence; people are [now] living 30 and 40 years with HIV, but they have to take their medication. On the prevention side we have to get people to understand responsible behaviour, and we have to get the general population to appreciate that people are normal people who are unfortunately affected.”

He said that it is for this reason that the ministry continues to reiterate and refresh its awareness and education campaign on HIV, using a multi-agency approach, and including the education sector, as the school-age population does, to a large extent, engage in sexual activities.

There are 32,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica. In 2016 there were 1,700 new infections and 1,300 AIDS-related deaths. The survey informs the ministry’s HIV/AIDS intervention programme by identifying gaps and successes and gauging the impact of the programme.

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Audio-visual tech-fitted buses to secure testimonies from witnesses

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THE Ministry of Justice will be providing two buses, equipped with audio-visual technology, to assist in securing testimonies from witnesses in trial matters.

This was disclosed by portfolio Minister Delroy Chuck who said the vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote areas where witnesses may be located.

These, he said, are among the initiatives underpinning the ministry’s commitment to safeguarding witnesses against intimidation, and advancing their role in the justice process.

The minister’s speech was delivered by executive director of the Legal Aid Council Hugh Faulkner, during the opening of the two-day Witness Care Conference at the Faculty of Law, The University of the West Indies, Mona, St Andrew, last Friday.

Chuck said other initiatives include equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities and 19 with audio-visual recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation will be significantly reduced”.

Additionally, the minister said legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.

“Our goal, mission, and purpose at the Ministry of Justice is to create a first-class justice system that delivers timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck emphasised.

It is against this background that the ministry is a significant partner in the conference, “because we know that a first-class justice system cannot exist without the proper care and protection of witnesses”.

He expressed the hope that the forum would facilitate stakeholder dialogue on a public awareness campaign, to educate the general populace that locating and procuring witnesses is a “shared responsibility”.

“Discussions will range from creating an enabling environment for witness safety and security to psychosocial interventions and services for witnesses. There will also be a focus on vulnerable witnesses, as well as discussions on designing multi-care systems that involve different agencies,” the minister said.

These engagements, Chuck pointed out, are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of witnesses.

This, he added, is imperative in spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be motivated to stand and be counted, and play their part in creating a society that is secure, cohesive and just”.

Meanwhile, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters, who also spoke, underscored the relationship between the countries in engagements tailored to advance the local justice sector.

“We (Canada) have been a long-standing and steadfast partner with Jamaica, in terms of putting forth, supporting, partnering on a series of reform-focused…reform-centric programmes, all designed to advance a comprehensive and systematic approach to justice modernisation,” Peters said.

In this regard, she said the Canadian Government is honoured to be a partner in the conference’s staging.

The inaugural event is a key activity under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) project.

The project is a $19.8-million Global Affairs Canada-funded initiative, being implemented by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme.

It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.

Peters said the conference forms part of the JUST programme’s social order component, which seeks to facilitate equitable access to justice services for all individuals, particularly the most vulnerable.

“It is commendable that Jamaica has understood and embraced the importance of focusing on witnesses at this time,” she added.

The conference, which ended on Saturday , was intended to discuss and advance solutions for the protection and support of witnesses in the Jamaican judicial system.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Waite gets ringing endorsements in St Elizabeth NE

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BRAES RIVER, St Elizabeth — Thoughts of the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) internal presidential campaign were never far away.

However, Comrades focused on Basil Waite at yesterday’s formal launch of his bid here to become the next Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern whenever general elections are called.

The seat is currently held by the PNP’s Evon Redman, who has long indicated he will not be seeking re-election after completing his single term.

“This is about PNP unity; we not thinking about internal campaign right now,” claimed Councillor Everton Fisher (PNP, Balaclava Division).

There were discordant notes though, that were completely unrelated to the challenge to party President Dr Peter Phillips by former Cabinet Minister Peter Bunting.

A message from Redman, absent due to family commitments, was met with derisive shouts of “No” from the large crowd.

Redman, in his message read by Region Five Chairman Hopeton McCatty, said the “transition” of the constituency leadership had not always been smooth, but he and Waite were “working at it”.

Waite got ringing endorsements, including from his brother, Councillor Mugabe Kilimanjaro (Ipswich Division, St Elizabeth north-estern), who jarringly insisted that his brother had been “sabotaged” for years by elements in the PNP.

By press time the meeting had briefly taken on the look of a stage show as Comrades awaited the arrival of Dr Phillips, who was scheduled to deliver the main presentation.

St Elizabeth North Eastern is traditionally among the rural strongholds of the PNP.

Waite is set to be challenged by businessman Delroy Slowley, representing the JLP, whenever parliamentary elections are called.

— Garfield Myers

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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PM tours Corporate Area projects

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PM tours Corporate Area projects

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) hugs Traffic Warden Tonya Morris during yesterday’s tour of the roadwork in Manor Park, St Andrew, while wishing her birthday greetings.

 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) examines one of the new pipelines which will replace the old ones in Manor Park, St Andrew, while touring the ongoing road projects in the Corporate Area yesterday with other stakeholders. Looking on is E G Hunter, managing director of National Works Agency. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)


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