Jendy McDonald, Channels of Hope HIV and AIDS facilitator/educator, in an article in the jamaicgleaner.com, has noted that hundreds of Jamaican youths today are living with HIV/AIDS.
She stated that there are currently about 28,400 persons living with HIV/AIDS; moreover, 30 percent of them do not know that they have the virus. This amounts to a prevalence of 1.7 percent.
According to McDonald, transmission is primarily due to sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
“Adolescents are a high-risk group for HIV infection, as almost 10 percent of all reported AIDS cases are among young people under 19 years of age. Young people between the ages of 15 and 35 are in the greatest danger, as they generally have more sexual partners and more regular sex,” she noted.
She also indicated that recent statistics for females within the age groups of 10-29 and 15-19 have accounted for the majority of the increase.
She pointed to the school system, where it is estimated that 815 boys and 685 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 are currently living with HIV.
McDonald posited the view that a number of economic, behavioral, and socio-cultural factors are contributing to the current pandemic within the country and listed some of these as:
- Multiple sexual partners.
- Early sexual activity.
- Inconsistent condom use.
- Inconsistency between knowledge and behavior regarding HIV prevention.
- Slow economic growth, unemployment and the growing economic importance of drugs, and prostitution.
- Discrimination and stigmatization around HIV/AIDS.
- Gender roles and inequities, including the ‘sugar daddy’ phenomenon, and demands on boys to prove their ‘manhood’.
- Inadequate attention to HIV in the health and family Life Education curriculum.
The country’s health sector continues to face mounting challenges in dealing with the disease as despite education and scientific advances, people with the disease continue to suffer discrimination and there is still persistence stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Edited by Jesus Chan
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