Jamaica News: A mobile testing unit, valued at over $12 million, which has been handed over to the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), will enable health personnel to go into communities to conduct human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests.
The unit was donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the United States Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme, and brings to five, the total number of mobile testing units within the Ministry of Health.
The bus is equipped with countertops, a sink and a screened seating area to accommodate consultation sessions. It is retrofitted with an inverter unit to power a refrigerator.
At a handover ceremony held at the Bustamante Hospital for Children on Thursday (December 13), Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, expressed gratitude for the donation.
He said the mobile units have enhanced the capacity of health personnel to move across the country and into communities, effectively taking the testing mechanism to the people, instead of having persons go into the health facilities.
“The introduction of the buses has led to a significant increase in the uptake of HIV testing. The first retrofitted buses were introduced in 2010 and since that time we have seen up to 18,000 tests being conducted on the mobile units annually. We anticipate that with the addition of this unit we will see even more persons taking the opportunity to get tested and, by extension, any appropriate treatment or public education beyond that,” he said.
Dr. Tufton noted that encouraging more Jamaicans to know their status through testing is a critical tool in the management and treatment of HIV.
“This is a critical part of controlling the epidemic, because it is through knowledge of your status that you will know exactly how to prevent being infected, and also, if infected, how to control the virus and enhance quality of life,” he pointed out.
USAID Country Representative, Jason Fraser, said estimates and case-based surveillance indicate that there are about 34,000 Jamaicans living with HIV. However, approximately 22 per cent of those persons do not know their status.
The majority of these cases are found in St. James, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine. Mr. Fraser said the total represents 576 females and 621 males, with the highest number being between the ages of 20 and 59.
“Of the 1,197 persons diagnosed with HIV in 2017, 61 per cent of all cases were in SERHA’s four parishes of St. Catherine, Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Thomas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Regional Technical Director for SERHA, Dr. Dutris Bourne, said that SERHA is the largest health region in Jamaica and “having this bus will allow our prevention team to continue the wonderful work they are doing”.
“Last year, we tested 963,969 persons and this year, we hope to double it and, hopefully, this bus will help us to do so,” he added.
The initiative is part of the Ministry’s National Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Sexually Transmitted Infection/Tuberculosis (HIV/STI/TB) programme.
Source: JIS News