The Ministry of Health’s HIV/STI/TB Unit began the ‘Test and Start’ media campaign, today August 10, 2017. The campaign recommends that anyone who is diagnosed HIV positive be offered treatment (Test and Start). This new recommendation, from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2015 guidelines, is based on current scientific evidence from clinical trials that show that initiating antiretroviral (ART) therapy earlier, results in better clinical outcomes for persons living with HIV (PLHIV) versus delayed treatment.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye, in welcoming this new initiative, highlights that “Data from the UNAIDS commissioned START study shows that the risk of progression to AIDS diagnosis was reduced by 53% among people who initiated treatment shortly after diagnosis compared to whose treatment was deferred until much later.”
Jamaica has seen a 64% decline in AIDS mortality rates between 2004 and 2015. The reduction is attributed to the introduction of public access to antiretroviral treatment in 2004 and scaling up of the national HIV testing.
With the ‘Test & Start’ initiative, it is anticipated that an additional 1200 new patients will be eligible to initiate treatment. Treatment as a method of prevention is another benefit of these new guidelines as more PLHIV are virally suppressed and consequently the risk of transmission is decreased.