According to the World Health Organization (WHO) some 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, of this number 3. 2 million are children. Since the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in 1981 some 39 million individuals have died.
It is estimated that some 240,000 people in the Caribbean are living with HIV/AIDS. Jamaica has an estimated 32, 000 people living with HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean is second to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV prevalence. The WHO estimates that over seventy percent of those infected live in the Sub-Saharan region.
It is estimated that The Bahamas has the highest HIV prevalence in the Caribbean at 3.1 percent of its adult population, Trinidad and Tobago has a HIV prevalence rate of 1.5 percent of adult population and Jamaica’s HIV prevalence rate is 1.7 of its adult population. The Caribbean like many other parts of the world continue to struggle with discrimination and stigma as it relates to those individuals who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. To some extent this stigma and discrimination is borne out of many misconceptions and myths surrounding the transmission of this virus. As a result many persons who are afflicted with this disease choose not to disclose their status with their partner/s and family members out of a fear of being rejected. The unwillingness among the wider society to show passion and kindness contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is this entrenched discrimination and an unforgiving culture that helps to fuels the spread of AIDS. For many young Jamaicans who are embarking on their sexual journey it is very daunting for them to readily access condoms.
We need to eradicate the stigma that is very much alive and pervasive in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica. We need to thoroughly examine the various messages that are being circulated especially within the popular culture, some of which are clearly negative. Probably, we need to use more of the popular culture art form to fight the harmful spirit of stigma and discrimination which is still an issue regarding HIV/AIDS. The availability of antiretroviral drugs has contribution greatly to delay the progression from HIV to AIDS. In fact with advanced treatment individuals with HIV are almost at undetectable levels due to the breakthrough in medical science. Such treatment and medication have drastically improved the quality of the life for those living with AIDS. We now live in a time that with diet, exercise and medication (which is relatively expensive) an individual who is HIV positive can live well into his/her 70,s which was not possible some years ago. However, we should never let our guard down regarding HIV/AIDS; instead we should continue to educate the population using all available resources and media, including social media to promote a message of sexual responsibility and healthy lifestyle choices for all Jamaicans. It is critical that we all know our HIV status, get tested today.