Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Ambassador David Prendergast, has been forced to defend HIV positive Jamaicans who are living in the twin island republic.
This, after T-and-T’s Health Minister, Dr. Fuad Khan, said CARICOM nationals, including a significant number of Jamaicans, were burdening his country’s HIV treatment supply.
Dr. Khan said Jamaicans were travelling to Trinidad to access free HIV drugs because they are afraid of stigmatisation in their home country.
He made the comments at the launch of a new national health card plan, which bars migrants from getting HIV medication, unless they are registered with T-and-T’s Health Ministry.
But in a letter, published by the Trinidad Newsday, Ambassador Prendergast refuted the claims.
He says Dr. Khan’s comments were based on misconceptions about the availability of HIV drugs in Jamaica.
Ambassador Prendergast also outlined the main provisions of Jamaica’s globally recognized National HIV/STI Programme.
He noted that Jamaica has a fully funded treatment programme, 25 HIV clinics and has been providing anti-retroviral drugs to close to 10-thousand persons on a consistent basis.
Meanwhile, the T-and-T based Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV, has rejected the claims made by Dr. Khan, concerning the reasons for the shortage of HIV drugs in T-and-T.
The group says the claims are disingenuous and irresponsible.
It says T-and-T’s HIV services are being hampered by a lack of procurement and coordination.
The group says while the rest of the Caribbean region saw a 50-percent drop in AIDS-related deaths over the past decade, T-and-T experienced an increase in fatalities.
It’s warning the government in Port of Spain, that any move to inhibit a segment of the population from accessing HIV treatment, will backfire terribly.
And the Executive Director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, Kandasi Levermore, says she has no information to suggest that Jamaicans are leaving the country in large numbers to access HIV drugs in Trinidad.