Julie Frampton, Coordinator National HIV/AIDS Programme

Last week the Ministry of Health convened a forum to assess the National HIV/AIDS Response Programme in Dominica for the last five years. Health care professionals and other stakeholders participated in the assessment to give advice on the way forward for the programme.

Coordinator of the programme Julie Frampton said,” An assessment of the programme is a priority and is necessary for the continuance of the programme.”

The National HIV/AIDS Response Programme began in Dominica in 2003 with funding from the Global Fund, the Government of Dominica, and other donor agencies as well local partners made contributions including Dominica Social Security.

According to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. David Johnson, “Dominica is at a critical juncture for securing funds for the HIV AIDS programme, since funding from the main donor, Global Fund is ending.” He further stated that it is critical that Dominica develop plans for the sustenance of the programme.

The CMO said that Dominica has done considerable work in integrating the HIV/ AIDS Response Programme into the Primary Health Care Services. A number of health care professional have been trained in counselling .The HIV AIDS Response Unit has been successful in the establishment of three testing centres.

Dominica reported its first HIV/ AIDS case in 1987. Presently there’s an estimated prevalence rate of 0.75 percent. About ten cases on average are documented every year.

HIV reported cases from 1987 to 2009, stands at 72 percent male and 28 percent female. The productive population is the age group most affected with the age ranging from 25 to 59 years.

Statistics shows that HIV and AIDS related deaths peaked between 2003/2004. However, the rate reduced from 2005 as a result of the Anti- Retroviral Treatment (ART), which was made possible through the OECS Global Fund Project.

Prior to 2001 there were 14 prenatal infections (i.e. transmission from mother to child). But with the introduction of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme (PMTCT) there has not been any maternal to child infections since 2001.

Since the first reported case of HIV/ AIDS in Dominica in 1987, the Government of Dominica and the Ministry of Health have undertaken an effective response to the disease. They are:

*  1987: National AIDS Task Force
*   1988: National AIDS Committee)
*   2001: Expanded Response (UN, CARICOM/PANCAP)
*   2001: PMTCT programme and coordinator
*   2002: Development of the National Strategic Plan ( NSP)
*   OECS Global Fund Project.
*   2003 National AIDS Response Programme with a Coordinator and Secretariat.

The National HIV/AIDS Response Programme is developing a five year national strategic plan.The plan’s overall strategic goals are to reduce the incidence of HIV in Dominica and to alleviate the negative impacts of HIV & AIDS on infected and affected people.

The plan’s priorities include prevention of new infections; improved treatment, care and support; further development of infrastructure; strengthening the capacity of the health systems and providers and improving information and knowledge management.

The National HIV/AIDS Response Programme continues with its programmes to achieve its goals, but there are key challenges to expanding the response.