Jamaica has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 1.75 percent per adults between the ages of 15 and 49 and is currently home to approximately 30,300 PLHIV — more than half of whom are unaware of their status.
Adolescents are among the most at risk for HIV infection due to a prevailing culture of multiple sex partners and inconsistent condom use. Girls between the ages of 10 and 19 are three times more likely than boys to contract HIV infected, often as a result of early sexual initiation, sexual relations with HIV-infected older men, forced sex, and prevalent unsafe sexual practices.
In addition to HIV/AIDS, Jamaica has a high rate of sexually transmitted infections, gastrointestinal infections, multidrug resistant organisms, and healthcare-associated infections. The country’s tropical location lends itself to outbreaks such as dengue and leptospirosis, as well as the debilitating effects of a new virus, Chikungunya. With a physician density of just 0.41 doctors per 1,000 people, there is critical need for infectious disease specialists in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean.
University of the West Indies / University of South Carolina
(2012 – 2014)
Partners collaborated to establish a postgraduate infectious disease fellowship program to help close a critical gap in well-trained human resources for health in this essential field of medicine, not only in Jamaica, but throughout the Caribbean Region.
AIHA launched a partnership between the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus in Mona, Jamaica, and the University of South Carolina (USC) in the autumn of 2012, marking our entry into the Caribbean Region. The goal of this partnership, which was managed through our HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, was to develop an Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program (IDFP) as a way to increase the number of qualified specialists in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean thereby improving the quality of care for PLHIV or other infectious diseases.
Drawing on USC’s existing IDFP, partners jointly developed a two-year program at UWI. A series of faculty exchanges, training activities, and ongoing mentoring of UWI staff culminated in the launch of the IDFP in early 2014, with two Jamaican physicians enrolled. Since the launch of the IDFP, interest in the infectious diseases sub-specialty at UWI has grown, with more and more residents and medical students looking to do postgraduate training in this area.
Partners worked to establish new relationships with complementary institutions such as the University of Toronto, which agreed to facilitate an elective transplant infections rotation to supplement clinical rotations offered by USC.
As funding for the partnership was concluding, both UWI and USC reaffirmed their commitment to the nascent IDFP and to the goal of expanding access to specialized care for PLHIV and others affected by infectious diseases throughout the Caribbean. AIHA supported the purchase and installation of audio-visual equipment at UWI as a way to facilitate on-going communication, mentorship and distance learning with USC for both the fellows at UWI faculty. The UWI partners also plan to use this equipment to facilitate similar communication and collaboration with their clinical campus in the Bahamas.
AIHA conducted a series of sustainability meetings at UWI in December 2104, which included potential donors and other supporters of the IDFP, including representatives from the Ministry of Health of the Bahamas and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).