HIV/AIDS in Jamaica

HIV/AIDS in Jamaica


What is HIV/AIDS?

“AIDS is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight the organisms that cause disease.

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding. It can take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS. 

There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are medications that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease.”

*Definition provided by The Mayo Clinic.

HIV infection is usually diagnosed through blood tests detecting the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.


What happens to the body?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s surveillance and defense systems against infections and some types of cancer.

As the virus destroys immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient.

Immunodeficiency results in increased susceptibility to infections and diseases that people with healthy immune systems can fight off.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, which can take from 2 to 15 years to develop.

AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections, or other severe clinical manifestations.



People living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages.

The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.

As the immune system weakens, the individual can develop swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough.

Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma, among others.


Risk factors

Risk factors according to the National AIDS Committee Jamaica:

  • Sex with Sex Workers
  • Crack, Cocaine Use
  • History of STI  
  • Intravenous Drug Use
  • Multiple Sex Partners / Contacts

Consider this…

No high risk behaviour was reported by 34% of reported HIV cases. This may represent persons who report having one sex partner who was HIV infected by another partner.



  • Male and female condom use
  • Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs
  • Voluntary medical male circumcision
  • ARV based prevention
  • Harm reduction for injecting drug users
  • Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV

For more information on these prevention methods, follow this link.


How many people are living with HIV/AIDS in 2012? Take a look at this chart.


HIV/AIDS worldwide facts

  • HIV has claimed more than 25 million lives over the past 30 years.
  • More than 35 million people now live with HIV/AIDS. 3.2 million of them are under the age of 15.
  • An estimated 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2013, down slightly from 2.3 million in 2012. 240,000 were under the age of 15.
  • Nearly 5,700 people contract HIV every day—nearly 240 every hour. This is also down from 2012 figures of 6,300 per day and 262 per hour.
  • 1.5 million people died from AIDS in 2013, down 100,000 from 2012. 210,000 of them were under the age of 15.
  • Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 78 million people have contracted HIV and nearly 39 million have died of HIV-related causes.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most affected region. More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of all people living with HIV, 24.7 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 91 per cent of the world’s HIV-positive children.
  • The Caribbean has the second highest prevalence rate, right below Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 12,000 people became newly infected in 2012, bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS there to more than 250,000. AIDS claimed an estimated 11,000 lives in 2013.
  • At the end of 2013, 11.7 million people were receiving ART in low- and middle-income countries; this represents 36% [34–38%] of the 32.6 million [30.8–34.7 million] people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Progress has also been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2013, close to 7 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV – 970,000 women – received antiretrovirals (ARVs).

Sources: UNAIDS Gap Report 2014; UNAIDS Fact Sheet 2014 and the World Health Organization 


HIV/AIDS stats in JA

79.7 per cent of sex workers reached with HIV prevention programmes, (2011)

87.41 per cent of men who have sex with men reached with HIV prevention programmes, (2011)

4.3 per cent of child HIV infections from HIV-positive women delivering in the past 12 months, (2013)

49.4 per cent of adults and children currently receiving antiretroviral therapy, (2013)

88.2 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women received antiretrovirals to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission in 2013. This is up from 87.8 per cent in 2012. 

30,620 cases have been reported to the Ministry of Health between January 1982 and December 2012. Of that number, 8,102 are known to be deceased

The most urbanized parishes have the highest cumulative number of reported HIV cases since the start of the epidemic: Kingston & St. Andrew (1,494 per 100,000 persons) and St. James (1,956 per 100,000)

The number of reported AIDS deaths has decreased by 50% since the inception of Universal Access to Anti-Retrovirals in 2004. In 2004, 665 deaths were reported compared to 333 in 2010.

The AIDS case rates are higher among men compared to women (650.8 cases per 100,000 men compared to 474.8 cases per 100,000 for women)

About 74 per cent of all AIDS cases reported in 2010 are in the 20-49 year old age group, representing a slight increase from 69% of cases in 2008.

Females account for the larger share of cases in the 10-29 and the 15 to 19 age groups, four times as many young women have been reported with AIDS than young men; Adult males account for a larger proportion of the cases reported in the 30 to 79 age group

In 2012, for every 1,000 pregnant women attending public antenatal clinics, at least 9 were HIV infected

Ten paediatric AIDS deaths were reported in 2012, compared to 34 in 2004. The 70% decrease reflects the increase access to treatment by HIV infected children


National HIV/AIDS Programme reports

These two reports were produced by the National HIV/AIDS Provgramme in the Ministry of Health. The data focuses on the HIV/AIS situation in 2010 but has indicators from 1982.


Facts and Figures 2010: Data Tables


HIV Epidemic Update: Facts and Figures 2010



Media Centre: HIV/AIDS World Health Organisation. Accessed November 30, 2012.

Facts & Figures 2010: Data Tables. National HIV/STI Programme Jamaica HIV Epidemic Update. National HIV/STI Programme website. . Accessed November 30, 2012

HIV Epidemic Update:Facts & Figues 2010. National HIV/STI Programme Jamaica HIV Epidemic Update. National HIV/STI Programme website. Accessed November 30, 2012