The life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) medication can be made available in the next three years to the entire 14,000 HIV-infected Jamaicans who need it, given Jamaica's progress in responding to the disease, according to UNAIDS Country Co-ordinator Dr Pierre Somse.
Statistics indicate that 14,000 of the estimated 31,000 HIV-infected persons in Jamaica need to be on the drug, however there is not enough medication for some 7,000 persons.
But an optimistic Somse said Jamaica is in good standing to make the drug available to all who need it by 2015 as the country already provides the medication to more than 50 per cent of those who need to be on treatment.
Globally, only 42 per cent of those who need to be on treatment have access to the medication, while regionally ARVs are available to only 43 per cent of those who need them.
"We can achieve 100 per cent ARV therapy by 2015, because more than 50 per cent of those who need to be on the treatment are already on it, and so it's not like some countries where 100,000 of who need treatment don't have it," Somse said.
The UNAIDS head, who along with colleagues from other United Nations agencies addressed this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston, said Jamaica is also on track to halting and reversing the trend of the epidemic by 2015, as it is among the countries which have since reduced the epidemic by 25 per cent.
"The perspective is bright, first because we have a small epidemic and so the size can be controlled since it's not like South Africa or elsewhere," Somse said.
This, he said, is unlike his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where two million people are infected with HIV and only eight per cent of those who need treatment are on it.
"You come from this mountain of epidemic to a country where you have only 31,000 people living with HIV and only 14,000 need treatment... with will and the power the HIV programme Jamaica has can cover these people," he said.
Additionally, he said, Jamaica has had outstanding achievement in fighting the disease as it is among the first 21 countries, in 2010, to have greater than 80 per cent coverage of HIV-infected pregnant women.
"This has increased so far, Jamaica's ambition is to eliminate mother-to-child transmission (of HIV) by 2015," he said.
He noted, however, that the major issue the country faces in its response to the disease is that of human rights, legal barriers, and gender inequalities, all of which "drive the response and fuel the epidemic".
"With a holistic approach based on respect of human rights promotion, gender inequality, and focus on young people you can also reduce new HIV infections," Somse said.
However, he dismissed claims that too much of the funds designated for the fight against HIV have been directed to administrative and policy costs with very little going to a lot of the persons who are directly impacted by the disease.
Somse said Jamaica has done very well in its management and use of HIV funds, as investing in policy is not a second class intervention.
"You need the policy to allow intervention to work. Having commodities is not enough," he insisted.
Somse said the fact that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men remains at 32 per cent is reflective of the policy constraint difficulties which make the HIV programme inaccessible to some of those who need to be reached the most.
He argued further that the HIV cases for girls age 10-19 are three times greater than for boys of the same age, and this reflects the vulnerability of girls.
"This reflects the policy environment which does not allow access to services to adolescents that are having sexual needs and the problem of age of consent," he said.
Policy issue today, he said, is a priority that UNAIDS is focusing on.