Chief Medical Officer, Dr Joy St John today told health care providers that a lot more needs to be done in promoting sexual and reproductive health in Barbados, even though much progress has been made in that area over the years.
Addressing the opening of the first Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference hosted by the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Dr St John noted that good sexual and reproductive health practices are critical to the Ministry’s goal of providing health care in an environment that would ensure the overall well-being of the current population and future generations.
Her comments come on the heels of a report from the Ministry of Health earlier this week of a high incidence of sexually transmitted infections.
Senior Medical Officer of Health responsible for the STI Programme, Dr Anton Best, said at the time that current data showed high rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis in Barbados.
According to him, most recent data from 2016 showed 13.6 per cent of patients screened positive for chlamydia at the Ladymeade Reference Unit Laboratory, while the figure for gonorrhoea stood at 2.7 per cent. Dr Best added that about 70 per cent of individuals were between 15 and 29 years old.
Dr St John pointed to the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) which was launched in 2015 by the former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, as well as efforts by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to improve sexual and reproductive health care, reduce global maternal death rates, as well as end the AIDS epidemic, as some of the steps towards achieving the goal of greater sexual health.
“It has also been acknowledged that these goals promote gender equality as well as investments and opportunities for young people,” Dr St John said, noting that the UNFPA also emphasises the importance of engaging men in sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning.
“We are told that engaging men as clients of sexual and reproductive health services, as well as supportive partners, and as agents of change, should bring a balance geared toward the empowerment of both male and female, especially in the area of education.
“The Ministry of Health views education not only as a means of passing on information but also as a means of changing attitudes and ultimately changing behaviour which is needed in order to effect change and strengthen systems and programmes which support sexual and reproductive health,” she added.
Dr St John said several partnerships have been formed in the health sector to address growing health risks, including the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP).
According to her, some of the successes under this initiative include a national strategic plan for HIV prevention and control (2014-2020), which is enhanced by access to antiretroviral therapy, which has significantly reduced mortality as well as mother to child transmission of HIV.
“We are very fortunate in Barbados to experience the successes that we have had, and we hope to sustain the successes, as from 2016 there has been a policy to implement the HIV treat all initiative. This initiative allows HIV positive persons to receive treatment regardless of their CD4 count, and will be critical in helping Barbados to achieve and sustain the ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 target,” Dr St John said.
Under this target, by 2020 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their status; 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.