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The Government of Jamaica has aggressively addressed the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1988, when it established the National HIV/Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Program and the National AIDS Committee (NAC), a nongovernmental organization (NGO). The Program, working under the MOH, facilitates governmental cooperation with the private sector and NGOs in the fight against HIV/AIDS. NAC, which has more than 100 member organizations, coordinates the national response to the epidemic.
Recent program estimates indicate that 20 to 30 percent of MSM are HIV-positive. Jamaica also has a large number of mobile sex workers, both Jamaican and from outside of Jamaica, who are difficult to monitor. HIV infection rates among sex workers are much higher than they are in the general population. A 2006 study of female sex workers, reported by UNAIDS, showed an HIV prevalence of 9 percent in this group. However, according to Jamaica’s 2006 UNGASS report, an earlier study found a 20 percent prevalence rate among sex workers in the tourist areas of Montego Bay. The actual prevalence of HIV may be higher in these groups as data collection remains difficult and is limited by sampling methods. Sex workers who were older, less educated and used crack cocaine were more likely to be HIV-infected. According to UNICEF/Jamaica, in 2003, there were 5,125 children in Jamaica who had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, and thousands more were estimated to have been made vulnerable by the disease. Poverty and neglect have led to a growing number of street and working children. There were 5,143 children in institutional care in 2003, including those in foster care
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