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Thursday, May 11, 2006 

Media & Society Caribbean Broadcast Executives Create First Regional Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS at Meeting in Barbados
[May 11, 2006]

More than 30 radio and television executives from 20 Caribbean countries on Wednesday announced the launch of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS, which aims to broaden access to effective HIV/AIDS messages, according to a joint release. The broadcast executives made the announcement in Bridgetown, Barbados, at the three-day Caribbean Broadcast Media Leadership Summit on HIV/AIDS, which was organized by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The partnership and summit respond to the goals of the Global Media AIDS Initiative, a call-to-action by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for world media leaders to use communication resources to help address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. "This historic summit is the first step toward concrete action to help motivate social change and deliver life-saving information to young people," Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. The committee to guide the partnership will be headed by CBC General Manager Allyson Leacock and include representatives from countries and media companies across the region, with CBU providing support and the Kaiser Family Foundation providing technical assistance. "As developing nations, we need to use our collective energies and communication channels to remind our citizens that this is a pandemic with tentacles that affect our economies, our social development agenda and future generations" Leacock said. The partnership also created the Web site broadcasthivcarib.org to provide information about the initiative (CBC/CBU/KFF joint release, 5/10). "A lot of what is required in the effort on HIV/AIDS is really a reculturing process," CBC Secretary-General Patrick Cozier said at the meeting, adding, "[W]e need to have a genuine buy-in at the highest level [of media], so that you have the moral authority to invite your reporters and your program producers to follow your lead in strengthening the public message on HIV/AIDS" (Selman, Barbados Advocate, 5/9).

Meeting Attendees Discuss Region's HIV/AIDS Epidemic

The Caribbean's HIV prevalence of about 2% -- second highest in the world after sub-Saharan Africa -- has greatly affected the region, and increasing the role of HIV-positive people in programs to fight the epidemic is essential, Carl Brown, chair of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS, said on Monday before the meeting began, the Caribbean Media Corporation reports. "We need to give [HIV-positive people] an opportunity to be advocates and champions in this fight," Brown said. Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that even though "the numbers may not seem very high," the Caribbean's HIV/AIDS epidemic has passed the "tipping point," adding that a regionwide program to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS is needed because some islands lack capacity to control the disease without assistance (Caribbean Media Corporation, 5/9). George Alleyne, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, called for the decriminalization of homosexuality across the region, which he said would help save lives (Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, 5/9). The Kaiser Family Foundation, in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization, on Wednesday also announced that it will bring six Caribbean journalists to the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, to support meeting coverage and attend workshops (CBC/CBU/KFF joint release, 5/10).

Meeting Attendees Sign Declaration

On the final day of the summit, the executives signed a declaration that commits them to "[p]rovide for dedicated and substantial television and radio broadcast airtime for HIV/AIDS-related communication"; to make HIV/AIDS a "core business priority" of their companies; to "[i]ntegrate" communications about the epidemic across broad program genres; to consult with HIV-positive people, advocates, physicians and researchers; and to coordinate with the HIV/AIDS programs of governments and other regional groups (Partnership declaration, 5/10).
Interview with the Bahamas Health Minister

The Bahama Journal on Wednesday published an interview with the Bahamas' Minister of Health Bernard Nottage about issues the country faces in fighting its HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Bahamas as of December 2005 had 10,479 HIV-positive residents, 5,243 of whom have developed AIDS and 3,612 of whom have died. "International partnerships opened avenues in funding, training, research and capabilities that [t]he Bahamas alone could not and still cannot provide or sustain," Nottage said, adding, "Nowadays, [t]he Bahamas has graduated and it is very difficult for us to get donor funds, and this is a matter of tremendous concern for us." He also proposed moving HIV testing and treatment services from centralized hospitals to community-based clinics to reduce the stigma related to the virus (Pinder, Bahama Journal, 5/10).

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