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Saturday, June 10, 2006 

Caribbean AIDS on the rise
Saturday, June 10 2006

ONE MILLION DEATHS BY 2009

If individuals continue the current trend of sexual misconduct within the region, “close to one million people in the Caribbean will die of AIDS by the end of 2009.” These were the words of Education Minister Hazel Manning at the Ninth Special Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) of Ministers of Education of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of Education, yesterday hosted the meeting entitled “Accelerating the Education Sector Response to HIV and Aids in the Caribbean Region” which provided a forum for Ministers of Education and other stakeholders to examine the role of the education sector in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and in mitigating the effects of the disease in the region. Delegations from education ministries and the National AIDS Authority across the region and several international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF and UN AIDS with regional representation were in attendance at the meeting at Crowne Plaza.
Manning said AIDS had become the leading cause of death among males and females ages 15-44 in the region and by 2009 there would be 243,000 new HIV infections and 334,600 new cases of AIDS in the Caribbean - a total of 577 persons infected with either HIV or AIDS - three percent representing children.
She said some of the challenges in combating the spread of AIDS in TT was in the development of an education sector policy on HIV/AIDS especially where stigmatisation and discrimination were concerned and additionally in the development of an immediate education sector response to children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
She said a comprehensive, co-ordinated approach that is research driven was needed to support psycho-social programmes for students infected or affected by the disease and called for support of the recently formed Network of Coordinators in HIV and AIDS in the Education Sector, chaired by Belize, with TT as the Deputy Chair. Dr Ewar Surty, deputy minister of education, South Africa and former human rights attorney, in his address said, the UN 2006 report on global AIDS spread disclosed that over six million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. He said the key focus of HIV/AIDS programmes should be prevention, to ensure the uninfected individuals remain HIV negative.
Surty said the fight against HIV/AIDS spread should be a multi-sectoral approach and programmes shoud enable and engender community based support. He said programmes should take steps to educate the public against stigmatisation and discrimination with emphasis heavily placed on compassionate care of infected persons.


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