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Thursday, June 01, 2006 

Fight against HIV/AIDS remains top priority for the Caribbean,
says CARICOM (165/2006

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MAY 31ST 2006 (CUOPM) The international community was told Wednesday that the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) remains a top priority.

St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister and Chair of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas noted that the region, which comprises essentially, of a number of small and even micro states, it is recognized that to really make significant inroads in reducing the spread of this disease there is need for a collective approach.

“Our Heads of Government at their annual Conference in July 2001, following the UNGASS in June 2001, acted promptly in response to UNGASS by enunciating in the Nassau Declaration that the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region and, identified the Caribbean Cooperation in Health and the PANCAP as the two pillars for implementing the elements of that Declaration. Indeed the Caribbean Community was notably the first Region to take follow-up action from the outcomes of UNGASS 2001 and it proposes to also be among the first regions in the World to achieve Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention, treatment, care and support services by 2010,” Dr. Douglas said in a statement to the Round Table Discussions at the UN High-Level Meeting and Comprehensive Review Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Douglas, who chaired the Round Table, that considered the responses of member states, as well as the NGO community to the Commitments given at the UNGASS in 2001, informed the group that the Caribbean has taken several steps that are preparatory to achieving this goal. Firstly, a series of consultations at national, sub regional and regional levels were conducted which have resulted in a regional position on Universal Access, including a Roadmap for action. Among the bold initiatives in this Roadmap are the establishment of mechanisms for sharing national prevention strategies and, by 2007, evolving policies that could result in a multisectoral approach to behavioural change Some countries like Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda and Curacao for example offer good practices.

In addition, a PANCAP Technical Working Group has developed a framework for prevention. It is proposed that this group would sustain its efforts in collaboration with the national and regional bodies representing People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to achieve Universal Access by 2010, Dr. Douglas reported.

He pointed out that in the area of care and treatment the situation in the Region needs to be radically changed as overall, only 10 percent of PLWHA in the Caribbean have access to ARVs.

Dr. Douglas noted that there is however some variation as Barbados provides all PLWA access to ARVs and The Bahamas too has been able to provide its population with relatively cheap ARVs as a result of its partnership with the Clinton Foundation. He said that Guyana now produces its own drugs, with noticeable impact on increasing access and more recently, through a Brazil-CARICOM/PANCAP Agreement signed in St. Kitts and Nevis in April 2006, Brazil has offered ARVs to the OECS countries free of cost.

“While these are all laudable initiatives, we recognize that there is need for systematization and the provision of a more comprehensive and interrelated programme including VCT training for the health workers linked to the prevention strategies to which I have already referred,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.

“It would seem to me that among the main aspects of any Roadmap is the need to put in place the necessary measures to strengthen the health sector response and capability, to deal with the multitude of challenges related to prevention care and treatment,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who also pointed to the need also to accelerate those programes that would truly lead to a reduction of stigma and discrimination.

“And then again there is the critical issue of Human Rights of PLWHA which demands that legislative reforms be given priority. However, for meaningful, effective reform to take place, all stakeholders would need to be on board,” suggested Prime Minister Douglas, who is leading the 50 strong Caribbean delegation to the United Nations meeting.Dr. Douglas said that the Governments of the Region continue to invest increasing sums from their national budgets towards the fight against HIV/AIDS and many have taken World Bank loans as a demonstration of their commitment to fighting this disease. “A few like Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname are beneficiaries of Global Fund awards. In addition PANCAP and the OECS have received regional and subregional awards which have mainly been directed to achieving regional public goods in the areas of prevention, care and treatment, law, ethics, human rights and training,” he said.

According to Prime Minister Douglas, while steps are being taken within the Caribbean Region to ensure greater sustainability of HIV/AIDS programmes, ‘this cannot be achieved unless PLWHA and their representative institutions are in the fore-front of the management, planning and organisation, sharing responsibility for the accelerated approach.”

“We therefore have to make a greater effort to vest our PLWA groups with the capacity and leadership,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who said the Caribbean is fortunate to have two dynamic regional umbrella organizations and lauded the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+) and the Caribbean Coalition of National HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinators (CCNAPC). “Indeed, CRN+ was the first regional network of PLWA to gain an award from the Global Fund,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who will also address the Special General Assembly on Friday.

Photo # 1 St. Kitts and Nevis' Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas (c) and CARICOM's Assistant Secretary General, Dr. Edward Greene and other CARICOM officials in meeting with the President of Brazil, His Excellency Lula Ds Silva during a working visit to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Photo # 2 St. Kitts and Nevis' Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas (third from left) along with Sir George Alleyne (l), CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Dr.Edward Greene and the Health Ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada pose with Brazil's Foreign Minister (c) follwing a meeting in Sao Oaulo, Brazil.

Photos by Erasmus Williams

Copyright © 2005 By The Government Of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) & Nevis

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