AIDS still prevalent in Caribbean despite progress

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AIDS still prevalent in Caribbean despite progresProgress has been made in efforts to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean , notably the reduction in mother-to child transmission in all countries and the significant increase in persons accessing anti-retroviral treatment. Notwithstanding, AIDS remain the leading cause of death among 25-44 year; and prevalence is high among the most vulnerable populations, says a UNAIDS progress report on the Caribbean .

The report was presented on Tuesday, 10 June, 2008, by UNAIDS Consultant Dr. Bilali Camara to a Breakfast Meeting of members of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), chaired by the Hon. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Chair of PANCAP. Dr. Bilali informed that there were 22 indicators on which countries reported and urged the gathering to pay particular attention to those which were below 50 per cent including those related to vulnerable populations and orphans.

PANCAP Coordinating Unit Director, Carl Browne, used the opportunity to further update stakeholders on the new Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) for 2008-2012. The stated goals of the new Framework, he said, were to by 2012, reduce the number of new HIV infections by 25 per cent; reduce the mortality rate from AIDS by 25 per cent and reduce the social and economic impact of HIV and AIDS on households by 25 per cent. Mr. Browne identified the six areas for priority focus in the new CRSF as, creating an enabling environment that fosters universal access; strengthening the inter-sectoral response; prevention of HIV transmission – BCC; treatment, care, support; capacity development and monitoring, evaluation and research.

The meeting also received various perspectives and requests from Civil Society. These included the development of policies to deal with men who have sex with men (MSM); access by youth to free health and reproductive services; the integration of sex and HIV age appropriate education into the primary and secondary schools; and an evaluation of the values which made PMTCT efforts successful with a view to applying them to interventions to deal with sex workers, drug users and MSMs.

Dr. Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director, in brief remarks, commended the region for its efforts and thanked Prime Minster Douglas for his unfailing leadership and UN Special Envoy for AIDS in the Caribbean, Sir George Alleyne noted the crucial role of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and urged the gathering not to take regionalism for granted.

“United we stand, divided we fall”, he said and “unless the social partners come together, we will not be successful”. It is imperative that the media and business coalitions become active social partners, he also said.

Hosted by the PANCAP Coordinating Unit, the Breakfast Meeting was held on the occasion of the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS 2008, in New York and included several CARICOM Ministers of health, including Chair of the PANCAP Regional Coordinating Mechanism, Hon. Pablo Marin, Minister of Health, Belize , regional organizations and members of Civil Society.