St. Lucia says the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS is estimated to be less than 1% in the general population

Keith Mondesir

In Saint Lucia prevalence of HIV/ AIDS is estimated to be less than 1% in the general population, with the number of new infections appearing to be stable over the past five years. So says Minister of Health Dr. Keith Mondesir. He told the General Assembly hi-level meeting on HIV/AIDS that St. Lucia welcomed the opportunity to discuss best practice and efforts among Member States, and to undertake a comprehensive review of the progress we have achieved so far.

Dr. Keith Mondesir:         Our national response has recorded many gains in the past ten years including: free voluntary counselling and testing, reduction in the number of AIDS related deaths as result of government provided anti retroviral treatment, a reduction of mother to child transmission, with zero new cases reported since 2006, and a decline in the number of new reported cases of HIV/AIDS over the last five years. While this progress is encouraging, Saint Lucia continues to face many challenges in a comprehensive response to the epidemic. We are grateful for technical support from UNAIDS and the WHO, who has helped us to identify the need for a two-phased approach in the future. Phase one is the commitment to addressing the disease through science and evidence based approaches, enabling us to better identify the national and regional character of the transmission of HIV/AIDS in the region in order to develop a targeted response. Phase two will examine an increase in testing, treatment and prevention, recognizing that these three components are all aspects of treatment and prevention and are most effective when provided in tandem and together.

NAR: Minister Mondesir said Saint Lucia, in consultation with UNAIDS, recognizes the need to develop an evidence-based response to the disease that addresses the situation the country. He said an evidence based prevention and treatment program enables a coordinated effort throughout the country in prioritizing resources and actions to groups that are most at risk and most vulnerable.

Dr. Keith Mondesir:         Based on the evidence we have about the spread of the disease, our national strategic plan, drafted with the technical support of UNAIDS and WHO, has identified three major sectors of the population who are most at risk. These are, in order of priority, men who have sex with men (MSM), and sex workers.  A third priority will be to ensure that we eliminate mother to child transmission. In addition, we have identified young people and girls in particular, as a group that is vulnerable given current behaviors and knowledge about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Education for young people will include an emphasis on the risks associated with early sexual debut, and encourage the postponement of sexual debut for both boys and girls. The particular biological vulnerability of girls, however, will be emphasized. The fact that girls are 50% more vulnerable to STI's and HIV/AIDS must be made clear all.

NAR: Health Minister Dr. Keith Mondesir said St. Lucia reaffirms its commitment to combating the disease by ensuring that the resources are used most effectively. He concluded that the government continues to prioritize addressing high risk communities and providing them with the support and resources they require.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’45″

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December 2017
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