'Shared responsibility' very effective in helping Grenada control the spread of HIV

Tillman Thomas

Tillman Thomas

NARRATOR:  More than three-thousand people came together at the United Nations earlier this month to take stock of the progress and challenges of the last 30 years and shape the future of AIDS response. The High-Level Meeting on AIDS took place 10 years after the historic 2001 United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS, and the 2006 signing of the Political Declaration where UN Member States committed to moving towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Among those at the UN were several heads of State and government from throughout the world.

Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas was among the leaders attending the various sessions.

He spoke to UN Radio and I asked him what was the current situation of HIV and AIDS in Grenada?

TAPE: PM: Well in Grenada, I think we have reached a stage where we can say that there is zero transmission from mother-to-child. The increase has not been rapid in Grenada. It has been somewhat steady. I mean with the period from the inception up to 2010, the number of persons tested positive were 433. So overall, it has not been that serious in Grenada. And there is a National AIDS Council where all the stakeholders are involved: you know the church, the law enforcement, the private sector, health professional – everybody is involved in that council so there's this "shared responsibility" that is being talked about so much here at the UN. That shared responsibility has been in practice in Grenada and that has been very effective.

Donn: You said that there's no mother-to-child transmission but then …what particular group is responsible for the incidence or prevalence of the disease?

P:M: Well, I can't identify a particular group but ..I saw indications of people from different sectors of society.

Donn: Am talking about sex workers, men who have sex with men and that sort of thing.

PM: Yeah, I don't know if that has been seriously categorized in Grenada. …There may be people involved in illicit sexual activities but they will not be referred to as sex workers. Also with men who have sex with men at the same time too, it's not been publicised in that respect so it might be difficult to categorize.

Donn: Let's look at the current situation with the United States saying they won't have ..all that money to spend where they were spending billions of dollars to help developing countries, how much of an impact would that have in slowing the progress being made in Grenada in stopping the spread of the disease?

PM: It does have some impact on the progress, not only in Grenada but within the Caribbean region. I believe that the stage where we are at now we have seen some progress –that is the AIDS pandemic could be beaten, but it has to be sustained. We've reached at a level now where we need to maintain proper structures and financial support to sustain the gains we have made and to ensure that we strive for zero infection and zero transmission from mother-to- child so we have to find funding. Definitely funding is crucial. Again, that would become a case where the national governments may have to increase the budget. So the position taken by the US that could affect not only the Caribbean but the world could be affected by such a move.

Donn: You spoke of national governments having to increase the monies they will allocate to fighting HIV, what about PANCAP? What about if governments were to work under the umbrella of PNCAP of trying to get resources, not just from the United States, European Union and other countries.?

PM: Yes I think that is a positive move. I think that is the way we should be heading. This is really a global epidemic and it need(s) a global response and I think this is where we should really be heading. There shouldn't be any boundaries. They should work. It's a collective responsibility. Just as the whole issue of climate change- that same approach should be taken with the AIDS epidemic – working together in partnership with nations and multilateral organizations- working together to ensure that the epidemic is defeated.

NARRATOR: Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 4’05″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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