HIV prevalence rate in the Caribbean stabilized at 1 per cent: CARICOM

Denzil Douglas

More than 3000 people came together at the United Nations in New York for the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS. The meeting, which ran from 8-10 June, and provided an opportunity to take stock of the progress and challenges of the last 30 years and shape the future 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.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of St. Kitts-Nevis Dr. Denzil Douglas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the conference held ten years ago catalysed bold steps, including the Global Fund for HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  He said HIV/AIDS, a disease that once seemed to strike a death knell for those infected, was now being addressed through the dedicated work of natural and behavioural scientists, philanthropists and non-governmental organizations, and leadership at national and global levels. 

According to Prime Minister Douglas, the application of behaviour change through social marketing interventions had contributed in no small measure to arresting the spread of HIV.

Dr. Denzil Douglas:         In doing so, there is the growing realization of the need for inclusiveness, aimed at the eradication of HIV related stigma and at enabling equitable access to HIV-related information and services, especially for the most at risk populations. The membership of CARICOM and PANCAP has always played a very active role in this global process for an accelerated approach to HIV. It is no doubt in our self-interest to find solutions, since we still remain the region second only to Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest prevalence rate. Nevertheless, the Caribbean holds out the prospect of being among the first group of countries in the world to achieve universal access.

NAR: Prime Minister Douglas disclosed that the UNAIDS score card on universal access 2010 demonstrates that much progress has been made in the Caribbean. He noted that over the 10-year period  since the first UN General Assembly special session, the prevalence rate has stabilized at 1 per cent overall with  significant variations among respective countries.

Dr. Denzil Douglas:         New HIV infections have declined by 14 percent. AIDS-related deaths from HIV and AIDS have also declined by 43 percent. The Caribbean was the first region of the world to submit all General Assembly national reports within the stipulated time. Efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination have intensified. These programmes target the formal education sector, youth, the workplace, the faith-based organizations, among others. The engagement of our universities, other regional institutions, NGO's and media has also provided the impetus to the accelerated approach to HIV and AIDS. In this regard as we meet today, there is much to celebrate. Yet, for us in the Caribbean, the warning signals prevail. An estimated 17,000 persons became newly infected with HIV in 2009. Indications are that transmission rates among key populations, such as men who have sex with men are increasing. In addition, unprotected sex between men and women, especially sex workers, is believed to be the main mode of HIV transmission, making the Caribbean the only region, besides sub-Saharan Africa, where women and girls outnumber men and boys among people living with HIV. In 2009, an estimated 53% of people with HIV were female. High infection levels have been found among female sex workers, including 4% in the Dominican Republic, 9% in Jamaica and 27% in Guyana. Consequently, most countries in the region have targeted these groups for HIV prevention. We in the Caribbean have come to recognize that while progress has been made, the gains will be fragile unless innovative and bold steps are take toward an HIV-free generation.

NAR: More than 30 Heads of State, Government and Vice Presidents attended the meeting which includes official plenary and five panel sessions along with 40 individual side events. 

 This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 5’42″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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