St. Lucia seeing progress in fight against the spread of HIV

Keith Mondesir

Keith Mondesir

Donn Bobb reports:  Saint Lucia is seeing progress in its fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS.  Minister of Health Keith Mondesir told me they have started to see reductions in the numbers of newly-infected cases:

Keith:  We are starting to see reductions in terms of infections. Also, we have increased the number of people that we have on the anti-retroviral drugs and we are seeing results in that AIDS is on the decline in regards to St. Lucia.

Donn: You've cited results, what is responsible for that?

Keith: Basically prevention. The prevention mode is the mode that we have adopted because as you know, there's no definite scientific medication to treat AIDS. The most advanced is the anti-retroviral drug and the anti-retroviral drug is prolonging life in a very meaningful way. And as a result of this, you have the lifestyle of people being improved as a result of this anti-retroviral drug. So all in all, I think you are seeing headway, there seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel with regards to that but basically now it's a prevention role. What we are doing here in St. Lucia also, because of the problems we will have soon with funding- because you know the American government has funded something like $55 billion over a five-year period for universal care of HIV and they are now saying that that cannot be sustained and they are asking that every individual country start taking some form of responsibility. Now, this is fine, but when you look at small countries with small incomes in terms of GDP and in terms of budget and this budget has to spread throughout all the needs of this country, you find something will be a little bit delayed in terms of attention. And I'm afraid that if we don't look for alternate funding other than the United States, we will find ourselves regressing with regards to the progression that we have in HIV/AIDS. Because you have to understand that the American government alone can take care of its problem; it's going to invest $22 billion dealing with AIDS in America alone. Now, how much does the smaller economies take out of their budget – their entire budget to address a problem like AIDS, though very, very serious, as a matter of fact, in small communities, this can spread very fast. So the problem is even multiplied when you look at the smaller community. So we have to look at alternate means of now financing the progression we have had with regard to the treatment of AIDS. In St. Lucia, we are adopting and we are streamlining the HIV problem into our primary care programme and we are making it part of the health programme rather than something on the outside. So we are doing our best in that regard. But as you know, financing is always a problem.

Donn: What about working under the umbrella of PANCAP to seek resources elsewhere- IMF, World Bank or the European Union?

Keith: Well this PANCAP has to be restructured in a very meaningful way. It has had its problems with regard to distribution over the Caribbean and we have to look at it and re-organize it in a way that is more meaningful. And this is one of the ways that we can do that, because through PANCAP, we have to be regional. And I think if we take a regional approach to the way we deal with AIDS in the region, then it would be more meaningful, because as I said as small individuals we do our best but as a whole, we may be able to source funds that individual countries may not be able to solve.

NARRATOR: St. Lucia's Minister of Health Keith Mondesir.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’56″

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