Stronger Links Needed to Fight HIV Pandemic

The report confirmed that in the past decade, there was an overall reduction of AIDS-related deaths, by 43 percent, a 14.3 percent decrease in new HIV infections and close to 50 percent of persons needing antiretroviral drugs, according the WHO.  

Chairman of the PAN Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas has paid tribute to those who have been lost to the dreadful disease, HIV/AIDS and he also reiterated the region’s commitment to UNAIDS’ vision of zero discrimination, zero new HIV infections, and zero AIDS related deaths through universal access to effective HIV prevention, treatment care and support and redouble our efforts to make this a reality. 

Dr. Douglas in his message to mark World AIDS Day on 1st December, 2011, said “As challenging as combating the HIV and AIDS pandemic remains, we must remain strong and resolute as we continue on our path to HIV elimination and draw courage and motivation to carry on our efforts from the progress that we have been making in the Caribbean. We must never let the challenges that we encounter on a daily basis in this fight, bring despair or hopelessness.”

“Had there not been a revision of the criteria for initiating treatment, this figure would have been closer to 70 percent. While these and other encouraging figures demonstrate that the Caribbean has made some definite strides in responding to the HIV epidemic, there must be   an intensification of our efforts to reduce the number of new HIV infections   if this region is to turn the tide of the epidemic,” said Dr. Douglas, who has Prime Ministerial responsibility for HIV/AIDS and other health issues in CARICOM. 

“It is for these reasons that we must all recognize, acknowledge and sustain the efforts made and being made by the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP). In its 10 years of existence PANCAP has been in the vanguard of raising awareness, mobilizing resources and coordinating responses around identified priorities. PANCAP has championed the cause and continues to develop and coordinate the implementation of programmes across the region designed to reduce stigma and discrimination, accelerate the agenda for achieving universal access to prevention, care, treatment and support services and collaborate to increase awareness of the need to develop anti stigma and discrimination policies and legislation. In a resource constrained environment, PANCAP has enhanced the coordination of prevention, treatment and care activities throughout the Caribbean. Its role in reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS is undeniable and sustaining PANCAP’s institutional capacity cannot be over emphasized,” said Dr. Douglas. 

Prime Minister Douglas said there is no room for complacency reiterate a few initiatives that the Partnership must undertake to achieve UNAIDS’ target of “three Zero.” 

As the Director of PANCAP, Ms. Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland alluded to at the just concluded 11th PANCAP AGM; the Partnership has to become a more country focused, goal driven, and learning organization that are able to respond flexibly to emerging needs. 

“The political directorate must know their country epidemics to aid in decision making and priority setting. We must deepen our engagement with Parliamentarians and faith leaders to earn their support on policy development issues and to advance the human rights agenda. Secondly, governance issues need to be taken into consideration. The structure and governance of National AIDS Programmes (NAPs) must be looked at carefully to ensure that they are suited to responding to the local epidemic and that their programmes are cost-effective and able to assist their governments in meeting targets and project deliverables. The governance of National AIDS Programmes should seek to effectively mobilize efforts of the public and private sectors and non-governmental actors in national strategic planning and programme implementation and monitoring and evaluation,” said Dr. Douglas. 

He said that the Partnership has to focus its efforts on Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago “if we want to see a significant decrease in the HIV incidence and AIDS-related death rates across the region, while at the same sustaining the gains made in other countries. Prevention initiatives must be a priority.” 

“Fourthly, the general consensus coming out of the September UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Disease is that there must be a stronger conceptual and strategic link between national efforts around chronic non-communicable diseases and HIV. HIV is now viewed as a chronic disease and many persons living with HIV (PLHIV) are affected with co-morbidities such as diabetes,” said Prime Minister Douglas who reiterated that the long term commitments are necessary for sustainable and effective HIV and AIDS programming in the Caribbean. 

“UNAIDS has stated that an analysis of epidemiological and behavioural data shows eliminating the HIV pandemic calls for investment in and programming for some of the most-at-risk populations including men who have sex with men (MSM), male and females sex workers and drug users, who are disproportionately affected by HIV,” Dr. Douglas, a physician said. 

“It is well recognized that for the HIV and AIDS response to be effective it must include both private and public actors working effectively together and supporting each other. This is a critical role of the PANCAP Partnership. The nature of the PANCAP means that every partner has to work within its own mandate and area of comparative advantage, while fostering an environment for all partners to pursue their respective programmes in a harmonized and coordinated fashion,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who expressed the firm belief that the Caribbean through the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS is well poised to undertake UNAIDS’ “Zero” challenge and to make the HIV pandemic a thing of the past.

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