BRIDGETOWN: Although there has been a drastic decline in the number of new AIDS infections in the Caribbean, the region should not discontinue its efforts to deal with the virus, according to the 2012 global report by UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS.
As Caribbean countries observed World AIDS Day last Saturday, the report notes that the number of children born with the virus declined significantly in the Caribbean from 2009 to 2011.
The report stated that the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa, also recorded the highest decline in AIDS-related deaths of any region between 2005 and 2011. The number of children born with HIV declined significantly in the Caribbean between 2009 and 2011, according to the report.
St. Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, who has lead responsibility for health in the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) cabinet, said significant inroads have been made to reverse the spread of AIDS throughout the world.
“The Caribbean has made many advances. Indeed the UNAIDS report for 2012, singles out this region as having the sharpest declines in number of new HIV infections since 2001 with a drop of more than 42 per cent.
“There are other positive indicators evidenced by the increased numbers of our people receiving treatment, reduced number of people dying from AIDS and greater investments on the part of our governments in both treatment and prevention, among others,” said Dr. Douglas.
Douglas said the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), which embraces governments, civil society, regional and international partners, networks of people living with HIV and vulnerable communities, must be commended for its leadership role.
“As I recall, it was at a UNAIDS/PANCAP Advocacy Forum in 2005, when partners in developing their advocacy strategy, envisioned a Caribbean without AIDS,” said Douglas. “A Caribbean without AIDS is possible, but the PANCAP agenda must be reshaped by human rights to reduce stigma and discrimination taking centre stage. Sustainable social development and equity for all require increased community and political engagement.”
Executive Director of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS (CBMP), Dr. Allyson Leacock, said although the UNAIDS Global Report 2012 shows signs of progress in the HIV epidemic, “we should not see this as a time for relaxing our efforts”.
“In fact, as we struggle for more financial resources for sustainability and counter the AIDS fatigue that is so evident in the malaise to many AIDS programs, initiatives such as ours are even more important to be sustained,” said Dr. Leacock.
She said that adult HIV prevalence in the Caribbean remains higher than in any other world region outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
“We still have people to reach and work to do. We know we have to sustain our training efforts with our colleague reporters, producers and editors to enhance our coverage of this complex epidemic so media coverage is always accurate and effective,” she said referring to the CBMP, which is comprised of 112 television and radio broadcasters in 24 countries.
Leacock said a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean must include well-coordinated media campaigns as well as on-the-ground programs.