Gains will be fragile unless innovative and bold steps are taken toward an HIV-free generation, PM Douglas tells UN High-Level Meeting in New York

St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas addressing the High-Level United Nations Meeting in New York on Wednesday (UN Photo)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 9TH 20111 (CUOPM) – An estimated 17,000 persons became newly infected with HIV in 2009 in the Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas told the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS on Wednesday.

“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 work-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,” said Dr. Douglas, CARICOM’s Lead Head for Human Resource Development, Health and HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Douglas said that in 2009, an estimated 53% of people with HIV were female and 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 taken toward an HIV-free generation. Hence, we join in the chorus at this Assembly for a big push at all levels towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment care and support. We support the Secretary General’s Global Report Recommendations for a focus on prevention, revitalizing the push for universal access, aiming at value for investments, through enhancing access to essential medicines and maximizing efficiency in non-drug related costs. In this regard, particular attention must be paid to women and girls with emphasis on reversing harmful gender norms. In the final analysis, ambitious national targets must be set and emphasis placed on achieving accountability standards,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He said that the Outcome Document from this High Level Meeting will set laudable targets for the future, but these will not be achieved unless the Assembly also endorses a global compact based on shared responsibility, creative and collective leadership, broad national ownership, innovative use of technology, engaging communities including through increased use of social media to develop local and sustainable solutions.

“We in the Caribbean believe that emphasis must also be placed on securing long term and sustainable financing without which reversal of the marginal gains over the past ten years is inevitable. We in the Caribbean support the need for replenishments to the Global Fund to be maintained and increased. We also support the need to harmonise donor resources to reduce the administrative burdens. We will continue to advocate for the revision in the conditionalities that impose increased burdens on small economies designated as “middle” income countries without taking account of their vulnerabilities,” said Dr. Douglas.

He said the Caribbean will equally support the call for proper financial management of resources and policies that ensure the People Living With HIV are placed at the centre of concerns.

“We commend the Global Plan of the UNAIDS Global Task Team (chaired by Michel Sidibe and Ambassador Goosby) for the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The recommendations in this plan strike at the heart of the movement that makes “elimination” a standard refrain. Let us take our cues from this positive approach,” said Dr. Douglas, pointing out that at the 10th Annual General Meeting, of the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PANCAP) in St. Maarten, in November 2010 specific deliverables for the Region by 2015, the elimination of mother to child transmission; elimination of travel restrictions for people living with HIV, an 80 percent increase in access to treatment, 50 percent reduction in infections, and acceleration of the agenda to address prevention, care and treatment, were identified.

These are all aligned to the Millennium Development Goals, for which the 2015 deadline must act as an incentive. This global partnership must work collectively to achieve the targets that we all support in the interest of humanity, those living with the disease and those yet to be born.

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