PM Harris Tells Caribbean Launch of UNAIDS-Lancet Commission Report

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Timothy Harris, urged policy makers and practitioners in the Region to find the formula for scaling up investments in treatment and prevention that would make the greatest difference. This, he emphasized, required targeting the marginalized populations and those most at risk of the HIV infection, securing long term supplies of affordable first, second and third line anti-retroviral treatment, providing accurate and up to date epidemiological data for the Region and disseminating them in a timely manner to shape policy. The Prime Minister was speaking at the Caribbean launch of the UNAIDS- Lancet Commission Report, Defeating AIDS – achieving global health, last Friday, 3 July, in Barbados.

Dr. Harris argued that the Region must continue to press for breaking down the barriers of discrimination in funding HIV and other diseases, based solely on the criteria of middle and upper middle income status that adversely affects the Caribbean.

This he said must be accompanied by supporting access to affordable medicines as a human right, pursuing shared responsibility among governments, private sector and civil society and demanding that HIV and sustainable health be considered priorities within the strategies for investing for development now engaging the world

In this regard, Dr. Harris called for the scaling up of funding, by building on the model of the Global Fund for AIDS TB and Malaria (GFATM) and applying it to integrated and sustainable health in the post 2015 era. He also called on the states in the region to take the bold step and consider the establishment of Caribbean Health and Equity Fund

Noting that the Caribbean region is poised to becoming the first region in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the Prime Minister identified the relevant lessons learned from the report of the Commission which warned that this is not the time for complacency. Instead, he urged the Region to accelerate its effort on important initiatives such as combining bio-medical, behavior and structural interventions to reduce poverty and inequity and to increase environmental and financial sustainability. The Prime Minister urged that focus be also placed on populations at higher risks, especially girls and young women, men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers, emphasising equality in treatment and prevention, leaving no one behind and eliminating HIV related stigma and discrimination which fan the flames of the disease

Harris called on all partners to work toward to goal of making the Caribbean the first region to end the AIDS epidemic.

“As we grasp the opportunities that beckon us in the post 2015 development era, the Caribbean has to focus the conversation on what can the various sectors and partners do to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030” he said.

The Report was launched by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at a special event during the 36th Conference of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government. Other speakers at the launch included Hon Stephen Blackett, Minister of Social Care and Community Affairs , Barbados; Mr. Robert Best, representing Civil Society and Dr Kent Buse of UNAIDS . Dr Wendy Sealy, Deputy Director of the Barbados National AIDS Community chaired the event which was co-hosted by CARICOM,UNAIDS, the UN Regional Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and the Government of Barbados.

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