Prime Minister Hon Dr. Timothy Harris, CARICOM Lead Head for Human Resources Health and HIV gave an optimistic outlook regarding the future of HIV/AIIDS in the Caribbean at the Caribbean launch of the UNAIDS- Lancet Commission Report Defeating AIDS-Achieving sustainable health. The Launch took place on the margin of the 36th CARICOM Summit which was held in Barbados .
The St.Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister stated that based on the report the Caribbean is well on it’s was to ending AIDS in the region.
Prime Minister Harris declared “It is clear from the Report that we in the Caribbean, more than most other regions in the World—especially the developing world — are on a fast track to realize the aspirational goal of ending AIDS by 2030.”
Dr. Harris outlined the evidence and a number of facts and achievements that precipated the declaration of no AIDS in the region by 2030.
The St.Kitts-Nevis leader stated “The evidence shows that the achievements of the Caribbean include:
• A 52 percent decline in HIV infections among children between 2001 and 2012, due to 90 percent of pregnant women living with HIV receiving services to prevent mother-to-child-transmission;
• A 49 percent decline in HIV incidence over the past decade
• Reduced HIV prevalence from 1.5percent in 2002 to 1.0 percent in 2012;
• Rolled out of antiretroviral treatment to 70 percent of those eligible, resulting in a major reduction in deaths due to AIDS and improved quality of life for people living with HIV; • Decreased HIV prevalence among female sex workers in several Caribbean countries;
• Strengthened health systems and scaled-up of prevention, treatment, care and support services;
• Substantial returns on investments from internal and external sources; and• Provision of regional public goods and services creating more affordable access to medicines and shared capacity in key areas.
Most of all, based on current trends, the Caribbean region is poised to becoming the first region in the world to eliminate mother-to-child of HIV
Dr Harris however warned that the region should not be complacent and rest on it’s laurels
Prime Minister Harris stated
• “We must combine biomedical , behavior and structural interventions , especially to reduce poverty , reduce inequity and increase environmental and financial sustainability
• We must focus on populations at higher risks: especially our girls and young women, men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers
• We must focus on equality in treatment and prevention: leaving no one behind
• We must eliminate HIV related stigma and discrimination which fan the flames of this disease
• We need to integrate HIV services with other health services”
The Lancet Commission was established in 2013 and presents compelling evidence of how the end of the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat is feasible with evidence-informed and rights-based strategies. It presents recommendations to do so and makes the case that the determining factor will be global collective political will.