BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, December 2, 2017 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – It was a momentous occasion for the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis on Friday, December 1, 2017 – observed globally as World AIDS Day – as the twin-island Federation was officially validated as one of six Caribbean islands to have successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis.
St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Montserrat, were presented with validation certificates during a ceremony at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, which was attended by experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNAIDS, PANCAP/CARICOM and the Regional Validation Committee.
St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Minister of Health, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton and Minister of State within the Ministry of Health, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, as well as Ministers of Health from the other five countries were also in attendance at Friday’s ceremony.
This group of six countries and territories is the second in the region of the Americas to receive this recognition, joining Cuba which was validated by the WHO in 2015.
During his remarks, Prime Minister Harris said this distinction was made possible through a number of recent advancements in the delivery of healthcare services in the Federation such as increased efforts in HIV testing.
“I am pleased to confirm that our Ministry of Health, in collaboration with CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency), has been conducting training of dual HIV and syphilis rapid testers. It is also noteworthy that the number of HIV rapid testing sites in the Federation has increased to 14; 10, I am advised, on St. Kitts and four on Nevis. This is the embodiment of the refrain – test, treat and defeat required to end the AIDS epidemic by the target date of 2030,” said Prime Minister Harris, who is also CARICOM’s Lead Head with Responsibility for Human Resources, Health and HIV.
Dr. Harris continued, “St. Kitts and Nevis was able to achieve the required impact and programmatic targets by strategically strengthening the national health system, in particular the maternal and child health services, sexual reproductive health and HIV services. These services were integrated to ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, through adequate laboratory support along with treatment and follow up for women who test positive, and their babies. The Federation also demonstrated evidence of a functioning surveillance and monitoring system that captures data from the private and public sectors.”
Dr. Harris said he hopes Friday’s validation ceremony would serve to inspire further action by other countries in the region.
“Recall that our resolve in the PANCAP Justice for All Roadmap of 2015, approved by COHSOD, is for the Caribbean to be the first region in the world to achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis,” the prime minister added.
Prime Minister Harris expressed his profound gratitude to the management and staff of the various healthcare services, the professionals in the Ministries of Health and Social Services, community health practitioners, the National AIDS Programmes, as well as the various development partners including PAHO, PEPFAR, UNICEF and UNAIDS that help make it possible for the six Caribbean territories to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis.