CARICOM optimistic about fight against HIV/AIDS – UNFPA says 6,000 are infected daily
By Mark Murray
On Thursday, December 01, 2016, Guyana joined other countries in observing World AIDS Days with the message of prevention being echoed as CARICOM’s Deputy Secretary General remains optimistic about the future effect the virus has on the world’s population.
The world has made huge progress in the fight against AIDS, according to the United Nations, but according to some experts, the issue of stigma and discrimination remains a major hindering factor to eliminating the disease.
CARICOM’s Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Manorma Soeknandan said behaviour and attitude changes are needed to fight the disease or else she does not see the world meeting the UN’s goal to get rid of the virus.
“I am saying no it will not end. The reason why, because it depends on each one of us. Are we responsible enough? Do we want to change our attitude, our behaviour? And as long as we don’t want to do it, it’s not gonna end. If we want to end HIV AIDS, we need to look at what’s going on, not only in the world but in the region, the youth, our children, they are following certain practices and certain beliefs in our society…so if we do not look out for each other, we do not see our children are falling prey to practices that harm their life, harm their future; we will not end HIV/AIDS” she told the gathering at Thursday’s event.
Under the theme, “hands up for HIV prevention”, this year’s observance looks at ways to improve prevention strategies, identifying key areas among specific groups of people who are vulnerable to transmission – adolescent girls and young women in particular.
Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development Dr. Douglas Slater said now is not the time for blaming but rather remembering the importance of prevention and doing what is necessary, as he urged persons to start this movement with themselves.
“When you start with you as the Individual, you will be better able to convey that sentiment to your children, your family members and to the wider society. It requires a lot of optimism and discipline but it can be done and must be done if you want to end AIDS” he outlined.
According to PANCAP’s Coordinating Unit Director, Dereck Springer, as the Region strives to meet the UN’s 2030 goal, the Caribbean needs to address stigma and discrimination which serves as individual barriers to access to treatment and care and support services, especially in key populations.”’
Meanwhile, Guyana’s National AIDS Programme Secretariat Manager, Dr. Rhonda Moore explained how the support for CARICOM for the National Food Bank continues to change lives. She said as of June this year over 22 thousand hampers were given to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Several booths were also erected at the CARICOM Secretariat in addition to the message of the day being translated through the performing arts.
According to the UNFPA, “It is past time to get serious about HIV prevention.”
The body said every day almost 6,000 people are infected with HIV and since 2010, the annual number of new infections among adults has remained unchanged.
“Antiretroviral treatment has reached more than 18 million people in 2016 and has saved millions of lives and reduced the risk of new infections. But treatment alone cannot stop the spread of HIV” the UNFPA said.
As such, it was noted that governments, communities and international partners must scale up investments in behavioural, medical and policy interventions, which together can dramatically bolster prevention. Access to quality, rights-based sexual and reproductive health information and services, including condoms, is critical, but prevention goes beyond access to services, it said.