U.S plans regional HIV/AIDS meeting here
Guyana Chronicle
April 13, 2002

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THE United States is organising a regional meeting to be held in Guyana this month as it continues its strong efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

The region has the highest prevalence of the pandemic outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration says the nations of the Caribbean, “our often overlooked third border,” are important partners on such issues as trade, health and education, and regional democracy, a statement from the Office of International Information Programmes, U.S. Department of State said this week.

According to the statement, President Bush says his administration is committed to deepening its cooperation with the Western Hemisphere in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and in responding to natural disasters.

He said last year that these goals lie at the heart of the administration’s “Third Border” initiative with the countries of the Caribbean. Under that initiative, the administration is providing US$20M in HIV/AIDS funding for the region in the fiscal year 2002.

The statement noted that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the lead governmental agencies in the fight against HIV/AIDS, says Haiti has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the hemisphere with 5.17 per cent of the adult population infected with the disease, while the Bahamas has an infection rate of four percent; Guyana 3.01 per cent; and the Dominican Republic 2.5 per cent, compared with the 0.7 per cent rate among the adult population in the United States.

Another U.S. agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is intimately involved in the issue and is organising the April 20 regional meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.

The meeting will allow U.S. public health officials to confer with Ministers of Health from mostly English-speaking countries of the Caribbean about efforts to combat the problem. According to the statement, conference organisers say HHS Secretary, Tommy Thompson, will deliver opening remarks at the meeting. Also scheduled to participate is Anne Peterson, Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.

Thompson, who made a March 31 - April 6 visit to Africa to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention, says there are an estimated 40 million people in the world with the disease. The “scourge” of AIDS, he said in a March 29 statement, “threatens to destroy economies, social systems and the very fabric of local communities”.

He added that “there is no question that as a country, the United States must engage with other nations and across all sectors to fight the most devastating public health pandemics of the modern age,” the statement said.

An official with USAID said the agency would discuss at the Guyana meeting its experience working with other Governments both on HIV/AIDS prevention and on the goals of a new international public/private partnership based in Switzerland called the `Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.’

The statement also noted that on the same issue, the World Bank announced on April 2 this month that it has approved $15M to support the Government of Jamaica’s programme to reduce the transmission of the HIV virus and provide basic HIV/AIDS treatment and care to Jamaica’s programme to reduce the transmission of the HIV virus and provide basic HIV/AIDS treatment and care to Jamaicans living with the disease.

USAID said an estimated 9,900 adults and children out of Jamaica’s population of three million people have HIV/AIDS, the statement pointed out.

It added that in order to prevent the spread of HIV, the World Bank will provide loans to finance awareness programmes, counselling and HIV/AIDS testing in Jamaica.

These intervention programmes, the Bank said, will prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child; reduce the spread of the disease among the young, and target high-risk groups, such as same-sex partners, individuals already receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections and prison inmates.

The loan will also support activities to address discrimination against those with HIV, which the bank said contributes “to the delay of detection of infection and the provision of care and support”, the statement said.