CARICOM gears for key meeting on HIV/AIDS here
Guyana Chronicle
April 16, 2002

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HEALTH officials from the United States Government will meet Health Ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Georgetown this week to determine a joint response against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

According to the CARICOM Secretariat, this round of discussions on Saturday will follow three days of deliberations by one of the community's organs, the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) at which forum the battle against the dreaded disease across the region will feature prominently.

The secretariat said the U.S.-Caribbean meeting follows a commitment by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to sponsor a ministerial forum on HIV/AIDS between the Caribbean and the United States.

The two parties are meeting for the first time on Saturday and are expected to set in motion a scaled-up response linked to identify needs of the Caribbean and U.S. communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the secretariat said.

Participating in the deliberations will be the Health Ministers of CARICOM member states as well as representatives drawn from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State.

HHS Secretary, Mr. Tommy Thompson is to address the opening session of the meeting.

The secretariat said agreement on cooperation arrangements for the transfer of technology and information sharing between Caribbean and U.S. institutions are among the developments likely to evolve from the deliberations.

The U.S.-Caribbean deliberations on HIVAIDS will also seek to improve the monitoring of the patients as well as education about the disease, it explained.

The two sides, the secretariat said, are expected to examine U.S. assistance in treatment and care involving anti-retroviral medicines and establishment of a Regional Resource Training Centre.

The secretariat noted that other agenda items would address the coordination of donor contributions and capacity to develop proposals to access resources.

USAID estimates that about 1.4 million people in the Caribbean have HIV/AIDS.

The secretariat said CARICOM estimates show that nine of the 12 countries with the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS in the Americas are in the Caribbean basin.

It pointed out that HIV/AIDS has become a major cause of death among the 15-44 age group in several Caribbean countries.

The University of the West Indies, the secretariat said, has estimated that to effectively address the HIV/AIDS problem, the region needs US$3.4 billion.