Political will, clear strategies crucial to AIDS fight - Amos
Stabroek News
April 9, 2002

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Political will and political leadership with clear strategies "are absolutely crucial" in tackling HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean region, Minister of State in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Valerie Amos, said.

At a press briefing on Friday at the end of the just-concluded Third Caribbean/United Kingdom Forum held in Georgetown, Baroness Amos reiterated the United Kingdom's keenness to work with the Caribbean on dealing with HIV and AIDS.

According to a communiqué issued at the end of the three-day meeting Caribbean ministers welcomed the support provided by the UK for the revisions to the regional strategic plan of action and urged the UK to continue to support the Pan Caribbean Partnership programme.

Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, told Stabroek News that the health sector in the region has been receiving support from the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean wanted the United Kingdom to enhance what was in place.

He said that the UK had been a strong partner in the fight against the disease through the Pan Caribbean Partnership programme, which was formed as a regional response to build capacity in member countries and has received major funding from the EU. The EU funded the Project Implementation Unit.

Dr Ramsammy said that until now Guyana and some Caribbean countries focused on education and awareness for obvious reasons. However, he said that treatment and care was not very strong because of the cost factor involved.

He said that data from around the world showed that a reverse in the transmission of the AIDS virus only began when countries introduced treatment and care programmes to augment the education and awareness. He cited Brazil and Uganda as two such countries adding that this was the direction Guyana had to take.

Amos said that the UK government was contributing the sum of US$200 million over the next five years to global funds for HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The Pan Caribbean Partnership could access funds through this means.

Additionally, she said that the UK was contributing to the research looking for a vaccine for HIV as well as contributing specifically to the region through the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre (CAREC). It would also help to develop a strategic plan to tackle HIV and AIDS using the experience of Sub Saharan Africa and Asia. The Caribbean region is ranked as having the second highest incidence of HIV and AIDS. (Miranda La Rose)