Caribbean countries to get drugs at reduced cost to fight HIV/AIDS
Agreement to be inked in Barcelona, Spain By Shirley Thomas
July 7, 2002
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This movement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is having a devastating effect on the region, is part of efforts being made at the level of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS coordinated by CARICOM and signed in Barbados on February 14, 2001.
Getting the drugs at a significantly reduced cost - some 70-90 per cent cheaper - is seen as a major accomplishment to date.
The agreement is to be formally signed in Barcelona, Spain, within a few days. The historic signing is to take place at the International HIV/AIDS Conference scheduled for July 7-11. Signing on behalf of the Pan Caribbean Region will be the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, whose portfolio within CARICOM includes Health and Human Services. He is also Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Members of the media were brought up to date with the region’s progress with respect to stopping the march of HIV/AIDS at a press conference Dr Douglas hosted at Le Meridien Pegasus Friday during the third and final day of the 23rd Conference of the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean, hosted in Georgetown.
“I should say that though this Regional Negotiating position has finally come to an end, we have had several companies that have been privately negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies,” Dr Douglas said.
Citing countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados and the Bahamas which have been doing their own negotiations for reduced costs of pharmaceuticals, he said: “Apart from these bilateral negotiations that have taken place over the last few months, on behalf of the Pan Caribbean Partnership, on behalf of the Regional Negotiating Mechanism that has been put in place, we have successfully reached to the point where an agreement is to be signed with the Pharmaceutical Companies and the Pan Caribbean representatives of the Region.”
More specifically, he said, the signing is not only in terms of the anti-retrovirals that are essential in helping to give those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS an improved quality of life, “but they are also working with us to build the capacity in the Caribbean Region, in order to help manage such patients, not only in terms of treatment, but in managing them generally,” Dr. Douglas reiterated.
Dr. Douglas noted that the Pan Caribbean Partnership includes the core group of donors, especially those traditional donors, who have assisted as head in the Caribbean Region over the years. It also consists of National AIDS programmes, Civil Society, the Private Sector, and generally the donor communities - all coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat.
He credited the Pan Caribbean Partnership for having created a model that has been recognised for the engagement of other entities on the issue of HIV/AIDS.
Acknowledging assistance received in putting together their negotiating team from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN/AIDS, the Head of State lauded the significant role that the CARICOM Secretariat itself has played together with the Ministers of Health from around the Caribbean Region.
Reflecting on the progress made to date, Dr. Douglas reported that following the signing of the Pan Caribbean Partnership in Bridgetown, Barbados in February, last year, the Region has been focusing its attention mainly on accelerating access to care and treatment of people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
This is in keeping with provisions of the Partnership which are to increase access to, and provision of appropriate support and care to persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I want to make it clear to you that we have now established a definitive path forward in realising some of the goals of the partnership.”
“Apart from this significant development in giving those patients who are living with HIV/AIDS an opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life, an opportunity for them to increase their productivity so that they can assist their own families, the Partnership has been very successful in putting forward our own Regional claim and application to the Global Fund that has been organised through the United Nations, in order to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” he contended.
Stressing that the Partnership has successfully put together the first Regional plan to obtain assistance from the Global Fund, he said that in September, the CARICOM Regional Movement would be having its final round of discussions.
“ …And we are very hopeful that we would receive the necessary assistance from this fund, so that the Pan Caribbean Region, would be able to access about US$50-$60 million that would now be available to us in our fight against HIV/AIDS,” stated.