Regional body aims to halve HIV infection rate in five years

Stabroek News
November 1, 2002

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The Pan Caribbean Partner-ship (PANCAP) against HIV/AIDS is looking to decrease the infection rate for the disease by 50% in the next five years.

Regional Advisor Cyntia Eledu speaking at a press conference at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel said the region has seen some US$130 million directed towards this battle.

PANCAP on Tuesday concluded its second annual meeting.

According to the regional advisor while some of the resources go into CARICOM, a lot of it goes into individual countriesí programmes in the fight against the disease.

But she made it clear that the sum of money is not all cash and that some have been in pledges that have not been fulfilled as yet. Further, she said the World Bank has committed US$150M for all countries who are interested in accessing a loan to address the epidemic. Barbados, Jamaica and Grenada have since taken advantage of this loan while other countries are considering it.

But even though there has been an increase in the resources for the HIV fight in the region, Eledu pointed out that a 1998 University of the West Indies (UWI) study done on HIV/AIDS found that there is need for some $US350M for the effective prevention and control of the virus.

Also present at the press conference were: Dr James St Catherine, Programme Manager, Health Sector Development, CARICOM; Angela Trentonhmbonde, Team Leader for UNAIDS in the Caribbean; Yitades Gebre, Senior Medical Officer/ Executive Director, Jamaica HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project; Yolanda Simon of the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+); Roland Antonius of the Netherlands; Sergio Belfor, envoy of the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Programme and Stephenson Sandiford, who was the representative of the donor agencies in the partnership.

According to Dr St Catherine the decision by Guyana to manufacture its own anti-retroviral drugs has helped the Caribbean as a whole in its negotiation strategy for cheaper anti-retroviral drugs.

He said one of the most significant aspects of the meeting was the consolidation of the structure and operational work of PANCAP from which a framework can be formed so that all can move forward as a region in the fight against the virus.

Eledu said partnership consists of government agencies, non-governmental-organisations, UN agencies and bilateral donors. She said the whole idea of the partnership is to get all the different agencies to pool their resources together to fight the virus in the region. It is to ensure that there is resource co-ordination and advocacy in the regionís response to HIV, she said.

PANCAP will co-ordinate an annual meeting where all the partners will share what they are doing to reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on those infected along with their families.

Trentonhmbonde stressed that one of the areas that still need to be tackled is the reduction of stigma and discrimination of those affected. This is the focus of the World AIDS campaign this year. She said discrimination and stigmatisation need to be eradicated as they are the single most powerful force in preventing people from being tested and preventing those who are infected from going for treatment and care.