Caricom, IDB sign $136M HIV pact
-Carrington warns of AIDS impact on GDP
Stabroek News
June 23, 2004

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The lack of capacity to implement national HIV/AIDS plans will have a negative impact on regional efforts to control the epidemic, Caricom Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington said, warning also about the impact of the deadly disease on GDP.

He added that there is a need to merge the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PANCAP) and EU-funded projects to ensure more effective and efficient management of the regional HIV/AIDS project.

Carrington made this disclosure at the signing of the Caribbean Sector HIV/AIDS Response Capacity Building Programme Agreement at the Inter-American Development Bank yesterday.

The Japanese Special Fund Technical Cooperation operation which amounts to US$680,000 (G$136M) aims at improving the response of the Education Sector to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as a partner in the multi-sector strategy of prevention and mitigation in the Caribbean region.

The Secretary-General said the implementation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS (GFATM) and the World Bank grants would require additional professional and support staff for the Project Coordinating Unit.

But the grant from the IDB fills an essential gap in the PANCAP strategy framework. It allows the PANCAP network to incorporate into its programme, appropriate intervention models for use in the education process. PANCAP was formed in 2001 as a part of the actions by Caribbean governments to combat HIV/AIDS.

And given the high rate of HIV infection and death among the youth, the project could not be more relevant and timely, Carrington pointed out, adding that there is need to raise the level of education about the issue.

Citing a recent study by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Health Econo-mic Unit and the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), which estimates that by next year Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago could lose between 4 and 6.4% of their Gross Domestic Product as a result of the impact of HIV/AIDS, Carrington expressed appreciation to the IDB for the grant.

He said the assistance will provide for establishing educational and cultural tools for reaching youths, both in and out of schools for utilising the variety of multimedia technology and for sharing experiences.

He said governments across the region, having grasped the seriousness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the sustainable human development of Caribbean peoples, have taken action as exemplified by the formation of the Caribbean Task Force on HIV/AIDS (1998), which led to the Regional Strategic Plan (RSP) for HIV/AIDS (2000); the formation of PANCAP; the Nassau Declaration on Health (2001); the participation of Caribbean Heads of Government at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) (2002) and the revision of the RSP to a Regional Strategic Framework (2002).

He stressed that the fight against HIV/AIDS was one that the Caribbean cannot afford to lose and drew attention to the devastating impact the disease is having on the youth population of the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, IDB Repre-sentative Sergio Varas, who signed the agreement on behalf of the bank, said his organisation was very concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. He said that the IDB felt it would be better able to reach more countries and impact on the lives of more people by working with Caricom.

Other ministries are just starting to come on board in the framework of a multi-sectoral approach, and yet most still do not have concrete policies or models of evaluated approaches to address the issue, Varas said. He added that the operation will help address the capacity issue in relation to the education sector, which has the potential to become a critical player in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention.

The operation will test models for strengthening the response of the sector to reach both in and out of school. Models include education sector policies on HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation, the Ministry of Education contracting NGOs to deliver HIV/AIDS services in schools and peer-to-peer training programmes on the disease.

Among the collaborators in the venture are UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, NGOs and community groups.