BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris had the ear of former U.S. President Bill Clinton today (July 24th, 2017) at a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) event in New York City.
There, the Honourable Prime Minister engaged President Clinton and led the meeting participants in a meaningful discussion aimed at further promoting and safeguarding the sexual and reproductive health of women, adolescent girls and children in the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Harris – in his capacity as CARICOM’s Lead Head on Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS – addressed the prominent gathering of leaders from across related sectors, saying: “The evidence, as you shall see, is a stark reminder of the challenges we face.”
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said that, “35% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean encounter sexual violence; cervical cancer accounts for 13% of all cancers and 10% of all deaths among Caribbean women; 19% of young women become pregnant before they reach 18 years old, and a considerable number of adolescent girls are giving birth before the age of 15 years old.”
Prime Minister Harris asserted this afternoon that, “Gloomy as the above situation may appear, all is not lost. There is hope – hope that the region could be the first to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis.”
Dr. Harris explained that, “Cuba has been the first country in the world to be so certified by the World Health Organization (WHO). As many as eight CARICOM countries are in close range of being certified, with St. Kitts and Nevis earmarked as the first OECS Member State to achieve this major milestone later this year.”
This afternoon, Prime Minister Harris specifically advocated for the expansion of partnerships with development and donor agencies such as the Clinton Global Initiative, in order to accelerate the strides the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is making. For instance, the HIV prevalence rate in the Caribbean Community now stands at 1.1% [one point one percent], which is half of what it used to be about a decade ago.
Holding the rapt attention of the attendees, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said that, “We in the CARICOM Region have found it imperative to pool limited resources and to promote functional cooperation as a means of effectively maximizing healthcare programming outcomes that leave no one behind.”
The Lead Head on Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS also said that the project Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child is an illustration of CARICOM’s collective endeavours to reduce adolescent pregnancy, cervical cancer, gender-based violence, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“This Commitment focuses on women, girls and children, essentially as a response to the major targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Prime Minister Harris added.
At this afternoon’s partnership engagement forum, Dr. Harris noted that special attention must be paid to: reducing extreme poverty and other structural barriers to accessing healthcare; promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, and keeping girls in school, as well as to prevention, treatment, social protection, legal services and sustainable financing.
Attendees included the Honourable Senator Wendy Phipps, who serves as Minister of State within the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services, the First Lady of Guyana, Her Excellency Mrs. Sandra Granger, and the First Lady of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Mrs. Juliet Holness. The two First Ladies spoke after Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris’ stirring remarks.
On Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 in New York City, speaking at a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) session titled Combating Teen Pregnancy, Cervical Cancer, and HIV in Caribbean Girls and Women, Prime Minister Harris acknowledged the Clinton Foundation for playing “a significant role in accelerating the AIDS response in the Caribbean.”
The Honourable Prime Minister said that the Clinton Foundation helped to accomplish this, “by becoming a member of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean in 2002, by joining in advocating for a reduction of prices for antiretroviral drugs in 2004 and by pioneering access to generic drugs, which by 2006 led to significant reductions from USD$10,000 in 2002 to USD$300.00, and now under USD$100 per person per year.”
Prime Minister Harris continued: “This led to a significant increase in the number of people with access to affordable medicines from less than 10% of persons living with AIDS in 2000 to approximately 50% in 2015.”
On August 22nd, 2002, the Caribbean Community signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation in support of the Region’s continuing efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS. CGI is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation.