BASSETERRE, ST. Kitts – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister and Chairman of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDSD is to lead the Caribbean delegation to the Third High-Level United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in New York.
He told the Opening Ceremony of the 10th Meeting of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) at the Royal St. Kitts Hotel and Casino on Wednesday (April 16) that the June 10th and 11th meeting will again give him the opportunity to articulate the regional position on critical policy and programmatic measures that must be adopted by governments and international partners in battling the exploding AIDS epidemic.
“In addition, I will have the opportunity to present the Caribbean mid-term score-card on how far we have advanced along the path towards the target that we have set ourselves to achieve universal access to HIV and AIDS-related prevention, treatment, care and support services by 2010,” said Dr. Douglas, who expressed pleasure that some twenty-four countries within PANCAP have completed their national assessment and progress reports that will be consolidated for submission to the Assembly.
“Of course, there are some persons in some quarters who insist that the Caribbean may have been brash in its commitment to the 2006 Assembly to achieve universal access by 2010. Others are of the view that the Caribbean needed such an impetus to generate the type of intensity that is required to turn the tide of the epidemic in the region,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who stated unequivocally that he embraces the latter view fully given the burden of the epidemic in the region and, consequently, the inescapable need for urgent purposive action.
Prime Minister Douglas
“The time for action is now!” declared Prime Minister Douglas, who made it clear that it is no gimmick when it is stated that the Caribbean remains the most heavily HIV-infected region of the world, behind Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The region must not be allowed to forget that its HIV prevalence rate is 1½ times that of the global average, twice that of North America and Eastern Europe, and more than five-fold that of Western and Central Europe,” Dr. Douglas reiterated.
He also pointed out that in a region as small as the Caribbean, there were more than 17,000 new HIV infections in 2007 and in excess of 11,000 deaths from AIDS.
“The projection is that life expectancy at birth would have declined by as much as 9 to 10 years in some countries by 2010 attributable to the disease,” said Dr. Douglas, who declared: “In all reasonable circumstances, therefore, these are grim statistics that must propel urgent action and which vindicate the Caribbean in its commitment towards achieving universal access within the shortest time frame”.
He said those were the painful realities that propelled the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community to establish PANCAP in February 2001, as a vehicle for providing the most effective regional response to the epidemic.
“The wisdom of this decision has been demonstrated by the phenomenal successes recorded over the seven short years of existence. For instance, it is a matter of public record that, even while still in its fledgling stage, PANCAP won the acclamation of UNAIDS as an “International Best Practice” and the experiment has been replicated in many other regions of the world, as far away as Central Asia,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister.