UNAIDS officials on Visit to The Bahamas

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Two United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) experts are visiting The Bahamas to study the country’s notable progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to see how best The Bahamas can benefit from global AIDS funding.

The officials, Ms. Miriam Maluwa, Country Coordinator for The Bahamas, Jamaica and Cuba, and Mr. Fritz Herrison, Regional Director, met Monday August 22 with Sen. the Hon. Marcus Bethel, Minister of Health and Environment, at the Ministry headquarters on Poincianna Hill, Meeting Street.

The Bahamas is a member of the program coordinating board of UNAIDS, the global coordinating mechanism designed to control and bring about some effective management in the global AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Herrison recognized The Bahamas as having a decreasing percentage of AIDS deaths as compared to other parts of the world.

Mr. Herrison said the purpose of their visit is “to learn about how The Bahamas made notable progress over the years and find a way of how The Bahamas can best benefit from global funding.”

“UNAIDS for the past year has been working on mechanisms to improve the global efforts towards AIDS, so that the monies that are available will work more effectively”, Minister Bethel told the UNAIDS officials.

He noted that The Bahamas successful program has gained worldwide recognition and has been considered a model in the Caribbean.

“We want to obtain international funding,’ Minister Bethel said. The Bahamas is prohibited from international funding because of the status of our economy.” Minister Bethel said the fight against AIDS is a long-term fight and very costly for every country in the world.

“So in spite of our successes we must be able to sustain this wonderful effort that has brought the kinds of results we are seeing in The Bahamas,” he said. Mr. Herrison said that throughout the years, The Bahamas has made great progress and has been making great strides to fighting against AIDS.

“While the number of new HIV infectious people in the world has increased, in The Bahamas it has decreased,” Mr. Herrison said. Mr. Herrison added that while the number of death cases has increased in the world to about four million people, The Bahamas’ numbers have decreased.

“Those are great achievements, but the question is, how has The Bahamas been able to do this. To all of us who are familiar with AIDS and in other countries they are looking forward to knowing how The Bahamas has achieved such progress,” said Mr. Herrison.

Mr. Herrison and his team are working with The Bahamas and documenting the achievements made towards best practices.

“The best practices should be shared with other countries not only in the region, but also in other parts of the world,” he said.

“It is good that in the allocation of national resources The Bahamas was able to achieve progress, but I agree with the Minister that this is not enough. A very important factor that one should highlight is the multi-sensual approach followed by The Bahamas linking prevention, treatment and care’ and also having other sectors involved.”

Mr. Herrison said that HIV is an “exceptional disease and it requires an exceptional response.”

Ms. Maluwa said that they did not come into The Bahamas with a hidden agenda but simply to work and learn from The Bahamas. Most importantly, she said, the team wants to scale up the programme not only in Nassaubut also in other FamilyIslands.

“This is our first visit and we want to come again and again,” said Ms. Maluwa.

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