Worlds AIDS Day message, “Political Leadership is Critical to Ensuring Universal Access”, says Hon. D Dr. Denzil Douglas

ST. KITTS – The Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Chair Of The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), delivers his message on World Aids Day, December 1, 2008.

World AIDS Day provides us all with an opportunity to reflect, celebrate and take stock of the mixed fortunes that are being experienced by the Caribbean Region, and indeed the world in their respective responses to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

We celebrate the fact that over the past year there has been a decline in the overall rate of mortality from AIDS, that more PLWA in the Caribbean have access to anti-retroviral drugs, that there is an increasing awareness of the need to reduce stigma and discrimination and that more professionals are being trained in AIDS related fields. But there are concerns. AIDS remains the leading cause of death among persons aged 15-44 years, the rate of infection is increasing among women and men who have sex with men, and the Caribbean has still the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa. We need to find solutions. It is our obligation to do so.

The Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework for 2008-2012 is the basis for collaboration among the members of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) to accelerate the Region’s response to reversing the spread of the epidemic. It provides a ray of hope that collectively we can make a difference in providing universal access to HIV and AIDS services.

A strategy however is only meaningful when translated into action. Political commitment and leadership are required to create the enabling environment that would allow for this action. Political leadership is critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of programmes to achieve universal access and to reverse the spread of this epidemic. The Region’s political directorate must remain steadfast in dealing with the controversial issues that HIV generates.

So let us use this symbolic day as a catalyst, yet again, for confronting the challenges posed by AIDS by demonstrating the political will and the drastic changes in behaviour required.

Let us recommit to Lead – Empower – Deliver.

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