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Story Highlights

  • Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is calling on the region’s parliamentarians to scale up action in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean.
  • He said that priority must be given to tackling stigma and discrimination against people living with AIDS, and removing legal and social barriers that drive the epidemic underground and limit access to prevention and treatment.
  • Minister Chuck said the biggest mistake would be to treat HIV/AIDS as solely a health issue.

Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is calling on the region’s parliamentarians to scale up action in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean.

He said that priority must be given to tackling stigma and discrimination against people living with AIDS, and removing legal and social barriers that drive the epidemic underground and limit access to prevention and treatment.

He said parliamentarians must also support and advance actions for social protection of people living with HIV, and become advocates and ambassadors for HIV and AIDS in their communities, constituencies and in the Parliament.

He further urged support for human rights and social justice programmes; adoption of effective legal provisions addressing violence against women and girls; and development of social services, including shelters.

Minister Chuck was addressing the opening of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) Regional Parliamentarians Forum at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on May 30.

He welcomed the staging of the event, noting that it is a clarion call for leaders to get involved and stay involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said the disease has demonstrated the capacity to destabilise countries.

Minister Chuck said the biggest mistake would be to treat HIV/AIDS as solely a health issue.

“The social determinants of HIV demand a response that transcends the boundaries of health sectors. We cannot address HIV and AIDS without addressing institutionalised discrimination of women, gender-based violence, poverty, social exclusion and inequality,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Director of PANCAP, Dereck Springer, said the involvement of parliamentarians is a critical component in reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS in the region.

He said that in order to achieve better outcomes for key populations, PANCAP will continue to engage parliamentarians “for involvement in every stage of the process for revising policies, allocating resources and holding governments accountable as a means of maximising outcomes”.

Some 63 parliamentarians from several Caribbean countries attended the two-day forum, where they participated in discussions aimed at designing a strategy for the elimination of HIV/AIDS in the region by 2030.

Among the issues examined was the constitutional challenges posed by the criminalisation of sex between consenting adults, and discrimination based on gender, identity and sexual orientation.

There was increased engagement on issues such as health, social protection and justice, particularly in Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, which have higher HIV prevalence rates.

The PANCAP Regional Parliamentarians Forum aims to establish significant strategies that will inform critical steps regional parliamentarians can implement to contribute effectively to ending HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths.

PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners.

It provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic and coordinates a response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS, to maximise efficient use of resources, increase impact, mobilise resources and build capacity of partners.

Representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the CARICOM Secretariat also participated in the forum.