JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Several key issues must be considered by Caribbean leaders and other stakeholders in developing a framework for reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence.
  • Attention is currently being given to prioritising HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean’s post-2015 development agenda.
  • Stigma and discrimination are “the most challenging issues” that can erode gains made by the Caribbean in its response to AIDS.

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Denzil Douglas, has suggested that several key issues must be considered by Caribbean leaders and other stakeholders in developing a framework for reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence, and the associated stigma and discrimination, going forward.

Key among these, he said, are: accelerated treatment and prevention regimes, activism, co-ordinated negotiations, sustainable financing mechanisms, and attention to social drivers and research.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the opening of the Caribbean consultation on Justice for All and Human Rights Agenda, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on April 9.

Dr. Douglas said that based on regional developments in relation to targeted achievements under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), attention is currently being given to prioritising HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean’s post-2015 development agenda.

“With approximately 650 days to achieve the targets associated with the MDGs…and based on all indicators, despite significant accomplishments, HIV/AIDS will be an unfinished goal. There is ample justification for AIDS to find a prominent place in the post-2015 development agenda. This justification ushers in a new approach that promotes AIDS (reduction) as a catalyst for sustainable global health,” he argued.

The Prime Minister pointed out that following a 2004 regional conference in St. Kitts, which generated “great optimism” among participants regarding development of an agenda for significant advances towards reducing HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, “it is with a great sense of disappointment that we are back to the drawing board.”

“We anticipated that a Stigma and Discrimination Unit, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), would have assisted the region in identifying the major bottlenecks with emphasis on behavioural research. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. We have held several consultations, issued reports and made countless recommendations. We have generated greater emphasis and awareness, and even witnessed a greater display of tolerance on which to draw,” Dr. Douglas said.

Dr. Douglas noted that national consultations staged in Caribbean states, which focused on an agreed concept and outcome, have paved the way for positive results, while stressing that “we need results…it is time for accelerated action.”

Lamenting that stigma and discrimination are “the most challenging issues” that can erode gains made by the Caribbean in its response to AIDS, Dr. Douglas listed six additional focus areas for consideration.

These include: emphasising shared responsibility; increasing community involvement in policy development and implementation, strengthening partnerships and promoting social protection systems; increasing awareness of human sexuality through policies highlighting social and reproductive health and rights; identifying programmes which can best yield gender equality; identifying and promoting processes for reducing and eliminating those laws deemed contributory to discrimination; and identifying creative leadership which will promote  justice for all.

The three-day consultation was staged by Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP),  in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica; University of the West Indies (UWI); and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM). It was held under the theme: ‘Advancing Justice for All and the Human Rights Agenda’. Over 90 participants from Jamaica and overseas attended the forum.

The Justice for All Programme, coordinated by PANCAP, is an advocacy platform aimed at increasing awareness around HIV-related stigma and discrimination and their impact on access to prevention or treatment services.

It is being co-ordinated under the patronage of Dr. Douglas, and the United Nations Secretary-General Envoy for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, Professor Edward Greene.