Caribbean observing World AIDS Day


Caribbean observing World AIDS Day

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean today joins the international community in observing World AIDS Day overshadowed by the socio-economic problems associated with the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed and infected millions of people.

World AIDS Day is being observed under the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”.

Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, said that the occasion provides an opportunity to reflect upon the global response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic by remembering the lives lost over the past four decades.

“We celebrate our achievements over the past years, and pledge to work in even more inclusive and innovative ways over the coming year to end the AIDS epidemic that is still a public health threat.

“World AIDS Day this year is being observed in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. These are challenging times for all of us. COVID-19 is not only directly causing high morbidity and mortality, it is also disrupting essential systems for health, as well as programmes to address HIV and other global health priorities,” LaRocque said.

He said that service disruptions associated with COVID-19 are impacting global, regional and national efforts to end the epidemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care. A survey conducted by PANCAP (Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted numerous disruptions in these areas among National Programmes in the region.”

The region's top public servant said that with strategies to meet these needs, “we may see a resurgence of HIV that can threaten our public health response to COVID-19”.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that during the pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Leaving people behind is not an option, if we are to succeed. Therefore, the HIV response must be maintained and actions to respond to HIV must be accelerated.”

LaRocque said that eliminating stigma and discrimination, putting people at the centre, and grounding the responses in human rights and gender-responsive approaches are crucial to ending the pandemic of COVID-19 and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

He said that the theme of global solidarity and shared responsibility highlights the need for all to show support for people living with HIV, noting that “solidarity, collaboration, support and individual action are all needed, if we are to end the epidemic”.

He said when PANCAP was established almost 20 years ago, this was a demonstration of Caribbean solidarity, involving governments, civil society organisations, regional institutions and development partners committed to working together in response to the threat of HIV to sustainable human development in the Region.

“Today, the partnership stands strong and continues to lead the regional response, guided by the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework, to accelerate progress for achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Targets and ending AIDS in the region.

“The work in the region must not be halted by the pandemic. The Caricom Secretariat recognises the hard work of all partners working in the Region and would like to express our appreciation. I therefore call on all of us to do everything possible to support the HIV response to ensure the sustainability of the gains of the past decades, and to intensify future efforts to end the epidemic,” LaRocque added.

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