|(Microsoft Clip Art)|
HIV and AIDS are matters of concern to the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.
Deputy Permanent Secretary, Curtis Pilgrim, pointed this out today as he addressed the start of the Education Sector HIV Policy Development workshop at the United Nations House, Marine Gardens, Christ Church.
Noting that the idea for the HIV and AIDS policy was first introduced at the CARICOM level in 2006, he said the Ministry viewed the exercise as "very important for the prevention, support and care of its workers and students from the effects and affect of HIV".
Mr. Pilgrim stated: "The incidence of HIV in Barbados is of particular concern to the Ministry. This is because, according to statistics released from the National HIV Surveillance Data, persons under the age of thirty accounted for 23.1 per cent of new AIDS cases in 2009 and 13.9 per cent in 2010.
"Although there has been an appreciable decline over the period, when we analyse the statistics for persons under age 20, [in] the school population, the numbers have remained constant although the concentration has shifted from girls to boys. We are concerned because this speaks to the sexual practices of persons under our purview."
The Deputy Permanent Secretary explained that under the Barbados National HIV- Prevention Action Plan 2010, the Ministry, along with other agencies, had been assigned responsibility for HIV related interventions for children and youth as they have been identified as a population that face special risks.
He noted too, that the Education Ministry had been identified as strategically placed to prepare young people for the challenges that HIV brings to families, communities and their lives.
"This is because of the strategic interventions we have with young people and our responsibility to guide their personal development. As a consequence, we recognise and appreciate our integral role in HIV prevention exercises as part of the multi-sectoral response," Mr. Pilgrim explained.
The workshop was deemed by the Deputy Permanent Secretary as "demonstrative of government’s commitment to the development and implementation of policies and programmes to improve the quality [for] life of all Barbadians". ??
While stressing that HIV and AIDS remained one of the areas of critical concern, Mr. Pilgrim said: "In spite of the tremendous successes that have been achieved over the years, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, become complacent and then have to start our efforts all over again. Too often we implement actions to address our concerns and after we have witnessed some improvement, we tend to relax and redirect our focus on other issues that sometimes are not as threatening as the one we have placed on the back burner.
"We can’t afford to be guilty of that practice with HIV and, therefore, it’s the intention of the Ministry of Education to be constantly innovative in the programmes it presents, [to] keep the fire burning under its HIV programme and reach out to the youth in our catchment to encourage the types of behaviours that would minimise their risks of exposure to HIV."