HIV Killing Young And Middle-Aged Persons In The Caribbean

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Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson

According to a UN report, HIV remains the leading cause of death among young and middle-aged adults in the Caribbean, in spite of the gains associated with Antiretroviral Treatments (ART) over the last decade.

This was disclosed by Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson, as he addressed the National HIV/AIDS Commission’s 4th Biennial Research symposium at the Savannah Hotel yesterday. The two-day meeting is being staged under the theme: New Developments in Prevention Thinking: Implications for Caribbean HIV Policy.??The Chief Justice noted that what was also troubling as pointed out in the report was that while there was a 40 per cent decline in AIDS-related mortality in the Caribbean since 2001, many of those persons who needed treatment did not access it, or did not even know their status until it was "too late".

Sir Marston conceded that the real explanation for this reluctance to access treatment could be attributed to the persistent HIV-related stigma and discrimination and the lifestyles associated with its transmission.

The Chief Justice continued: "Even now, HIV and AIDS are still perceived as a disease limited to sex workers and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). But it is stigma and discrimination that can mask some of the other evolving dynamics including the very disturbing trend of new infections among young women, who account fully for half of those now living with the virus."

He stressed that no one was immune to the effect of HIV. "And, when in that mix we have the youth, who are characterised by often thoughtless experimentation, if we are not proactive in our response we are destined to fail," he noted.

Sir Marston contended that the society must insist that persons are not subjected to any form of discrimination because of their sexual orientation as enshrined in Chapter III of the Constitution of Barbados, which states that the basic human rights of every Barbadian citizen must be protected in pursuit of human dignity and equality. "So, a person living with HIV deserves no less protection of these rights than anyone else…[This]…must be the new commitment and to do this, we must leverage a rights- based approach to centre our efforts in dignity of the human existence.?? I am here asking "How do we revisit the law to ensure that the rights accorded to persons are respected?" he queried.??

Sir Marston commended the National HIV/AIDS Commission for organising the symposium, as it offered stakeholders another platform to continue the dialogue that would form the basis of understanding, tolerance and ultimately a sustainable HIV response.

cathy.lashley@barbados.gov.bb

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