Strides Being Made With HIV Treatment But Behavioural Change Needed

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Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley (centre), making a point??at the seminar. From left are Moderator, Dr. Nigel Taylor; Minister of Health, Donville Inniss; Professor Clive Landis; Member of Parliament, Mia Mottley; and Professor J. Peter Figueroa. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

The Government of Barbados is committed to addressing all issues related to HIV and AIDS, and recognises that the ailment is no longer an isolated health issue but a multifaceted dilemma with the potential to adversely affect the social, developmental and economic components of the country.????

This was asserted by Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, as he addressed a two-day National HIV/AIDS Commission’s Research Symposium, at the Savannah Hotel today.

Noting that HIV was no longer being viewed as a death sentence, Mr. Lashley said the change in persons’ attitude could be attributed largely to the wealth of the research that had been executed over the years, "as well as the continuing educational and behavioural change systems which continued to give hope to those affected and infected with HIV."

He said "gone are the days where ignorance guided those who believed that a person could contract HIV by being in the same room as someone, from using the same fork, or touching someone who was HIV positive. The findings of research continue to greatly erode such rash misconceptions, and credit must be given to the men and women who relentlessly pioneer studies in the area of HIV, for without such individuals, the pit of ignorance would increase in depth".
The Family Minister noted that the presenters at the symposium would put forward "local and regional perspectives of an illness that continues to elude a known cure", and hoped that the various studies undertaken would one day bring about a cure for HIV.
Mr. Lashley reminded those in attendance that "we stand at a unique time in the history of the AIDS epidemic" pointing out that through new scientific advances and societal, political and human rights gains, it was possible "to turn the tide against AIDS and begin to end the epidemic in our lifetime".
Meanwhile, in his address, Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson, said that research had indicated that persons were becoming increasingly sexually active at younger ages. He said that it was even more troubling that some young women were having sex with older males and were at greater risk of becoming infected with HIV.
Sir Marston observed that they were in great need of intervention and behaviourial change programmes.
He further suggested that young persons needed to be encouraged to adopt better health care practices, particularly since they were more likely to engage in sexual experimentation and maintained that if the national effort was not proactive in scope and nature then it would be destined to failure.
Sir Marston added: "We have to see the national HIV response as a response of the collective and to bring our own various competencies to bear on informing strategies for success in creating an environment that is conducive to reduction of exposure.

Director of the National HIV Commission, Jacqueline Wiltshire-Gay, said while a number of notable successes within the biomedical frameworks had been recorded, they were not in themselves sustainable. "It continues to be therefore, troubling that we have not been reaching some of our other targets particularly in relation to our prevention investments.

"We certainly recognise that prevention effectiveness will be dependent on a number of factors. For example, on our ability to reduce HIV related stigma and discrimination and to leverage a rights based approach to our strategies and programmes," she noted.

The research symposium ends tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4.

cathy.lashley@barbados.gov.bb

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