Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley??

Barbados will be represented at the upcoming High-Level Meeting on AIDS which will be held next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, will lead a delegation made up of representatives from the National HIV/AIDS Commission, the Ministry of Health and civil society to the three-day meeting, which begins on Wednesday, June 8.

A number of Heads of State, government leaders, and members from the private sector and the scientific community are also expected to attend the major conference.

Underscoring the importance of the assembly, Minister Lashley described it as "the most important global meeting on AIDS in the past 10 years" and said the participants "will review progress, share what’s been learned and, most importantly, plan the future of the global HIV response".

According to him, the meeting will mark a significant moment in the history of the epidemic, since it was 30 years ago that scientists in the United States identified the first case of an immune system failure which was later defined as AIDS. He recalled that 10 years ago, at the ground-breaking UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS, world leaders declared it was a "global emergency" and called for an "urgent, coordinated and sustained response" to the epidemic.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that there were many accomplishments over the past 10 years and he highlighted one as the decline, by nearly 20 per cent, of the number of people newly infected with HIV.

"Another success is that more than six million people were accessing life-saving antiretroviral treatment in low and middle income countries at the end of 2010 – a figure up from just 400,000 in 2003. And, also encouraging, is that more than 50 per cent of the HIV positive women were able to ensure that their babies were born HIV free in 2009.

"However, these gains are fragile. Though the response is gaining steam, the HIV epidemic continues to outpace it. There are still an estimated two new HIV infections for every individual starting treatment. And, in terms of funding, global AIDS resources have flat-lined," he warned.

The Minister noted that Barbados had made significant progress towards the six goals that the Secretary General had called on the global community to adopt for the year 2015. He added that these targets would be reviewed and endorsed by participants at the upcoming meeting.

According to him, this country had achieved zero mother-to-child transmission, seen an increase in voluntary counselling and testing, educated more of its young people about the disease and fostered partnerships with civil society, including faith-based communities.

"Despite these achievements, there is no room for complacency. There are still obstacles to overcome in order that all members of society can access HIV services such as prevention, treatment, testing and care.

"As Minister of Family, I am committed to revitalising our push towards Universal Access to AIDS prevention, testing, treatment, care and support so we can meet our targets," Mr. Lashley promised.

He gave the assurance that by focusing its efforts on HIV services which promote the health, human rights and dignity of all, Government would continue to strengthen its response to the AIDS epidemic and, perhaps one day, "soon see a generation that is HIV-free".


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