Minister of Family, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo (FP)
Government has promised to continue the national conversation on the issues of HIV/AIDS and encourage free and open discussion on the risk factors, all in an effort to combat the disease.
This commitment has come from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who said they were determined to work more aggressively with key populations at higher risk, and make strategic decisions based on the results of these interventions.
Dr. Byer Suckoo made the comments today during the official opening of a one-week workshop on “Job Skills and HIV/AIDS”, at The Valley Resource Centre, St. George. It is sponsored by the Office of the Advisor on Poverty Eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.
She noted that the HIV/AIDS disease could rob a nation of its very ability to create wealth and frustrate the course of human development. “That is why, too, in relation to our national programme, the National Strategic Plan is specific. It makes it clear that the proposed national expanded response to HIV and AIDS for the next five years seeks to adopt a new approach with respect to attaining greater levels of participation from all stakeholders, including the young people of Barbados,” she told the gathering.
She stressed that the proposed plan would represent “the epitome of a heightened and refined national HIV response, that falls squarely within the context of Barbados’ sustainable development initiatives” and links itself intrinsically to the Millennium Development Goals. She opined that a nation’s development would also depend on its ability to identify and tackle the factors and or issues integral to prevention and control of the disease.
According to the Minister, the national AIDS programme had set itself a number of goals, including maintaining the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women who receive a complete course of anti-retroviral prophylaxis to reduce the risk of mother to child transmission above 95 percent in the five year period 2008 to 2013. “Our goals include increasing the number of people from key populations at higher risk accessing preventive services from 250 in 2009, to 500 in 2013, and preparing a Strategic Plan for 2013 to 2018 that will be based on the second Government of Barbados/World Bank Loan Project which is ongoing,” she explained.
Dr. Byer Suckoo said global Impact Studies had demonstrated that poverty leads to more cases of HIV and AIDS and vice versa. She added that poverty in developing and middle income countries such as ours was multifaceted and the result of a combination of contributing factors, such as marginalisation, deprivation, social exclusion and inequity.
She stressed that the contribution of non-governmental organisations and the work within their constituencies would be critical to achieving any meaningful success in government’s efforts. “Rest assured that this administration will place increased emphasis on building the capacity of Civil Society Organisations to do this work. It is only with sustainable, collaborative partnerships that we will drive back the threat of poverty…,” she suggested.