Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, John King, speaking at today’s cultural presentation at Sky Mall to mark World AIDS Day. (A. Reid/BGIS)

This year, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS Commission, celebrated World AIDS Day under the theme Global Solidarity Shared Responsibility.

The PMO and the Commission hosted a cultural presentation in the VIP Lounge, Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St. Michael, which focused on reminding the public that HIV/AIDS is still a ‘global epidemic’ and those ‘battling’ the virus make up part of the high risk population who cannot afford to contract COVID-19.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, John King, stressed that the relevance of the Commission is as crucial today as when it first was created back in May 2001, and its slogan The Fight Is Not Over, tells us that we must continue to educate society about the dangers of the virus, which has no known cure.

“We are better off today in terms of truly understanding HIV; debunking myths and other erroneous attitudes, which sought to derail this country from its proactive stance of dealing with HIV head-on,” Minister King said.

Mr. King reaffirmed Government’s commitment to the fight against HIV in Barbados, and commended the Commission for its anti-stigma and discrimination campaigns over the years.   

He also noted that culture has a role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and that “culture, by virtue of being decentralised into different forms and media, successfully spreads the cultural and HIV message to persons from all walks of life”.

Acting Director of the HIV/AIDS Commission, Lynn Armstrong, speaking on the day’s theme, stated: “The time is now for the world to unite to tackle all pandemics, including HIV. We, as countries, have a shared responsibility to ensure that such diseases are eradicated. Global solidarity shared responsibility requires us to view global health responses in a new way.

Acting Director of the HIV/AIDS Commission, Lynn Armstrong, urged the public “to continue to stay safe and love life”. (A. Reid/BGIS)

“It requires the world to come together to ensure that health is fully financed; health systems are strengthened; access to life-saving medicines and vaccines is ensured; human rights are respected; and the rights of women, girls and gender equality are at the centre of decision-making.”

Ms. Armstrong reminded those in attendance that no individual, organisation or country could eliminate on its own the existing inequalities that fuel the AIDS pandemic today. 

She emphasised that everyone needs to play their part to make the world a healthier place, and urged the public “to continue to stay safe and love life”.

Today’s cultural presentations included dramatisations by Jennifer Walker and Yolanda Holder, who addressed HIV/AIDS and the elderly, stopping discrimination and stigmatisation, and the need to openly talk about sex with the island’s youth. 

Jannine White delivered a spoken word piece, where she depicted the virus as no respecter of persons, and the importance of knowing your status. There was also a musical rendition by Destinee “Blessings” Hunte.

The first cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were reported in 1981, and World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year.

It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988, and was the first-ever global health day. 

Barbados’ Commission was created with the aim to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, and to advise government on plans and policies, as well as to build strategic partnerships to effectively manage, control and reduce the spread of HIV in Barbados

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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