Charge d’Affaires of the U.S Embassy to Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, D. Brent Hardt, Health Minister Donville Inniss and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas at the PEPFAR U.S. Caribbean Regional Partnership Framework Annual Meeting, held today at the Hilton Barbados.

Health Minister Donville Inniss, today heaped praise on his Caribbean counterparts and other leaders involved in the fight against HIV, but cautioned the regional leaders not to "ease up" in the battle against HIV.

He was at the time addressing delegates to the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Caribbean Region Chiefs of Missions HIV/AIDS Meeting, currently under way at the Hilton Barbados.??

The two-day meeting has attracted Ministers of Health, diplomats and public health professionals, who are discussing with key US officials, issues surrounding HIV in the region and who are seeking to develop an action plan to address any barriers to programme operation.

Minister Inniss announced that funds allocated to Barbados under the PEPFAR programme would be utilised in the upcoming year, in prevention and health systems and laboratory strengthening.??

"We are doing quite well in respect of treatment of those affected by the illness, but I am deeply concerned over the number of new cases being reported each year. Greater effort needs to be made in respect of behavioural change in our society… As has been noted, although small in absolute number of cases when compared with other global "hot spots," the Caribbean’s fragile small-island economies and second-highest regional HIV prevalence rate in the world, make it a high-profile region in the global fight against AIDS.

"The high levels of intraregional mobility and interdependence make regional coordination an important part of addressing common concerns in the response to HIV/AIDS, which is easily transmitted across borders," Mr. Inniss noted.

Also present at the high-level meeting is the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, who has been at the forefront of the region’s response to the HIV epidemic for many years.?? He was full of praise and deeply appreciative of the support provided by the PEPFAR programme.??

Both Minister Inniss and Dr. Douglas expressed gratitude to the United States Government and other international partners for their invaluable contributions in assisting the Caribbean in further developing its collective capacity to respond aggressively and effectively to the HIV epidemic.

"This initiative has been one of the outstanding examples of the technical assistance of the United States of America to the world, as it grapples with this pernicious disease, HIV.?? It has to be noted that since PEPFAR was launched back in 2003 to combat global HIV, the financial commitment of up to US $48 Billion for the accelerated approach to global HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, has been the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in world history," Dr. Douglas pointed out.??

The regional delegates will, over the next two days, review lessons learnt from the HIV/AIDS programmes in the region and the partnership framework so far; review the changing Caribbean environment, and clarify roles and responsibilities. ??

To date, the PEPFAR programme has treated over two million HIV-infected persons, provided care for over 10 million, and prevented seven million new infections. The Caribbean Regional Program Partnership Framework is a collaborative effort of the Government of the United States, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Caribbean States and the 12 Caribbean country national governments in support of the five-year Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS.

The goals of the Partnership Framework include: Prevention, Strategic Information, Laboratory Strengthening, and Health Systems Strengthening.??lbayley@barbados.gov.bb

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