Prime Minister, David Thompson (at head of table), chats with UNICEF Representative Tom Olsen and the J8 delegates during a courtesy call at Ilaro Court.

Climate change and HIV/AIDS were the major issues discussed yesterday, when Prime Minister David Thompson met with the United Kingdom Junior 8 delegates.??

Organised by UNICEF, the J8 is a young persons’ version of the G8, which will take place in Italy, this July.

The four UK delegates, Harry Phinda, Birzi Saleh, Sara Saleh, and Mallika Myers, are in Barbados as part of their fact-finding mission on these issues, prior to meeting with the G8 leaders. At that meeting, they will give their perspective on these and other issues confronting them.????????????????????????

Asked about HIV/AIDS with respect to the youth of Barbados, Prime Minister Thompson noted that the HIV/AIDS Commission was doing a good job in getting the message across. He said that Barbadians were mature and liberal in their views about the methods used to disseminate information to the youth, with HIV/AIDS education being included at schools.??

He noted that because of the great danger connected to the virus and the high cost to the health care system, informal settings were also used to communicate with the youth.

When questioned about the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, the Prime Minister said that over time, the level of stigma had decreased, especially as Barbadians became more educated about the disease.

He pointed out that there were still areas of debate such as whether or not condoms should be distributed in prison, and abstinence versus the use of condoms.??????

The J8 delegates also asked Mr. Thompson about the impact of climate change on Barbados. He lamented that its effects were certainly being seen and had resulted in the island building significant coastal defences. However, he told the delegates that defences could not be erected around the entire island because of the exorbitant costs. He mentioned the boardwalk on the south coast which had been funded by the Inter American Development Bank, as well as projects in St. James, St. John and St. Philip.??

The Prime Minister added that the impact of severe weather was also becoming more significant, and suggested that more prudence was therefore needed in dealing with hurricanes.

The delegates were also interested in the quality of life enjoyed by children in this country. Mr. Thompson told them that Barbados was the number one developing small island state in the world. This, he said, placed the island very high with respect to the quality of life, democracy, access to information, life expectancy, health services, etc.

He added that the youth also enjoyed free education from the kindergarten to tertiary level, including ancillary services such as school meals, books and transportation.??

Among the other activities on the delegates’ agenda are: a meeting with students from HIV/AIDS clubs; an interview with an HIV positive person; and a site visit to Mullins Beach, St. Peter, where adolescents from the community will show them the effects of beach erosion.

The UK delegates are accompanied on their visit by Je-Meila Maloney, who represented the Latin America and Caribbean region at last year’s summit. Their visit ends on Friday, June 26.

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