The fight against HIV/AIDS should not be limited solely to health institutions.?? This was underscored by Minister of Commerce and Trade, Haynesley Benn, as he addressed the HIV/AIDS Outreach programme today, in Heroes Square, the City.

"Whereas the responsibility for coordinating the National HIV/AIDS sensitisation and disease prevention programme falls to the Secretariat of the HIV/AIDS Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and Trade belongs to a group termed the Expanded Response Group, which assists in disseminating the message related to prevention of acquiring the virus," Minister Benn explained.

He added that government had directed major efforts toward addressing the pandemic, most notably with a loan from the World Bank in 2001 for the institution of an HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project for the country.

"The first HIV/AIDS project was in the amount of $23.65 million, with the World Bank loan in the sum of $15 million.?? This project came to a close at the end of 2007 after full loan disbursement and satisfactory completion.?? Following this, another loan in the sum of $35 million was co-signed between the World Bank and Barbados, which will finance the project until 2013," the Senator remarked.

Minister Benn observed that the implications of the virus go beyond its impact on health care, as the future of Barbados and lives of its people continue to be at stake.

"HIV/AIDS is noted to be one of the major threats to Barbados achieving its vision of becoming a fully developed society by the year 2025.?? HIV/AIDS remains the most infectious disease in Barbados, especially in the 15 to 49 age group.?? This disease puts our most potentially productive population at risk and has the potential to derail our efforts to achieve sustained economic growth," he observed.????????????????????

However, there have been achievements in the ongoing fight, including the decline of AIDS-related deaths by more than 70 per cent between 2001 and 2006; the near complete elimination of maternal transmission and the presence of a world class testing laboratory at the Ladymeade Reference Unit.

The Outreach Programme was part of a series of activities for Love Safely Week, which began on February 13.?? The final event for the week will be the launch of the Positive T-shirt campaign and HIV testing, on Saturday, February 19 in Jubilee Gardens, the City at 4:00 p.m.??

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