Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley??

Barbados has adopted a "national bi-partisan approach to the management and treatment of HIV" as evidenced by a joint declaration recently signed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur.

That is the word from Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, who made the disclosure today at the United Nations general Assembly in New York during an address to the High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS.

Mr. Lashley said the declaration gave the assurance that Barbados would continue appropriate programmatic action to, among other things, promote HIV-relevant policies, enact supportive legislation, strengthen national surveillance systems and ramp up civil society organisation partnerships for more targeted interventions, especially among key populations at higher risk.

He continued: "We also recognise the need for targeted attention in specific areas at the Barbados country level. We further acknowledge that while noteworthy strides have been made in HIV care and treatment, especially with respect to Prevention- of-Mother-to-Child Transmission and support of Persons Living With HIV, significant efforts still need to be made in relation to prevention of HIV and STIs; and we commit to addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination at all its levels within society."

The Minister told the gathering that as a group of nations, they needed to urgently address the issue of lack of access to concessionary funding which "impacts Barbados and other developing countries as a result of our relatively high per capita income, fuelled in our case mainly by tourism, which itself has introduced other issues of vulnerability.

"This difficulty has the potential of reversing recent successes in the provision of access to vital, but expensive HIV-combatting drugs," he lamented.

Mr. Lashley added that following a successful World Bank First Project, Barbados was executing the second project with a systematic focus on universal access to care, treatment and support, reducing new infections, eliminating stigma and discrimination and significantly reducing AIDS-related deaths.

He explained that officials were putting in place the measures necessary for achieving the goals which were set at the beginning of that project. Some of these goals include maintaining the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving a complete course of anti-retroviral prophylaxis for prevention of mother-to-child transmission above 95 per cent; increasing the number of persons from key populations at higher risk who can access preventative services; and increasing the percentage of sex workers who report the use of condoms with their most recent client.

Minister Lashley disclosed that the data collated from the second World Bank project would form the basis for the National Strategic Plan for 2013 to 2018.

The high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS started yesterday and ends tomorrow.


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