Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic. (FP)

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made it possible for Barbados to step up its fight against HIV and STIs over the past decade, as well as strengthening its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The programme came to an official end this morning during a closing ceremony at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

PEPFAR, which was established in 2003, has been assisting Caribbean countries since 2009, in improving the capacity of national governments and regional organisations in the areas of HIV prevention, strategic information, laboratory and health systems strengthening.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, lauded PEPFAR’s contribution to progress made in the prevention, care and treatment of persons living with HIV and other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) which has allowed them to lead normal, productive lives.

The programme was also instrumental, along with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in establishing the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory.

“We at the Ministry of Health and Wellness have witnessed the enduring commitment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to improving health programmes and capacities in Barbados. The building of a state-of-the-art public health laboratory with a biosafety level-3 capacity, at a cost of more than US$6 million, is one of the many projects supported by PEPFAR and the CDC which attest to this.  

“As a result, Barbados now has the capacity to act as a resource centre for the region in the treatment and control of HIV and other communicable diseases,” the Health Minister stated.

He added that HIV-related outcomes in Barbados had improved because of the scaling up of antiretroviral treatment, funding and dedicated programmes.

Mr. Bostic said PEPFAR had also assisted Barbados in implementing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), as an HIV prevention strategy, making the country “a Caribbean leader in offering this service via government health facilities”.

Additionally, it has strengthened partnerships with local civil society organisations, he noted, such as the LINKAGES Project and the Local Capacity Initiative, which through their work, have removed barriers in accessing care.

“This resulted in differentiated care and medication delivery via the first-ever civil society organisation “drop-in-centre” at EQUALS Barbados, which provides a safe space for marginalised groups to receive comprehensive HIV services,” Mr. Bostic explained.

United States Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS, Linda Taglialatela, disclosed that PEPFAR had invested more than US$80 billion into treating HIV, globally.

“Today, many of the professionals we trained at the facilities we built are at the forefront of efforts to contain another deadly virus, COVID-19…. I would like to use this opportunity to sincerely thank the Government of Barbados and the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their close partnership over the past decade. Together, we have accomplished much. We are grateful for the truly lifesaving collaboration and look forward to a future free of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 in Barbados,” Ambassador Taglialatela emphasised.

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