??Prime Minister David Thompson

???Regional Testing Day has the full support of the Government of Barbados.???

Prime Minister David Thompson gave this assurance today as he addressed the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS launch of this year???s Testing Day, at the Hilton Barbados.

Noting that this crucial initiative sought to address, in a direct way, a key aspect of the HIV epidemic, he said it was ???an unrelenting public health dilemma, not only in Barbados, but in the wider Caribbean region and indeed the world.???

?????With over a quarter million persons living with HIV in the Caribbean, and annual incident rates failing to abate, it is very clear that as a region we need to be more strategic and aggressive in our strategies as we seek to mitigate the impact of this epidemic,??? said Mr. Thompson.

While noting that the proverbial ???silver bullet??? for HIV did not exist, he said the best hope of curtailing the epidemic was through prevention. ???HIV testing is regarded as a fundamental strategy in HIV prevention. Testing for the disease provides an opportunity for HIV prevention and care services to be delivered to those who are determined to be in need.???

The Prime Minister disclosed that Barbados was currently in the process of policy reform related to HIV testing and that a draft Policy on HIV Testing was being finalised in keeping with international policy recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US and UNAIDS.

???With these internationally recognised best practices being proposed and implemented, we will scale-up and improve access to HIV testing in Barbados. This will strengthen our response to this epidemic,??? the Prime Minister said.

Over 1,000 persons came forward to be tested for HIV in Barbados on National Testing Day 2008 ??? June 27.?? Attributing the remarkable turnout to the able assistance of the media, the Prime Minister commended the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS and the allied media houses and noted: ???You must be regarded as an essential partner in promoting the regional and national health and wellness agendas, including HIV awareness and prevention.???

??Meanwhile, as part of her statement of commitment to the cause, Leader of the Opposition, Mia Mottley, who participated in the launch, acknowledged that HIV and AIDS was no respecter of class, race, colour, religion and the boundaries that we know. ??

??She said, ???It does not respect partisan divide… and I therefore take pride in standing here today not just on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party, but equally as a Barbadian and a young Barbadian who understands and appreciates that this pandemic effectively threatens 6% of our output, but more importantly, threatens to decimate thousands of Barbadians, as it has done.???

Ms. Mottley also underscored that HIV prevention was about individual decision making.?? ???It is better to know what you face than to wonder and to cause others to suffer by reason of your failure to take responsibility for your own life,??? she affirmed. jgill@barbados.gov.bb and lbayley@barbados.gov.bb


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