Health Minister John Boyce disclosed on Wednesday that the annual rate of new HIV cases in Barbados had started to decline.
He attributed this development to the expanded use of anti-retroviral therapy in the HIV treatment programme and added that steps were now being taken to decentralize HIV services and offer diagnostic and treatment services outside of the HIV programme.
The Health Minister was addressing a Caribbean Regional Health Policy Project workshop with the theme Stigma Reduction ??? Moving from Understanding to Outcomes.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Health Policy Project focused on reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination in health care facilities in the Caribbean.??Mr. Boyce welcomed the outcomes of the project which he said provided a country-specific road map for a coordinated response to the challenge of stigma and discrimination in health care facilities.
???While medical and technological innovations such an anti-retroviral treatment can help to prolong life for persons living with HIV, there are aspects of the response which cannot be addressed in this way. Our attitudes are personal, they influence our behaviour and interactions with each other, either consciously or unconsciously,??? he remarked.
It was therefore necessary, he said, to have in place programmes for constant training and retraining to help health care workers to understand their own belief systems and attitudes that might influence their response to clients. In addition, the Health Minister stated that appropriate policies and legislation needed to be enacted to force change where necessary.
Mr. Boyce acknowledged that both financial and technical assistance would be necessary to take the process forward, as well as greater engagement with partners in civil society.??He pledged Government???s commitment to take action on the findings of the Health Policy Project and to ensure the implementation of the necessary training, as well as the development of the recommended tools.
???It is my hope that the Government of the United States will continue to see this as a valuable project and will agree to provide ongoing technical and financial assistance to sustain these activities so that we can look forward to the elimination of marginalization of persons who need to access services within our health sector,??? the Health Minister said.