(PRESS RELEASE) – The Caribbean remains the sub-region with the second highest estimated adult HIV prevalence (1.3% Adults 15-49 years, 2016). Available data indicates that new infections in the Caribbean appear to be stabilizing (0.47/1,000 population, 20161), and AIDS deaths are decreasing.
Nevertheless, challenges remain, and key populations such as female sex workers, transgender persons, men who have sex with men and young persons, continue to be disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic.
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. C. James Hospedales said “While high incidences of HIV persist among key populations, significant gains have been made in prevention in the Region. Six CARPHA Member States (CMS) have been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the dual elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis.”
The theme for World AIDS Day 2017 is Everybody Counts. End AIDS. Observed every year on December 1st, World AIDS Day calls for increased awareness, education and greater understanding of HIV as a global public health issue. To end HIV transmission, the focus should be on HIV combination prevention, early detection and access to antiretroviral treatment.
CARPHA has spent the last three years identifying activities that focus on reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on key populations (KP) by identifying and addressing the barriers that KPs living with HIV must overcome to obtain adequate health care.
Dr Cheryl Jones, Behavioural Scientist at CARPHA explains “The approach for addressing this issue is multifaceted and includes building capacity and a detailed understanding of the needs of KPs among health educators, health care service providers and communities of KPs. The initial focus was to gain input from health promotion specialists in CMS on the development of a regional behavioural sciences agenda that seeks to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS and all related public health concerns in the region. Secondly, clinicians from five CMS participated in a workshop that sought to facilitate clinician centered behaviour change along the HIV Cascade of Care. Thirdly, the most recent and, perhaps, most telling phase has been building the capacity of civil society organizations (CSO) by providing technical support in the development of a technical brief to be delivered to ministries of health.”
It was noted that public health professionals do not always leverage KP communities’ ability to improve their health, in addition, the CSOs can reach KPs that may regard ministries and other non-governmental agencies as ‘unsafe’ or intimidating. Building the capacity of CSOs in developing technical briefs was seen as an important initiative as CSOs can be very strong representatives, allies and gatekeepers for KPs. When their ability to collect and analyze data/information for the development of technical papers that support the needs of their communities is enhanced, there is an increased potential for the collection of evidence-based information to inform policy and advocacy.
“We have made great strides and need to continue combining our efforts if we want to End AIDS,” stated Dr. Hospedales. “It is therefore critical for us to have a multisectoral commitment, close collaboration with communities, and investment in sustainable prevention to end AIDS. By strengthening participation and working together we can end this epidemic.”
Let us all play a greater role in advocacy, let us fight against stigma and discrimination, and support those affected and prevent others from being infected. We all count. Let us End AIDS.