OECS countries discuss key issues that can hinder the elimination of HIV, AIDS

By Miguel Mauricette, Ministry of Health

(PRESS RELEASE) – The Ministry of Health and Wellness hosted a meeting last week, to discuss the outcomes of a study on the barriers of key populations in accessing lab services for treatment and care for HIV.

The meeting comprised of a number of chief medical officers and permanent secretaries from the OECS, persons from key populations, AIDS program coordinators, and laboratory personnel.

Valerie Wilson, Director of the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation said one barrier is the feeling of a lack of equality.

“Among the key populations some of the concerns that have been raised through this study include things like the lack of confidentiality, issues of stigma and discrimination within the health services, within the points which they would access services, they have commented on the fact that sometimes they are just identified based on what someone may think as in belonging to one population or another and then treated in a way that is not really equitable. We really need to treat everyone with equity and that is the fundamental issue here.”

Wilson added that the intention is to eradicate HIV/ AIDS by 2030 under the UNAID umbrella. However, in order to achieve such a goal, it’s important to provide persons from key populations the access to health services, grant them the opportunity to get tested, and enter the continuum of care.

“When persons are known to be HIV positive and sometimes that information is shared with others, they tend to leave the system and this is a very big problem,” she said.

Meanwhile the Minister for Health and Wellness, Sen. Hon. Mary Isaac said she is in full support of the venture and is prepared to champion the cause.

“We have a lot of gaps within our healthcare system in Saint Lucia, and this is a program that is really going to strengthen our lab services and develop policies for national lab services. As you know, the Ministry of Health is very receptive to any program that is going to assist in strengthening our healthcare system,” Sen. Isaac said.

The meeting was held on Friday, Jan. 19.

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