At a regional meeting held in Castries, St Lucia, yesterday, Dominica’s Health Minister John Fabien urged regional leaders to ensure that they meet the 2010 deadline for providing universal access to HIV and AIDS-related services. Fabien, addressing a meeting of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), which he chairs, said that notwithstanding the “undeniable success” of PANCAP since its establishment in 2001, “we must never lose sight of the significant gap that persists in our quest to achieve universal access to HIV and AIDS-related prevention, treatment, care and support services for the people of the Caribbean by 2010. In one year’s time, individual countries and the Caribbean as a whole will be called upon to make good on our commitment to achieve universal access against the internationally agreed indicators and, critically, to provide proof of such achievement. This is the frontier that we have set ourselves, and the eyes of the world will soon be focused on us as we submit ourselves to that reality check. I trust that we shall not be found wanting.”
He referred to the partnership’s five-year plan as “the most exhaustive strategic planning exercise around HIV and AIDS ever attempted anywhere in this hemisphere, and represents a case study in determined regional strategic endeavour”.
At the end of 2007, an estimated 230,000 people were living with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean. Some 20,000 people were newly infected during 2007, and there were 14,000 deaths due to AIDS. In two countries in this region-the Bahamas and Haiti-more than 2% of the adult population is living with HIV. Higher prevalence rates are found only in sub-Saharan Africa, making the Caribbean the second-most affected region in the world. Half of adults living with the virus are women. AIDS is now one of the leading causes of death in some of these countries, with Haiti being the worst affected. An estimated 7,500 lives are lost each year to AIDS in Haiti, and thousands of children have been orphaned by the epidemic.
Countries in this region are making efforts to slow the epidemic and to limit its impact, most obviously through their efforts to provide antiretroviral drugs. In 2002, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS signed an agreement with six pharmaceutical companies to provide access to cheaper antiretroviral drugs. Progress since then has been uneven, partly due to wide differences in drug prices.