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Working Towards an AIDS-Free Caribbean at the 13th Annual General Meeting of PANCAP

Guadeloupe—This week, leaders and key decision-makers gathered to strategise and to identify the actions needed to achieve the goals set out by the recently adopted Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2014-2018. A recurring theme of the discussions at the meeting held by the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) centered around achieving universal access to health care in the face of the inequality that still exists across the region.

Participating in the meeting were representatives from civil society, including the Caribbean Network of People Living with HIV, the Caribbean Council of Churches, the Coalition of Vulnerable Communities and the CARICOM Youth Ambassador in order to ensure that the meeting addressed the needs of the people most affected by HIV, and who are often the most subjected to stigma and discrimination.

The Honourable Minister Marcella Liburd, Chair of the meeting, said that PANCAP is at a ‘critical junction’. She urged participants to use this meeting to develop innovative and creative solutions in order to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free Caribbean in the face of challenges.

Mr Victorin Lurel, President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, welcomed PANCAP on behalf of Guadeloupe. He congratulated CARICOM for uniting countries across the region despite their differences, and he said that he wishes to further strengthen regional integration working towards Guadeloupe’s inclusion in the regional organisations. He called to the Ministers attending for their support in this effort.

In committing to the goal of an AIDS-free Caribbean and in-line with the theme of the meeting, ‘Positioning the Partnership for Post-2015, the meeting resolved to address three priorities. The first priority was defined as reducing stigma and discrimination. The meeting acknowledged that beliefs deeply-rooted in Caribbean culture remain drivers of the epidemic. The Partnership recommitted to providing the leadership needed to advocate for change at the highest political levels.

The second priority was to commit to expanding treatment for all by the national programmes with special attention paid to key populations such as men who have sex with men, migrants, sex workers and the youth.

The third priority centred on sustainability. The meeting called for regional efforts to mobilise resources and to reduce the cost of antiretroviral treatment, including second and third-line treatment despite the recent reduction in funding.

In addition to the priorities, four key recommendations adopted by the meeting were: 1.) An analysis of the regional laboratories be commissioned; 2.) An assessment of the state of young people in relation to HIV be conducted; 3.) An urgent dialogue on the difference between the legal age of consent and the age at which health services be accessed resulting in policy change be started; and 4.) An investment strategy and an integrated approach to resources be developed.

It was further agreed that specific attention be paid to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets of 90 percent of those living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of those people being retained on antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of those having an undetectable level of the virus. During her keynote address the previous night, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV & AIDS Globally, Dr Deborah Birx challenged the region to reaching ‘100-100-100’, and that challenge was echoed during the discussions.

The 13th Annual General Meeting was made possible primarily with funding from the Region of Guadeloupe, Centre Hospital Pointe-a-Pitre and the Interreg Caraibes Project. Additional funding was provided by German Corporation and its subsidiaries GIZ and KfW and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

PANCAP is a sixty-two member Partnership which was established by CARICOM Heads of Government in 2001 to respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean.

The Annual General Meeting is the highest decision-making organ of PANCAP and is the principal forum of expression for its broad membership of 62 formal partners.

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016