July 26, 2012:
Caribbean countries are well poised to respond to the challenges in sustaining the HIV response in the Region.
This was the key message of Ms. Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, Director, Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) who was at the time addressing a session on the sustainability of the Caribbean Region’s HIV response at the XII International AIDS Conference (IAC). The IAC is being held from 22-27 July 2012 in Washington, DC, USA.
The PANCAP Director brought into sharp focus the reality faced by the Region when she stated that “although we are mostly lower and upper middle income states we are highly indebted and do not have the fiscal flexibility that international development partners perceive and promote.”
Reflecting on the Region’s historical development as a people, Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland called on economic theorists and development planners to reshape the international development discourse. She reminded the conference that “we did it once before with Sir Arthur Lewis and the time has come to do it again!” She quoted Dr. Patrick Martin, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), St. Kitts and Nevis who has said that “the priority mission [for our Region] is to sustain the progress already made in reducing poverty and hunger; maintaining universal access to education and healthcare; and protecting the ecosystem. Development goals are met and surpassed by investment in the services people need to pursue happiness.”
She acknowledged that while an alignment of factors in the international global economy were affecting the Region’s ability to access concessionary grants and other funds, she was confident that by bringing the HIV epidemic out of isolation, the Caribbean could very well sustain the gains that have been made in combating the epidemic over the years.
The PANCAP Director went on to highlight some of the key developments at country level that were necessary to bring HIV out of isolation and thereby sustain the gains that have been made.
“Firstly, to combat HIV we need to get to the underlying causes of vulnerability and risk: poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Therefore beyond public health investments we need to see investments in social policy (eg education, housing, crime and security, social welfare/empowerment) as investments in HIV elimination. Secondly human rights need to be seen as part of the Region’s historical legacy and a human rights agenda of equality for all must be pursued.”
She lauded the work of St. Kitts and Nevis in promoting “an equality for all agenda” while adding that it was an important contribution to be supported.
Thirdly, Ms Bynoe-Sutherland said the Caribbean must use available resources wisely by integrating the work being done in the United Nations (UN) system around HIV with that in gender and population development.
She highlighted the work of Jamaica with regard to Integrating HIV into sexual and reproductive health services and observed that it had good potential as long as there were strong partnerships with family planning affiliates and private doctors.
She concluded her remarks by pointing to the important role that PANCAP played as an 11-year old partnership between countries, organizations and vulnerable communities in combating the Regional HIV epidemic. The PANCAP Director also welcomed the complementary role which will be played by the new Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in supporting public health initiatives at country level while PANCAP continued its strong resource mobilization, human rights advocacy and Regional coordination.