The United Nations agency spearheading the global fight against HIV/AIDS has complimented Barbados for its success in halting the transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to babies.
Describing Barbados’ success as one that brings hope to the worldwide struggle, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe noted that Cuba is the only other Caribbean country sharing that achievement.
“I can say also congratulations to Barbados. It is six years now where they don’t have babies born with HIV,” he said over the weekend during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN body and CARICOM in UN House, Christ Church.
He described the Barbados and Cuba achievement as, “a very important signal that we can end this epidemic, because it’s a dream which we would never have a few years back when people were dying not having hope.
“We moved from despair to hope,” Sidibe said.
The MOU between UNAIDS and CARICOM is aimed at giving the world body a central point through which it will channel all development and assistance programmes in the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS and the transmission of the disease in this region.
“We’ve done the same thing with the African Union so we thought maybe it is also best to have the same signing with CARICOM,” explained UNAIDS Caribbean Director Dr Benjamin Alli.
“CARICOM, just like AU is the organization for most of the head of states in this region. When CARICOM speaks, the leaders will listen. So it is going to help us to improve on our visibility, expansion of programmes.”
Signing on behalf of CARICOM, Ambassador Gail Mathurin said the Caribbean is poised to become the first region in the world to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission.
She nonetheless warned that “the region continues to see high rates in key populations –– men who have sex with men and sex workers –– and notable increases in transmission among women and adolescent girls, thus requiring urgent action. (GA)