Published On: Mon, Apr 29th, 2013

REKINDLE VALUES OF ACTIVISM TO INSPIRE GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT PANCAP Chair tells Catalonia Parliament

Dr Douglas addressing the Catalonia ParliamentSt. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable Dr Denzil Douglas on Monday called for the rekindling of values that would inspire global development.

Under the specific theme of From Barcelona to the Caribbean: Transforming HIV & AIDS Treatment from a Right to a Reality, the Prime Minister who is CARICOM lead Head of Government for Health, HIV and Human Resources and Chair of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), addressed the Parliament of Catalonia, Spain at a special ceremony to commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the XIVth International AIDS Conference which took place in 2002, in Barcelona.

The Fourteenth Conference is generally described as the conference which “… began to move rhetoric to action“and  Prime Minister Douglas in  his address alluded to the significance of the occasion, highlighting the landmark event in 2002 when an Agreement of Intent was signed for cheaper drugs.

“I  had the honour to sign the Agreement with six pharmaceutical companies… thereby triggering a new era of affordable drugs for people in the Caribbean…” he said.  “…Ten years [after] and with the combination of scientific- biomedical and behavioural – research, passionate advocacy of Civil Society and creative leadership, we can truly and optimistically pronounce the aspirational goal [of achieving] an AIDS free generation”, the Prime Minister added.

Dr. Douglas drew attention to the progress made in the Caribbean in the ten years since the Barcelona Conference, including a 50 per cent decrease in AIDS-related deaths, greater awareness of the need to increase access to treatment for most-at–risk populations and to make special provision for the poor and vulnerable. At the same time, he pointed out that in the Caribbean, HIV remains in the top five causes of death in the age range 20-49 years. He said there were at least 50 new infections and  at least 33 deaths as a result of HIV each day and prevalence rates were still exceptionally high in selected groups such as men who have sex with men (32%) transgender sex workers (24%); prisoners (5%) and youth (4%).

The Prime Minister pointed out also that HIV was both an infectious and a non-communicable disease, as the infected were living longer. Cautioning against any slippage, he noted that the lessons of the past 30 years of the epidemic revolved around openness and innovation.

Dr. Douglas commended civil society for its integral involvement in the  planning of the commemoration,  stating that this sector was ”an essential ingredient for sustaining openness and innovation”. “It was the activist pioneers that fought this epidemic from the start …[tackling] the structural forces of prejudice, social exclusion and economic injustice …. Let us draw on that energy of activism to rekindle the values that inspire global development”, he told the audience.

In his closing remarks, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS  and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Dr. Luiz Loures, commended CARICOM/PANCAP for its bold leadership and pledged  the continued support of UNAIDS to the goal of an AIDS-free generation. “We have memories of the path-breaking step taken by PANCAP and CARICOM in Barcelona 2002 in initiating the trend toward affordable drugs…” he said, adding “[L]et us recognize Prime Minister Douglas as a champion of HIV and AIDS and let our reflection on Barcelona 2002 inspire us all to further innovation necessary to user in the achievement of an AIDS free generation.”

The commemoration ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, other ministers of Government, parliamentarians, leading researchers and scientists, representatives of development partners and Civil Society.

Among those who also made presentations were the two Co-chairs of the XIVth International AIDS Conference Dr. Jordi Cassabona, President of the AIDS  and Society Foundation, Director Centre of Epidemiological Studies and Professor of Medicine, University of Barcelona and Dr. Joseph Gatell  Senior Consultant and Head of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Medicine University of Barcelona.

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