Stigma and discrimination blocking regional response to HIV/AIDS

Regional Program Advisor of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Michel de Groulard has said that stigma and discrimination are still the major stumbling blocks to the region’s response to HIV/AIDS.

De Groulard was speaking to journalists as the third Caribbean HIV Conference gets underway in Nassau, Bahamas.

He said the problem of discrimination is evident across all sectors and needs to be seriously addressed in order for prevention and treatment efforts to be successful.

“Stigma and what results from that, discrimination are still important factors blocking the HIV response.”

“Unfortunately it happens everywhere; it happens in the health sector, it happens in the society in general; it happens in the education sector it happens in the workplace and that is one of the main factors we still need to address and do better across the region to make sure that we have no stigma and no discrimination related to HIV and being seen as more at risk of being infected.”

The goal to eliminate stigma and discrimination is part of the United Nations commitment to universal access to treatment by 2015.

Over 2,000 participants from across the region are in attendance at this four-day conference, which plans to deal with “identifying a viable path that can be maintained in the future regional response to HIV”.

De Groulard said the challenge to sustaining the strides made in the region as it relates to reducing prevalence and increasing access to treatment is worsening due to reduced funding from global partners.

He said what is needed is “a strong commitment from Caribbean countries and probably from new partners” to ensure their goals are reached.

“The funding coming from external partners is diminishing and we have to come up with our own strategies in the Caribbean to address that; to sustain what we have done and also to do more because we are still committed to reach universal access by 2015.”

2009 statistics indicate that there are approximately 240,000 adults living with HIV in the Caribbean; this represents 1% of the adult population in the region.

There is also a slight decrease in new HIV infections in the region; from 20,000 in 2001 to 17,000 in 2009.©

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