Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance Human Rights Seminar _ Call for action in reducing stigma and discrimination Remarks at opening sessions by Edward Greene

UN Secretary General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean,
St Lucia 25 February, 2013


I bring you greetings on behalf of the UN Secretary General and the UN family and wish to congratulate the Caribbean HIV/ AIDS Alliance together with USAID and PEPFAR for coordinating this important and timely national consultation in St Lucia.

The Human Rights agenda is an important element of the Political Declaration arising out of the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (UN/HLM) June 2011. St Lucia as well as all countries of the Caribbean actively participated in the crafting of the elements of this political declaration and has committed to achieving its outcomes by 2015. In the case of the Caribbean, our priorities were fashioned at 10th Annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership held in St Maarten in November 2010, preceding the UNHLM, whose declaration has sharpened the impetus of our proclamation and provided a basis for alignment through global solidarity to achieve specific targets. In this regard you will recall that we in the Caribbean ( in the PANCAP family) pledged to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV, to increase access to treatment, care and support by 80 percent , to  end any remaining travel restrictions on PLWA and to eliminate stigma and discrimination – by 2015.

Every indication suggests that the Caribbean, working collectively, can achieve these targets. Indeed the UNAIDS 2012 Report indicates the vast strides we have made over the past decade. The epidemic has slowed considerably. New infections have been reduced by one third of its 2001 level. HIV incidence has decreased by an estimated 25 percent in some countries (like Dominican Republic and Jamaica) and by 12 percent in others like Haiti. In the OECS in particular, the slowing of HIV incidence and the increasing access to HIV prevention services for pregnant women have led to a steep decline in AIDS related deaths , and the number of children newly infected with HIV and AIDS. Indeed St Lucia is in the forefront of the aspirational goal to eliminate mother to child transmissions by 2015 and the Caribbean as a whole, is on course to the claim of being the first developing region in the World to do so. In collaboration between PAHO and CARICOM we led the World in the elimination of polio and measles in the 1980s.We can do so again with the commitment to functional cooperation in this Pan Caribbean region.

Yet, the region cannot be complacent .Unprotected sex is still the primary mode of transmission in the Caribbean. Increased access to anti-retro-viral therapy has led to a considerable reduction in deaths associated with AIDS, but the region is threatened with a reversal of these gains, unless the rate of new infections is curbed and investments in treatment, care and prevention are sustained.

This is the reason why the UN HLM and the UN SG continue to make the case for shared responsibility between governments the private sector and development partners for sustainable funding for AIDS. This is the reason why CARICOM Ministers of Health have written a strong letter of protest to the Executive Director of the Global Fund urging the review of the conditionalities which reduce considerably, the resources to Caribbean countries for treatment and prevention services due to their graduated middle income status. This is why the OECS countries need to act immediately’ to revise and extend the PANCAP 2005 agreement with Brazil which has provided ARVs to all PLWA in these island states

These matters set the overall context in which this meeting is being held today. They put in perspective the challenges and opportunities for ending AIDS. They demonstrate also that as we move toward the post 2015 development agenda, a pervasive issue is that of human rights and the elimination of stigma and discrimination. In this regard the UNHLM political declaration provides a useful set of implementable signposts for action. These include eliminating the inequality and violence against women and girls, the review of punitive and outdated laws that impede effective response, and abandonment of approaches that affect most at risk populations

This national consultation is timely; it provides an opportunity for taking corrective action and confronting hard issues such as sexuality, human and reproductive health and rights, and attitudes to homosexuality, commercial sex work and drug addiction, among others. It also will hopefully draw attention to breaking down the barriers that impede the achievement of equity and human rights for all God’s children.  It is part of a process of national consultations proposed for St Kitts, Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas and Guyana and Barbados during this year and hopefully for a regional consultation in 2014

This meeting is fortunate to have experts in various areas to lead the discourse. It is also fortunate to have a series of informed studies and reports on which to draw. These include the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law; Risks, Rights and Health, the PANCAP Stigma Reduction Framework for HIV and AIDS, The Report on the Convention on Human Rights on Children. In addition it brings together the perspectives of youth, faith based organizations, youth and key populations.

This consultation has all the ingredients to take us toward a higher level of understanding of HIV related stigma and discrimination , collective action to achieve social justice and gender equality, collective empowerment to include all partners and setting the priorities for health and development in the post 2015 development   agenda . Hopefully this national consultation will also help to establish the basis of champions for change identified in the PANCAP declaration of 2010, and which is indeed endorsed by the UN Secretary General as part of the way forward