Caribbean Countries Should Adopt United HIV/AIDS Policy, Regional Officials Say
Caribbean countries should adopt a united approach to fighting HIV/AIDS and the social stigma surrounding the disease, regional health officials said on Friday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, at the close of a conference on AIDS in the Caribbean, the AP/Miami Herald reports. About 1,800 politicians, researchers and health providers from the region attended the conference, titled "A Multicultural Caribbean United Against HIV/AIDS," which was sponsored by the Caribbean Community, the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre and HHS. The Caribbean region -- which has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world after sub-Saharan Africa -- is "wasting resources" by approaching the epidemic differently in the English-, French-, Spanish- and Dutch-speaking countries, according to the AP/Herald. With high levels of regional tourism and travel, the Caribbean countries must coordinate with their neighbors to fight HIV/AIDS, the officials said. "This is one region. Why do we not have one program?" Dr. Bilali Camara, head of the CAREC Special Programme on Sexually Transmitted Infections, asked, adding, "Sex doesn't speak any language, and the virus is following sex. We should consider the Caribbean as one nation with some water in between." One of the "major obstacles" to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region is the stigma surrounding the disease, according to the AP/Herald. Camara noted that while the 15 Caribbean Community countries now can access discounted antiretroviral drugs because of a deal signed with pharmaceutical companies in 2003, French and Dutch territories were excluded from the deal. In addition, Caribbean leaders have said that President Bush's global AIDS initiative ignores most Caribbean nations; the plan provides assistance to Haiti and Guyana, which have HIV/AIDS prevalence rates among the highest in the region, along with 12 African nations (Hokstam, AP/Miami Herald, 3/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.