Bahamian PM wants more action to reverse AIDS pandemic
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said AIDS remains a leading cause of death among Bahamian men and women aged 25 to 44.
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Monday November 21, 2011 - Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said The Bahamas has had significant successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as the region looks at achieving sustainable action in the fight against the disease.
But, he said AIDS remains a leading cause of death among Bahamian men and women aged 25 to 44.
Addressing the 2011 Caribbean HIV Conference being held here, Prime Minister Ingraham said the best hope for containment of HIV/AIDS is a reduction in the number of new infections.
“We must scale up the prevention activities that have proven successful if we are to reverse the AIDS pandemic. At the same time, providing treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS remains absolutely essential,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has been proactive in reaching persons at risk for HIV infection, he said, while noting there are still significant challenges in accessing vulnerable and at risk individuals for diagnosis, care and treatment.
Some of the challenges highlighted were stigma and discrimination since HIV/AID continues to be associated with young gay men and intravenous drug users.
It was further noted that immigration status, language barriers, and economic inequity contributed to the persistence of the stigma attached to the disease.
“Notwithstanding, tremendous strides are being achieved in defusing fears associated with contact with HIV/AIDS infected persons. Still, significant stigma and sometimes discrimination persists. This in turn creates a significant barrier to detection, care and treatment,” the Prime Minister said.
He told the conference that The Bahamas has been a leader in developing legislation to protect the rights of minorities and others living with HIV.
The country decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults in 1991, and was the only Caribbean country to sign the Paris Declaration in 1994, which set global standards for HIV and human rights.
“We also legislated strengthened protection from discrimination for HIV positive individuals in the workplace,” he explained.
With women and girls now comprising half of those aged 15 and older living with HIV, it was noted that the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and young people is a severe and growing problem.
“As we move forward in treating HIV/AIDS in the region, we acknowledge that there are still significant challenges in accessing vulnerable and at risk individuals for diagnosis, care and treatment,” the Bahamian leader said.
The Caribbean HIV Conference themed, “Strengthening Evidence to Achieve Sustainable Action”, ends today.