PANCAP News-in the caribbean
Virgin head endorses Caribbean vision for elimination of paediatric HIV
- Last Updated on Thursday, 12 April 2012 13:34
- Published on Thursday, 12 April 2012 13:32
- Hits: 460
PORT OF SPAIN Trinidad & Tobago, April 11th, 2012 — The Caribbean goal to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission has been endorsed by a global figure.
Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group, last week supported the vision that the Caribbean could be first to eliminate paediatric HIV on Twitter and through his personal blog.
A range of regional stakeholders including the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), are collaborating to ensure that the Caribbean receives the technical support as well as political and public buy-in it needs to reach the goal by 2015.
UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr. Ernest Massiah, has also raised the possibility that smaller Caribbean states can accomplish the target far sooner given their relatively small disease burdens.
“The Caribbean can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV because we have the means to prevent it. West Indian people can play a part by addressing the negative attitudes and judgments associated with HIV. This would allow mothers across our region to feel safe and confident about accessing life-saving testing, treatment, care and support,” Massiah said.
Branson received the news with initial cynicism: “Seems too good to be true given that the Caribbean has the world’s second highest rate of HIV/AIDS”. But this was quickly followed by informed optimism.
“It turns out that mother-to-child transmission can be basically eliminated with simple measures. The main challenges are to make sure pregnant women are tested and treated and that treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) is integrated into healthcare for pregnant women”.
The magnate then called for his almost two million followers on Twitter to find out more about the initiative on the UNAIDS Caribbean website. He described the move as a welcome “step forward”.
The West Indies Cricket Team has also expressed solidarity with a vision for the elimination of mother-to-chid HIV transmission in the Caribbean in the near future. The team hosted a group of Barbadian students during a coaching and sensitisation session at the Kensington Oval last week.
They joined UNAIDS in articulating the need for generations of West Indian people to work together to reach the goal of “getting to zero” HIV infections.
"We have the medicines, we have the knowledge. There is no need for any Caribbean child to be born with HIV,” said West Indies Captain Darren Sammy. “And there is no need to treat anyone any differently because of their HIV status.”