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An AIDS-free Caribbean is Only Possible if All Residents are Taken Care of Regardless of Immigration Status
Melbourne, Australia—Researchers have concluded that migrants are an underserved and vulnerable population in the Caribbean. Robert Cazal-Gamelsy, team leader for the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) project in conjunction Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and EPOS Health Management, presented at the AIDS conference in Australia this week.
There were a number of critical findings and recommendations based on the research by the team that Mr Cazal-Gamelsy discussed. Crucially, he said, it is necessary to counter institutional stigma and discrimination against migrants in health and HIV services. This should translate into domestic law and the signed international legislations and treaties that facilitate migrants’ access to these services. The project recommends the removal the obligation of presenting identification or national health insurance cards to use HIV services, and that countries adopt true ‘Universal access’ to HIV services.
Conclusions of the research are that vulnerable migrants are often ‘invisible,’ which contributes to their increased vulnerability to HIV and decreased access to services. An AIDS-free Caribbean is only possible if all residents are taken care of regardless of their immigration status. Therefore, he urged that it should be a priority to implement antistigma and discrimination legislations and policies and to introduce universal access policies across the region.
In the Caribbean, the project is supporting the adoption of the regional PANCAP Model Antidiscrimination Legislation; developing an amendment to the regional PANCAP Model Legislation to strengthen access of vulnerable migrants to HIV services; and conducting trainings using Caribbean training modules on human rights, cultural sensitivity and stigma and discrimination against migrants.
Specifically in Suriname, the project is working to include HIV in the law on venereal diseases to allow free and universal access to HIV services. In Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean Court of Justice has given a litigant leave to challenge immigration law that prohibits entry of homosexual people into the jurisdiction. And in Sint Maarten the project is working to modify IP (TRIPS) rules to get the authorisation to import generic antiretroviral drugs; and adopt the Universal Access principle regardless of resident status.
Mr. Cazal-Gamelsy urged that there is a need for a paradigm shift from exclusion to inclusion in order that, “nobody be left behind.”
PHOTO: Dr Cazal-Gamelsy and the project poster at the 2014 AIDS Conference.