Remarks from Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas Chair of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS “Closing the Gap requires Global Solidarity in the AIDS Movement”

On World AIDS Day, especially, we remember and grieve for the millions who have died as a result of this disease. We reflect on the effects on their families, friends, associations, communities, countries and the world. We are confronted too with the stark realisation that approximately 4,000 people die from this disease daily. We take note that HIV infections persist, and are even on the rise among specific vulnerable groups, especially men who have sex with men, sex workers, those who inject drugs and young people, especially young women. Yet we remain optimistic that the World can witness the end of AIDS by 2030. This optimism can only become a reality if indeed we can truly ‘’close the gap’’

What does closing the gap mean particularly for the Caribbean? First there is need to ensure that the principles of the ambitious 90-90-90 goals established at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne in July 2014 are achieved. In practice this requires that by 2020, 90% of those with HIV get tested and therefore know their status; 90% of those are on treatment; and 90% percent of those have viral loads low enough to be free from transmitting the disease. But to close the gap sustainably, populations most at risk must be reached; people with AIDS must have access to affordable treatment; guaranteed support for national programmes must be based on universal access to treatment; and inequalities drastically reduced through the elimination of AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, as well as prevention

Closing the gap necessitates multisectoral action. It will mean active collaboration among education, social and community affairs, youth, finance, external relations, and the legal and protective services to complement the public health system. It will also require building new leadership among the youth, fostering greater attention to issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights and reengaging all stakeholders in the Justice for All Programme, which promotes the human rights agenda.

In this penultimate year of the millennium development goals, it is quite clear that the HIV and AIDS targets will not be achieved by 2015 and that AIDS must be retained in the post-2015 development agenda. Then, closing the gap will, for all the reasons stated, mean that HIV and AIDS will be configured more intricately within the global health agenda. The AIDS response has provided significant lessons for global health. Activism, global financing mechanisms, shared responsibility and governance, and accountability systems have all been vital ingredients. Global solidarity in closing the gap demands that that these elements of the AIDS movement must be sustained and accelerated.