Dr Douglas Slater, ASG, HSD on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2014

ASG: I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the Secretary General, and I would like to thank you for taking the time to join us for this commemoration of World AIDS Day.
The Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS—PANCAP—continues to accelerate the pace for achieving the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. PANCAP has provided the coordination under which many opportunities have been garnered and many gaps have already been closed.
Just last month in Guadeloupe, PANCAP held its 13th Annual General Meeting. During the course of the meeting, notable achievements of the region were highlighted.
• For example, in the Caribbean, over the past decade, there has been a 49 percent decline in new HIV infections and a reduction of the prevalence of HIV to one percent.
• Due to antiretroviral treatment being made available to 70 percent of those eligible for it, there has been a major reduction in deaths due to AIDS, and an improved quality of life for people living with HIV.
• We have seen 90 percent of pregnant women living with HIV receive services to prevent passing HIV to their children, which has resulted in a 52 percent decline in HIV infections among children.
However, there is still work to be done. There are still gaps to be closed.
In the Caribbean the highest rates of new HIV infections are among the most at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers and migrants. These populations demand urgent attention and together we must close this gap.
The Annual General Meeting officially adopted the new Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework, which will guide the work of the Partnership for the next 3 years. The Meeting committed to a host of complementary goals, including:

• Increasing access to justice for all;
• Expanding access to high-quality and targeted prevention services;
• Expanding access to high-quality treatment, care and support;
• And integrating HIV into national health systems, and wider social and economic development efforts.

The meeting recognised that the Caribbean is poised to be the first region in the world to completely eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and encouraged countries to strengthen their programmes to achieve this.
Ending the epidemic, and reaching the goal of an AIDS-free Caribbean will only happen with a concerted effort to maintain the gains made so far.
People must get tested to know their status.
Those with HIV must be treated to prevent the onset of AIDS.
Treatment must be continued until there is an undetectable level of HIV in their bodies, which will both prevent transmission and allow them to live healthy, positive lives.
These are the principles upon which UNAIDS hinges its 90-90-90 targets as a prerequisite for ending AIDS by 2030, which we in the Caribbean are committed to achieving. This will mean 90 percent of people know their status; 90 percent of those who are HIV positive have access to affordable treatment; and 90 of those on treatment have no virus detectable in their body.
World AIDS Day commemorations, such as this one, are held around the world each year on the first of December to remember the lives lost to AIDS, recognise the people currently living with and affected by HIV and to recommit ourselves to the effort of ending AIDS.
There is a global recognition that even with the best treatment delivery options, without the complementary programmes for prevention and for the elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, ending AIDS will remain a dream. Together we must close this gap.
This year’s theme, “closing the gap,” resonates with me in a few contexts.
We in the Caribbean must together close the gap between aspiration and reality.
We must close the gaps among education, youth, labour and social services to tackle the problems of treatment and prevention holistically.
We must close the gap to access to affordable medicines including, antiretroviral drugs, so that all who need treatment can access it.
We must close the gap in funding, even in the face of changing priorities by donor agencies.
And crucially, we must close the gap that stigma and discrimination create to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment and care for all people regardless of their ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, occupation, physical or mental abilities, income or class.
PANCAP is dedicated to ensuring the human rights of all people throughout the region, and through its Justice for All programme, aims to close the gap from inequality to equality and humanity for each and every person.
In 2004, UNAIDS praised PANCAP for being a global best practice in governance. We are proud that the example of real achievement by PANCAP towards ending AIDS has provided a model for the Caribbean and, indeed, the world.
But we are all responsible for ending AIDS. This is not a job for the doctors or for PANCAP or for the donors.
We each hold a responsibility to closing the gap between our dream of an AIDS-free future and the fulfilment of that dream. We are all responsible for ending stigma and discrimination, for knowing our status, for protecting ourselves and our loved ones and for working towards and AIDS-free Caribbean.
Wear a red ribbon today and talk about it. Talk to your colleagues, your friends, your family, your doctor.
That red ribbon symbolises our unity. Together we face this challenge; together we will seize this moment; together we will close the gap.
Thank you and I wish you a memorable World AIDS Day.
I would now like to take a moment to welcome Mr Amar Ramesar, from the National AIDS Programme to receive the donations collected this week. The NAPS Food Bank helps those living with HIV by providing food vital to maintaining health and a positive lifestyle. Mr Ramesar please accept this contribution to the Food Bank on behalf of the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.
(Step down and allow Mr Ramesar to say a word of thanks.)