PAHO Remarks at opening ceremony

Opening Statement
Meeting on National AIDS Programme Managers and Key Partners
Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi PAHO/WHO Representative, Trinidad and Tobago
14-17 March 2016
Port of Spain



Members of the Head Table…
Honourable Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh
Mr. Derek Springer, Director PANCAP Coordination Unit,
Dr. Shanti Singh, National AIDS Programme, MOH Guyana and NAP Manager Representative on PANCAP Governance Bodies
Country Representatives of National AIDS Programmes
UN and PAHO Colleagues
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen….. Good morning


On behalf of Dr. Carissa Etienne, PAHO Director, I bring you greetings and congratulate you, the National AIDS Programme Managers from across the Caribbean gathered here today, for your tenacity of spirit and deliberate and focused managerial skills and actions that have collectively positioned the Caribbean to make good progress on the Millennium Development Goals.


Through implementation of the Regional HIV/STI Plan for the Health Sector 2006-2015, you have contributed to the region’s:


• 24 per cent decrease in HIV incidence between 2000-2014;
• 50 per cent decrease in new infection;
• The increase in the number of persons on treatment who were eligible; and
• HIV infected persons living longer and healthier lives contributing to family life and national development.


And through the adoption in 2010, and implementation of the Strategy and Plan of Action for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis, many of your Caribbean countries, like Cuba, will soon announce the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. I know our host country is making good progress in this area and is currently undergoing the validation process.


Even with these successes, there is much that is left to do, to maintain the gains and to forge forward.


One of your many tasks here today is to contemplate the ever changing playing fields that are socio-economic, financial, capacity and resource, cultural, behavioural, media and growing social media, health technology, medicine, managerial, political, collaborative and so many others that interact and have impacted our rate of progress to end AIDS and will certainly continue to do so as we set our sights on the year 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.


When we started the MDG journey 15 years ago… 15 years seemed more than enough time to accomplish the MDG goals. In hindsight, it seems a micro-second leaving many of us to wonder ‘where did the time go?’ 2030 will be no different as we are asked to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, but we are challenged to work differently, do more with less, be more open to new ideas and collaborations, be more committed and to be more innovative.


The task is not impossible, we know what we need to do, we know what works, what we have not tried or were too afraid to try or were prevented from trying as we sought to be innovative.


As you focus on the 2016-2021 PAHO Regional HIV and STI Plan of Action and the PAHO Regional Strategy for the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, which builds on the successes, experiences, and keen understanding of areas that need strengthening, be very sure that PAHO is here to continue to support your health sector efforts at the regional and country levels to end AIDS.


We can do this! We can end AIDS. We have experience in ending things…polio in the 1960s is a shining example of this. The lesson here though is that if we are not careful to maintain the gains we have made we will lose them… just as we are witnessing a re-emergence of diseases long eliminated.


PAHO will continue to challenge its member states to do more and to be better at keeping all its commitments to build capacity and leadership in the HIV response.


We have a key member state representative here today, the Honourable Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago. I am certain of his commitment to improve the health of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I am certain that if challenged he will rise to the occasion to lead his Caribbean colleague Ministers of Health to recommit to the HIV response in country.


Honourable Minister we need a champion to convert scientific evidence into action. We need action on the ‘Care and Treatment for All’ consensus articulated the 2015 WHO Guidelines, a key initiative in the repertoire of AIDS initiatives that will see us ending AIDS in by 2030.


Honourable Minister, Mr. Derek Springer, PANCAP Director and other PANCAP representatives, Dr. Shanti Singh and other Regional AIDS Programmes Managers, I am proud to state definitively on behalf of PAHO and my colleagues represented here today, that PAHO, the oldest health agency in the world stands firm in our support to you. Ending AIDS in not an impossibility… it is an inevitability… we have the knowledge …let’s do it together.