The Pan American Health Organization HIV Caribbean Office in its role as executing agency for the European Union project geared towards strengthening the integration of the British and Dutch Overseas territories in the regional response to HIV/AIDS, conducted its first regional activity here in St. Maarten. The theme of the workshop was "Strengthening the Capacity of the Dutch and British Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) to Reduce Stigma & Discrimination, enhance delivery of HIV Services, and strengthen participation of people living with HIV in the HIV response: A Community Consultation."
During this two-day meeting, members from the six Dutch territories working in the field of HIV/AIDS met to discuss the logistics of this project, and give their input.
The objectives of the meeting were: to present the project to persons living with HIV in the Dutch and British OCTs; formulate recommendations for meaningful and equitable participation of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the project, and to identify priority actions for strengthening of networking and human rights of PLHIV, reduction of stigma and discrimination, and expansion of access to HIV treatment, care and support services.
According to Suzette Moses-Burton, HIV/AIDS Programme Manager and EU Project Focal point for St. Maarten: "A number of critical issues were discussed including the role of people living with HIV/AIDS in the national and response, particularly at policy and decision-making level, development of partnerships between the national programme and members of the community and defining the types of support and interventions needed by the plwha community."
The meeting concluded after two days of intense discussions and deliberations, on a broad range of topics related to the concerns of people living with HIV, with a set of very clear agreements among the participants and actions for next steps which included the establishment/strengthening of support groups on all the Dutch Caribbean territories as well the establishment of a Dutch Caribbean support network to increase communication and exchange ideas and developments within the plwha community of the territories.