World AIDS Day Message from Commissioner of Public Health Hyacinth Richardson


World AIDS Day: "Universal Access and Human Rights"

World AIDS Day was first observed on 1st December 1988, 21 years ago. It was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote awareness for all HIV/AIDS related matters.

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As an important day around the world and also here on St. Maarten, recognizing this day is an opportunity to remind people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are still many actions to be carried out and preparations on various levels to be made.

It has been over 25-years since AIDS was first discovered. And the existence of HIV/AIDS has had a profound impact on the most intimate of human behaviour. This generation and the previous have witnessed one of the most influential illnesses this world has ever known.

Fore HIV today, remains a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world. More people are living with HIV than ever before. Data from the AIDS Epidemic Update reveals that there are 33.4 million persons living with HIV, because they are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral medication.

The number of AIDS related deaths has declined by over 10 per cent over the past five years as more people have gained access to life saving treatments; a fact which is a great achievement.

New HIV infections have been reduced by 17 percent over the past eight years. This reduction is due to the hard work of programme management teams, health care providers and volunteers around the world, who have left no stone unturned in providing information and access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. One cannot however make mention of any world wide success without acknowledging the hard work and dedication of the management team on St. Maarten.

HIV prevention programmes are, thankfully, making a difference. The eradication of AIDS is not only just another issue or/and ordinary topic. It is a reality that many persons for example, a loved one, a colleague or friend are faced with on a day to day basis. AIDS is an issue that gets to the very heart of the family unit, with which we are very concerned. It threatens the fundamental well being of a nation, it undermines the values that are predominant in our society and it robs us of vital human resources.

As a virus, HIV is likely to be with us for a very long time. How far it spreads and how much damage it does is entirely up to us as a nation. As a community, we have to ask ourselves, will our actions pass the AIDS test? Do we need to submit our blood in order to determine if we are being safe?

AIDS is the great moral cause of the 21st century and beyond, however it should be more than a moral cause. As a nation, we have to support the efforts of our own programme management team and the great work of the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and its private sector partners.

As a community, let us work ‘Stronger Together’ in the fight against HIV/AIDS on St. Maarten.

Hyacinth Richardson

Commissioner of Public Health