Honourable Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams spoke at the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) Caribbean Delegations Meeting on Wednesday, where she addressed at the United Nations (UN) HIV/AIDS High Level Meeting in New York, the experiences of some of the Kingdom of the Netherlands partners.
The Prime Minister pointed out to delegates that the responses to HIV/AIDS are rights-based and fully imbedded in the broader health systems and in particular, in programmes to improve sexual health.
Wescot-Williams added that stigma and discrimination still occur and affordability of treatment over the long term is a problem for the countries in the Dutch Caribbean.
"They are specifically tailored to meet the needs of key populations, with an active testing policy and a good and consistent quality of care. There is a long history of collaboration between the government, Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and the private sector in implementing HIV responses. People living with HIV, as well as key populations at higher risk, are closely involved," Wescot-Williams said.
The Prime Minister added that the countries in the Kingdom have been pragmatic in their approaches and have demonstrated that pragmatism works. Some examples she gave were:
· The early roll out of comprehensive harm reduction programmes in the Netherlands has limited infections among people who use drugs. For the last couple of years the number of new infections in this group has been close to zero.
· Active testing and quality care during pregnancy has resulted in zero transmission in both the Netherlands and in Sint Maarten.
· Comprehensive sexuality education works. Experience in the Netherlands shows that if young people have the knowledge, the tools and a supportive environment – in particular access to youth friendly services – they are sexually active at later age and have safer sex. However sexuality education programmes have not been comprehensively introduced in all parts of the Kingdom. Their sexual debut continues to happen at a very early age and while safer sex practices are improving, they are not yet normative. We must improve our policies in this regard.
"Thirty years into this epidemic much has been done, but still too much remains to be done. We have the tools to end the epidemic. As this week’s Economist writes: "the question for the world will no longer be whether it can wipe out this plague but whether it is prepared to pay the price." This price tag is financial as well as political," Wescot-Williams pointed out.
"We must use the occasion of this high level meeting to not just sign another declaration but commit ourselves to ensuring that all of the commitments being made here are realised when we go back to our countries. We have the tools to end this epidemic; it is up to us now to use them effectively," Hon. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams concluded.
The Prime Minister is the delegation leader for the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the three-day high level meeting in New York at UN Headquarters that is currently taking place from June 8-10.
The Prime Minister is accompanied by Emilia Thomas, Policy Advisor Cabinet of the Prime Minister, Drs. Khalilah Peters, Senior Policy Officer at the Directorate Foreign Relations of the Government of Sint Maarten, and Suzette Moses-Burton, HIV/AIDS Programme Management Team Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour.