Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams Commemorates World Aids Day over the Weekend

Honorable Sarah Wescot Williams commemorated World Aids Day through various events over the weekend. The PM in cooperation with the St. Maarten HIV/ AIDS Working Group organized a Zumba Me Red special Zumba Event on the Clem Labega Square on Friday evening, with civil servants and various members of the community coming out to support the St. Maarten HIV/ AIDS response while simultaneously staying healthy. The PM also attended the seventh annual Stronger Together Red Ribbon Campaign at Scotia Bank in Philipsburg. The event featured rapid HIV testing to the community.


The Prime Minister is Chair of the St. Maarten HIV/AIDS public-private Steering Committee; Regional Territorial Authorizing Officer; and Chair of the EC-OCT Steering Committee for the EU-funded program "Strengthening the Integration of the British & Dutch OCTs in the Regional response to HIV/AIDS". In July the PM also led the eleven member St. Maarten Delegation to the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) held in Washington DC. During the conference the Prime Minister was in charge of the session on addressing HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination with the aim of changing the effects of HIV stigma within local communities. The Prime Minister was also the featured speaker at the Regional Session: Sustainable Development and HIV – A Caribbean Agenda, also during the AIDS 2012 Conference.

During her comments related to the fight against HIV/ AIDS on St. Maarten the Prime Minister stressed that the country has come a long way in the fight against HIV/ AIDS: "My country St. Maarten has come a long way in the fight against HIV. This progress is manifested in increased awareness amongst the population; public private partnerships; regional recognition of St. Maarten’s efforts; responses to the call for voluntary testing; private business involvement; attention for female sex workers who come from neighboring countries and our girl power empowerment program, to mention just a few", commented the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister continued that she was also requested to examine briefly the challenges of Programmatic Consistency in a Parliamentary Democracy as it relates to St. Maarten’s HIV/AIDS programs:

The Prime Minister has also highlighted the regions challenges in controlling and managing the HIV/AIDS Epidemic, which, as a region, ranks second only to the sub-Saharan region: "However, the region as a whole has made considerable progress. But as we have heard so often, we are not where we should be, can be or would like to be. As countries that range from a spectrum from developed and developing, to least developed, strides made in terms of partnerships and funding are of utmost importance for the region. We too view with hope the advances and promising discoveries, such as treatment as prevention and new HIV drugs. However with apprehension we view the financial crises that have crippled traditionally strong contributing countries. There are many related agendas that compete with the health agenda for attention in our countries, such as human rights, economic development, fiscal options, gender and education. The reason is clear, however, that HIV/AIDS fits all agendas,"

The Prime Minister also reiterated that government’s role and leadership, also externally, is crucial for the credibility of national programs and commitments:

"We have heard it over and over again, said in different ways, that we are at a defining moment in the history of the fight against HIV. At this defining moment, the commitment by governments across the region must be unambiguous; unambiguous at the highest level. In small communities, we need to look at the sustainability, consistency if you wish, of the nongovernmental efforts as well."