On Friday January 25, 2013 HIV & AIDS Programme Manager Suzette Moses-Burton, St. Maarten AIDS Foundation President Dr. Gerard van Osch, and the St. Maarten Laboratory Services Manager Dr. Hose Booi met with delegations from French St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and Anguilla at the French side Hospital L.C. Fleming. Participants included Doctors, healthcare specialists, civil servants, and INTERREG Representatives from the various countries.


The meeting was held to evaluate the "Development of an inter-Caribbean HIV observatory" Project that aims to build regional evidence on the scale of HIV drug resistance in order to equip and prepare countries with the knowledge, skills and systems to respond to patients whose treatment may be failing. This project was signed with the European Commission in December 2010 and has been extended until the end of September 2013.

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the INTERREG IV Programme. INTERREG IV is a programme that helps regions of Europe share knowledge and transfer experiences to improve regional policy projects. This project works with people living with HIV & AIDS on the various islands to monitor the effectiveness of their treatment. It is important for a patient to have effective treatment and adhere to it so that he/she can live as long as the average person. The tests are free, done anonymously and codified by a code that only the treating physician can identify. The blood samples are gathered by the various participants in the different countries and transported to the Lepers Laboratory on French Saint Martin or sometime to Paris, France. The results of the analysis from the blood samples are then sent back to the doctors, which allows them to tailor treatments and monitor the patterns of resistance to treatment in the region.

During the meeting various topics were discussed including the data findings of HIV & AIDS prevalence per country for 2011-2012, various surveillance methods being used and ways to enhance the lines of communication between the collaborating agencies for the project. Discussions are also already underway to develop new projects to further enhance cooperation within the Caribbean region.

Two important outcomes of the meeting with regards to the approach of controlling the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean region included an agreement for continued collaboration and the spark of enthusiasm that came from the other islands and St. Maarten to develop ways of tailoring future projects to meet the specific needs of our communities. The next meeting is scheduled for June 2013.

Combating HIV & AIDS in the Caribbean continues to be a major challenge on all the islands especially in relation to monitoring the prevalence of HIV & AIDS. Many people travel to neighboring islands to access health care and treatment due to the fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against. Patients from Anguilla go to St. Martin/ St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, etc, residents from Montserrat go to Antigua, and residents from Dutch St. Maarten often go to French St. Martin, Puerto Rico, Miami, etc. As a result these regional collaborations are extremely important to develop ways to enhance our monitoring procedures for accurate case based surveillance.