Statements and Webcast
H.E. Mr. Keith Mondesir, Minister of Health, Wellness, Family Affairs, National Mobilisation and Gender Relations
8 June 2011
KEITH MONDESIR, Minister for Health, Wellness, Family Affairs, Social Transformation, National Mobilisation, Human Services and Gender Relations of Saint Lucia, said the Caribbean had been identified as the region with the second highest prevalence of HIV infection among males. In Saint Lucia, prevalence was estimated to be less than 1 per cent in the general population, with the number of new infections appearing to be stable over the past five years. The country’s national response had recorded many gains in the past ten years, including: free voluntary counselling and testing; a reduction of mother to child transmission; and a decline in the number of new reported cases of HIV/AIDS over the last five years. However, Saint Lucia continued to face many challenges in a comprehensive response to the epidemic and, in consultation with UNAIDS, recognized the need to develop an evidence-based response and a concentrated approach that addressed those most at risk. Because the Government’s external grants were coming to an end, it was imperative to deploy resources and efforts in the most effective manner possible.
He said Saint Lucia’s national strategic plan, drafted with the technical support of UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO), had identified three major sectors of the populations most at risk, in order of priority: men who had sex with men; sex workers; and mother to child transmission. Young people and girls were also identified as high risk, given current behaviours and knowledge about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Education would include an emphasis on the risks associated with early sexual debut and would emphasize that girls were 50 per cent more vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections. Saint Lucia would also focus on treating the epidemic in a concentrated fashion, focusing on linking testing to care. Humane programmes that were person-centred and provided the social support for those who were marginalized were essential. Prevention programmes would also be developed, promoting healthy sexual behaviour and building from existing health and family life education programmes in the schools. Finally, Saint Lucia reaffirmed its commitment to combating this disease by ensuring that resources were used most effectively.