HON. GASTON BROWNE
MINISTER OF PLANNING,
AND PUBLIC SERVICE AFFAIRS
OF ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
TO THE SPECIAL SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
JUNE 25 -27, 2001
Antigua & Barbuda welcomes the opportunity to participate in this Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS, to secure a global commitment for enhanced coordination and the intensification of efforts to combat the pandemic.
The first case of HIV/AIDS was recorded in Antigua & Barbuda in December, 1985 and we have seen a steady increase in reported cases during the past 15 years. We have utilised our scarce resources wisely to build our human capital and have made significant strides over the years. However, the prevalence of HIV in Antigua & Barbuda and the wider Caribbean which is among the highest in the world, ranking second only to Sub Saharan Africa, is threatening to reverse our developmental gains. The Pandemic has demographic, social and economical implications for our populations and is now the most serious developmental challenge facing the Caribbean. Today, HIV/AIDS threatens the literacy levels, life expectancy, human skill resources, prosperity and productive capacities of our respective countries.
Our national HIV/AIDS response programme is essentially one of prevention through a strategy of informing and educating our general population. The Programme is funded almost entirely by the Government .of Antigua & Barbuda and augmented with external assistance from several agencies. We would like to thank these agencies including UNAIDS and CAREC, for the assistance they have extended to us. We recognized the importance of providing care and support for HIV infected persons and their families and we have sought to do this within the constraints of our extremely limited resources.
A programme of HIV voluntary testing among pregnant women was introduced in Antigua and Barbuda in March, 1999 as part of our national intervention to reduce HIV transmission from mother to child. Regrettably, our financial resources do not permit us to offer combination therapy to these mothers. Also, we are now grappling with the very difficult and urgent issue of care and support for our children orphaned by AIDS. We call upon the international community for much needed assistance to contain the prevalence of HIV and the management of AIDS in the Caribbean.
Taking full cognizance of the complexity of HIV/AIDS and its developmental challenges, our vision is to inspire and mobilise all stakeholders to enter into partnerships, to take responsibility and to provide leadership to create, sustain and support an environment of prevention of HIV transmissions through the adoption of safer sexual behaviours, as well as, the promotion of more supportive environments for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. President, HIV/AIDS has infected in excess of 60 million people of which over 22 million have died in twenty years. This has been the most vicious disease in the history of mankind and if we do not make HIV/AIDS prevention and cure a global priority, we may be faced with the extinction of the human race.
The effective management and reversal of the devastating effects of the pandemic cannot be achieved at the national level due to the enormity of the resources required to fight the disease. The resources required to fight this killer disease necessitate a coordinated and systematic global response.
Mr. President, Antigua & Barbuda supports the call for:
. A global coordinated response to combating HIV/AIDS as a priority
agenda item for all countries, multilateral and regional institutions.
. We support the call for the establishment of a Global AIDS & Health Fund to increase resources to contain and eventually develop a cure for AIDS. Contributions to this fund should take precedence to military spending and the fund should be easily accessible by all.
. We support the call for the introduction of concessionary pricing for HIV antiretroviral drugs for developing countries to increase accessibility to treatment for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, we propose:
. The establishment of a Global AIDS Council comprising heads of States and heads of the various multilateral institutions, Scientists and Corporate Leaders to act as advocates to procure increased investments and commitment for HIV/AIDS prevention and cure, as well as, advocacy against the discrimination of individuals living with HIV/AIDS and the stigmatization of the disease.
HIV /AIDS is not only a developmental challenge in that it destroys the most productive human resources but is now a fundamental threat to National Sovereignty and Global Security. The threat of the aids pandemic requires full global commitment at the highest political level and a coordinated approach to effectively manage and ultimately developing a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Let us not deny the realities of HIV/AIDS, let us not stigmatize and
discriminate against HIV/AIDS individuals living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS
is non-discriminatory, it kills and impoverishes millions of people annually,
without distinction to age, gender, ethnicity, status or economic standing.
Finding a solution requires global solidarity. Let us come together in
solidarity and fight to combat this deadly disease that is threatening
the survival of mankind.