PRESS BRIEFING BY PRIME MINISTER OF SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS
Prevention and care were inextricably linked in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis told correspondents this afternoon at a Headquarters briefing. Denzil Douglas made that statement as he began summarizing the outcome of a round table on prevention and care with regard to HIV/AIDS, the first of four such round tables to be held in association with the General Assembly’s three-day special session on HIV/AIDS. (Round-table participants included civil society actors, United Nation entities, intergovernmental organizations with standing invitations, and States Parties, including regional representatives.)
Stating that the issue of prevention and care was of such high interest that the round table had been oversubscribed, Mr. Douglas noted that the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been clarified and they had taken part. A number of concrete conclusions and agreements had been reached among all participants.
First, he said, vulnerable groups had been identified, including sex workers and certain men. It had also been decided that prevention must involve counselling, and it must take into account cultural practices. Counsellors must be highly trained if they were to be effective. Prevention was both cost-effective and feasible. It must also be part of the overall strategy in the fight against the epidemic. Also, prevention must involve the full roster of responses, from those that could be immediately applied through such measures as making condoms available, all the way to those encompassing long-term goals, such as empowering women to say no to sex. Preventive measures also must apply to the community at large.
It had been agreed that a comprehensive prevention and care package must address reproductive and sexual needs of young people, Mr. Douglas said. Other elements in such a package included the prevention of HIV in pregnant women and promoting interventions targeting the vulnerable. In turn, providing quality care to the vulnerable meant better systems had to be devised for key elements in that care, including methods of interventions, the delivery of care, the ensuring of safe blood, and the treatment of opportunistic infections.
Mr. Douglas said the discussion on anti-retroviral therapies had revealed common agreement on the need for urgent assistance from the drug companies, for finding a preventive vaccine and for making that vaccine cost effective. With all aspects of those therapies, cost effectiveness and availability were major concerns. Others were to establish the infrastructure to enable regimes to be standardized for delivery of quality care. Drug companies were called upon to address those concerns. In addition, it was agreed that political and legal questions needed to be addressed with regard to drug availability. For example, some developing countries, including Cuba and Brazil, already had the capacity to manufacture the drugs. They could not do so, however, because political and legal issues had not yet been addressed.
In response to a request for greater clarification of those issues,
Mr. Douglas said those concerns had been well documented in the press, including a
recent case in South Africa. Certainly there were also related issues, such as
the fact that research and development of pharmaceuticals needed support. Asked about concerns that pharmaceutical companies would focus on other health issues if patents were shortened on drugs related to HIV/AIDS, he said drug companies had declared themselves partners in the war on AIDS, and could be expected to be partners in the fight against the pandemic.
In conclusion, Mr. Douglas said the round table had made clear the link between poverty, HIV/AIDS and the need for partners to be involved in fighting it. Within countries themselves, civil society needed to work with governments. Concerns expressed about accessing the Global Fund indicated that countries should not be excluded from accessing the Fund because they could easily lose development gains if they were denied help with controlling the pandemic.
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