Empowering Patients through Laboratory, Clinical and Community Support – CCAS HIV/AIDS International Workshop

August 25th, 2015 — “The Holistic Approach to HIV Care in the Caribbean: Empowering Patients through Laboratory, Clinical and Community Support” is the theme of a five-day regional workshop that was officially opened on Sunday, August 23, 2015.  The workshop is the 12th CCAS HIV/AIDS International Workshop, and is being held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.  The forum is jointly organised by the Caribbean Cytometry & Analytical Society (CCAS) and the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF), with support from the Ministry of Health in St. Kitts.  


Professor Clive Landis, President of CCAS

According to Professor Clive Landis, President of CCAS, the joint annual workshops are aimed at achieving the following objectives:
1) Reviewing the Caribbean’s track record regarding care of HIV/AIDS patients; 2) Identifying gaps in HIV services; and 3) Developing strategies for improvement in the outcome and quality of care offered to persons living with HIV. Professor Landis also noted that CCAS was proud of Caribbean member societies’ adoption of a collaborative approach to patient care that has foreshadowed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Consolidated Guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARTs) for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection.  
Mrs Valerie Wilson, Director of CMLF echoed similar sentiments to those of Professor Landis, noting the critical role of laboratories in “supporting the care of HIV patients at all stages, from identification of infected persons to monitoring of treatment, to achievement of undetectable viral load.”   
In addressing the Opening Ceremony of the CCAS-CMLF seminar, Minister with Responsibility for Health, the Hon Senator Wendy Phipps, commended the workshop organisers for their dedication to the cause of testing, treatment and care of patients living with HIV/AIDS.  She was careful to point out that although the seminar was focused on these core deliverables, special attention must consistently be given to the impact of HIV/AIDS on Caribbean economies.  She said:  

“While we continue to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has been with us since the 1980s, CARICOM Member States are also faced with a dichotomy, in that we have successfully achieved targets of ending Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV/AIDS but continue to be confronted with a growing challenge to our economic competitiveness and productivity, given the evidence that most HIV infections are among Caribbean nationals between the age range of 18-55 years – the most productive years of a worker’s life,” Minister Phipps said.  “The problem is further compounded when patients must be cared for by families and friends who are also in their most productive years and are outside of the Caribbean’s labour force, meaning that their skills, talents, knowledge and ideas are likewise not being maximized by the Member States.”     

 In her remarks Senator Phipps also emphasized the need for consideration of (a) the cost of health care to both the State and persons living with HIV/AIDS, and (b) the related impact on national health insurance schemes that are already being stressed by the care of persons suffering from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in St. Kitts and Nevis.  
Sunday’s opening ceremony was ably chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr Andrew Skerritt.  In attendance were a number of Government officials, including Minister of Health, the Hon Eugene Hamilton, and Cabinet Secretary, Mrs Josephine Huggins.  Over 60 persons from around the region are attending the CCASCMLF workshop which concludes on Thursday, August 27, 2015.  

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