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Message By The Secretary General CARICOM Ambassador Irwin Larocque On The Occasion Of World AIDS Day 2016

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) joins the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day 2016, which is being observed under the Theme ‘Hands up for #HIV Prevention’.  This Theme calls attention to the crucial need for us to refocus our efforts on combination prevention that includes treatment, behaviour change, communication, and provision of social protection to address individuals’ vulnerability.
The CARICOM Strategic Plan 2015-2019 articulates as a strategic priority, Building Social Resilience – Equitable Human and Social Development – with a goal of improved quality of life for all people.  This is targeted through, among other things, improved education and health, reduced levels of poverty, equitable access to opportunities by vulnerable groups, and enhanced citizen security.  In so doing, CARICOM acknowledges the critical importance of providing the requisite social protection to address vulnerability. 
While the Caribbean Region continues to see increased numbers of persons being placed on treatment, 52 percent in 2016 compared to less than 5 percent in 2001, the recent 2015 UNAIDS Prevention Report highlights an increase in new infection in the Caribbean.  This is a cause for concern given that the 2014 UNAIDS Global AIDS Report lauded the Caribbean for achieving the sharpest regional reduction in HIV incidence by 49 percent.  This calls for increased focus to be placed on combination prevention of HIV. 
We are all aware that external donor funding to support both our regional and national response to HIV continues to decrease amid the call for greater emphasis on ‘test and treat’, in accordance with the WHO 2015 Treatment Guidelines which states that people who are diagnosed HIV positive should be placed on treatment early.  Evidence shows that the earlier people living with HIV start antiretroviral treatment, they have better health outcomes. 
With that evidence in mind as well as the reported increase in new infections, I urge the international donor community to support the regional response to HIV and AIDS.  It is a matter of urgency that we fill remaining gaps in funding to assist in ending the AIDS epidemic in the Region as we seek to achieve the UNAIDS goal of ending AIDS by 2030. 
Let us therefore intensify our efforts to increase national HIV investment and prioritise policies and activities aimed at HIV prevention in the years ahead.

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