February 27, 2008
Stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS on Nevis, had the opportunity to make their final comments on a draft National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan for St. Kitts and Nevis for 2008 to 2012, at a one day workshop on February 27, 2008 at the Red Cross conference room in Charlestown.
The consultation which was hosted by the National AIDS Secretariat and the Nevis AIDS Coordination Unit, would ultimately determine the success of St. Kitts and Nevis in the reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS and its impact on individuals, families and the community over the next five years.
Acting Health Planner/HIV/AIDS Coordinator on Nevis Mrs. Nicole Slack-Liburd told the Department of Information, that the primary reason for the session was to get feedback from the stakeholders, a follow up exercise from a consultation in 2007 with various interest groups on the island.
“It is an all day session where the stakeholders would have an opportunity to give their feedback on what is in the plan and what they committed to in September 2007 when the first consultation was held.
“So we are presenting a comparative report they will go over it and make their comments whatever they think it is feasible or not, what do we need to add, what do we need to subtract, want’s feasible and we will also look at what is very important the ownership of the plan, who is responsible for what,” she said.
Mrs. Liburd noted that the strategic plan when completed would not be administered by the Unit but by every department would have its responsibility and a mandate for the next five years.
Notwithstanding, during welcome remarks Mrs. Liburd explained that in 2005 the first National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan came to an end in 2005 having ran its course from 2001-2005. She said the HIV/ASIDS Unit continue to be guided by the priority areas under the plan which included prevention, advocacy, surveillance, care, treatment and support but the need for a revised plan became obvious.
“We realise however, that we needed to move away from ad-hoc programme activities and move towards evidenced base programming. In addition, our strategies were in need of revision due to shifting trends in the disease globally as well as regionally.
“Our valuable groups could no longer be limited to Casual Sex Workers (CSW), Male Sex Workers (MSW), Youth and certain religious groups we now had to consider other groups such as women and specific sub groups in the youth for example for example such as those who may engage in transactional sex,” she said.
Although these trends are not conclusively supported by surveillance studies in St. Kitts and Nevis, Mrs. Liburd said that patterns throughout other countries in the Caribbean were not far fetched if applied locally when one considered the similarity in cultures and free movement of persons among the islands.
She said in order to get a clearer picture of the situation in St. Kitts and Nevis, Measure Evaluation and the Alliance led the process of conducting a situational analysis in May -June 2007. The objective she noted was to identify the valuable groups in the population in order to assist in the development of more targeted and less generalised programming and in 2007 the findings were presented to stakeholders.
Mrs. Liburd pointed to some key findings of the situation analysis.
“The findings of this situation analysis revealed that both local and Spanish speaking women are involved in sex work although they so not describe themselves using that terminology. We now have to cater to persons whose first language may not be English.
“A tourist can not only help but harm our economy: How co we discourage a tourist from seeking out a CSW when our economy is based on them coming to our shores? In the same vein how do we discourage our local people working in the tourist industry from participating in transactional sex/CSW when they can make in one hour what they can make in one week of honest work,” she said.
Mrs. Liburd said the analysis also indicated that although women knew they were at risk for contracting HIV, they would not use a condom based on the longevity of the relationship.
Also the fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against had caused People Living With HIV/AIDS to conceal their positive status from their immediate family including their children and that the island’s culture which included that of “neiger business” actually hindered access to sexual health services as persons in particular the youth were afraid that their business would be “outta door”.
According to Mrs. Liburd, the five strategies to overcome these challenges and more were addressed in the draft plan. They included prevention of HIV infection, care, treatment and support for people with HIV.AIDS, advocacy, policy development and legislation, generating and using strategic information and national coordination.
She also acknowledged that legal assessments concluded in 2007 also contributed to the design of these strategies.
Mrs. Liburd explained that a new critical component of the revised plan, was its monitoring framework which was not contained in the plan of 2001-2005. The addition she said, would allow the programme to monitor its performances for each objective and make adjustments to programme implementation where necessary.
Among those present at the consultation were Ms. Gardenia Destang-Richardson National AIDS Programme Coordinator in St. Kitts and Mrs. Nadine Caty Caines Education and Prevention Officer of the Nevis AIDS Coordination Unit.