September 03, 2007
Minister of Health and Deputy Premier in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) the Hon. Hensley Daniel, underscored the Administration’s continued commitment in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said that the NIA would continue to play a lead role in the fight and provide the necessary human and financial resources.
The September 03-04 National Consultation in Support of the Strategic Planning Process ““ HIV/AIDS funded by the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS; Measure Evaluation, Caribbean health research Council, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Ministry of Health/Nevis was held at the Mount Nevis Hotel on Monday September 03, 2007 and attracted a number of stakeholders from across Nevis.
The Consultation served to clearly communicate the strategic planning process used to revise/develop the national HIV Strategic Plan; to present the key findings of the current situation assessment of the vulnerable groups; to present a summary of the key findings of the national assessment of the legal environment which pertained to the laws, ethics and human rights issues with People Living With HIV/AIDS and vulnerable populations in St. Kitts and Nevis; to provide feedback on the findings and to identify national priorities, key objectives and activities for the national response based on the findings and feedback from participants.
Mr. Daniel in special remarks, urged the participants to take the process of consultation seriously since it was an indication of the government’s commitment to involve a wide cross section of the population in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said they should be prepared to work to ensure the implementation of any strategic initiatives that were identified.
He noted that the HIV/AIDS epidemic presented a real challenge to a small island like Nevis since it could thwart the development process and derail the economy.
“When we look at the social and economic cost of HIV/AIDS we see loss of income; loss of productive hours from work; the cost of medication; the impact on families; stigma and discrimination and the cost of constant care and treatment.
“These issues should cause us to re double our efforts to introduce prevention, care, treatment and support programmes to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he said.
The Health Minister said he was hopeful that the Consultation would identify ways and means to link the knowledge of HIV/AIDS with behaviour since the disjuncture between behaviour and knowledge could not continue.
He also reiterated his call for persons in Nevis, a predominantly black society, to examine the cultural norms such as multi sexual partners which continued to drive the epidemic. He pointed to the male macho image which led to early sexual debut and promiscuity.
“The Consultation, I hope, will identify the vulnerable groups such as youth, children, women and low income earners and develop a continuing education programme. I also want to see some focus on monitoring and evaluation as we move toward the era of evidence based programming. It is through evidence based programming that we will continue to get funding from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), UNAIDS, Organisation of East Caribbean States/HIV/AIDS Projects,” he said.
Mr. Daniel said it was important for improved reporting systems, develop monitoring and evaluation tools and be guided by more data than by sentiment.
At the conclusion of the Consultation, participants would be better positioned to increase their understanding to the strategic planning process for the revision of their National Strategic Plan and its implementation; have an increased understanding of the population most at risk for contracting HIV and those affected by the disease and to be in a position to identify national priorities, key objectives and activities that would be used to formulate the 2008-2013 National Strategic Plan.
Facilitators for the Consultation included UNAIDS Strategic Planning Consultant Ms. Nicola Taylor, HIV Officer Nevis Mrs. Nadine Carty Caines, National AIDS Programme Coordinator Ms Gardenia Destang Richardson; Measure Evaluation ““ Ifeoma C. Udoh, Alana Lum Lock, Director of Community Affairs on St. Kitts Ms Jovel Martin and Director of the Department of Gender Affairs, Ministry of Social Transformation, Community Development and Gender Affairs Ms. Ingrid Gumbs.