DR. ARUN KASHYAP: World AIDS DAY Breakfast Forum

Dec 1, 2014




December 1, 2014


·       Mr. Dane Lewis, Chairperson; Executive Director, J-FLAG

·       Dr. Kevin Harvey, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health

·       Dr. Denise Chevannes-Vogel, Executive Director, National Family Planning Board Sexual Health Agency;

·       Kate Spring, Country  Coordinator UNAIDS and my other UN Colleagues;

·       Dr. Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director, CVC;

·       Dr. Nicola Skyers, Director National HIV/STI Programme;

·       Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen;

·       A very good morning to all of you!

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the World AIDS day.  On December 1 of every year we as a global community come together to recommit ourselves to halting and reversing the spread of HIV. On behalf of the United Nations in Jamaica it is indeed my pleasure to welcome you to the World AIDS Day breakfast forum.

If you have had an opportunity to see messages by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr. Michel Sidibe on 2014 World AIDS Day 2014, it is heartening to observe a semblance of optimism in the progress achieved by our overall response to AIDS epidemic.

Global solidarity, social mobilization and civil society activism have led to significant decreases in new infections and deaths.  And, to meet the objective of halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic for good, we are making good progress worldwide to ensure that 15 m people will have access to antiretroviral treatment by 2015.

However, this is not the time for complacency. This year we have to renew our commitment and redouble efforts to fast-track our actions and close the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are left behind.  As the World AIDS Day Report for 2013 revealed continuing worrying signals that a number of regions and countries are falling behind.  Even though we have made advances in reaching the vulnerable populations through efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination, much more needs to be done to end this problem.  We have a short window of opportunity to reach all those who are being stigmatized and discriminated against, viz., young women and adolescent girls, men who have sex with men, migrants, prisoners, sex workers, people who inject drugs and ensuring that their human rights are respected and not denied.

The Government of Jamaica recognizes that a gap continues to exist in effectively treating the HIV epidemic and ensuring the reduction in transmission amongst the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender population in the country. HIV prevalence data is virtually non-existent on the Lesbian and Transgender populations.  While the legal assessment carried out by UNDP and UN Joint Team on HIV in partnership with the Ministry of Health under the HIV & Law project has recommended the strengthening of the health systems to ensure access to critical services by the vulnerable communities it is equally important to gather surveillance data on the transgender population to enable development of specific prevention measures to address their needs. Additionally, the civil society has to be supported to ensure that it can continue to play its vital role.   Simultaneously, the Government’s efforts to address this critical gap is reflected in the priority accorded to the MSM group by making it a key target in the draft National strategic plan on HIV 2012-2017.

There is still much for all of us to do as we join together this World AIDS Day and commit to closing the gap and ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 in Jamaica.   

We have a significant opportunity to step up efforts to harness the power of social change through social mobilization to put people first and close the gap.  This is vital because in order for us to consign AIDS to the pages of history in Jamaica we must close the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment care and support services and people who are being left behind.

This requires empowering and enabling all people in Jamaica to access the services they need in closing the HIV testing gap; closing the treatment gap, and closing the gap in access to medicines for children and ensuring all children and mothers living with HIV are able to access treatment.

While access to services is critical to achieve the above, it is equally important to safeguard the existence of a social, political and legal environment that reinforces messages and enforcement of the national policies on HIV.

Social attitudes that condone discrimination and violence against persons living with HIV and vulnerable communities comprising LGBT individuals, women and children not only deny them the possibility to freely test for HIV they also create barriers to meet their unmet demand for services and treatment. Perpetuation of stigma and discrimination is a manifestation of the denial of enjoyment of rights guaranteed by international human rights treaties and the Constitution of Jamaica including the right to the highest attainable standard of health, to housing, education and work, to freedom of expressions, private life and therefore to development.

In urging greater openness and compassion in the global struggle against AIDS, Myanmar’s noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said “the fight against discrimination is an extension of our fight for freedom from fear.”  “My simple message as the global ambassador for zero discrimination is it all starts in the mind and in the heart.  There must be less calculation and more warmth, more love, more affection, more compassion.  We must have our differences and we must recognize them, but these differences should be an opportunity for us to be more complete human beings.”

On this World AIDS Day let us join together to end the AIDS epidemic in Jamaica by 2030 – the target timeline for the Vision 2030 Jamaica while ending the mother to child transmission much-much sooner.

Thank You.

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