MRS. LORNA GOLDING
SPOUSE OF THE HONOURABLE
PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA
UNITED NATIONS HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON HIV/AIDS
“FIRST SPOUSES FOR ELIMINATION OF NEW HIV INFECTIONS
NEW YORK, JUNE 8, 2011
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to be here, representing my country and region at this very important event, which encourages us as First Spouses to participate in the response to HIV/AIDS.
Jamaica has successfully reduced HIV transmission from Mother-to-Child since the inception of the PMTCT programme in 2004. The number of HIV positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral medication has increased significantly from forty-seven percent in 2004 to eighty-three percent in 2009. This has led to a dramatic reduction in Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV in Jamaica from twenty-five percent in 2002 to below five percent since.
Regardless of the significant advances that Jamaica has made, we MUST NOT become complacent. These accomplishments will not be sustained without renewed commitment from our donors to support the financing needed to eliminate new infections in children. Particularly in this harsh economic climate, we must reinforce our solidarity for the cause.
The Caribbean has the highest prevalence of HIV infection in the world, second only to Sub- Saharan Africa, with one percent of the adult population living with HIV. Nevertheless, in keeping with the work being accomplished in Jamaica, the Caribbean can be the first region to eliminate Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV by 2015.
There is much left to be done. In the Caribbean, and specifically in Jamaica, we must always be cognizant of the impact of stigma and discrimination in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Our goal cannot be achieved without first addressing the critical problems that women and girls face. It must be acknowledged that the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS is one of the reasons pregnant women opt out of testing, or don’t access public health services until very late stages of their pregnancies.
All of us, as first spouses, many of us being mothers, can help shatter the misconceptions around HIV/AIDS by lending our voices to the movement and encouraging all women, regardless of class, status or race to get tested early.
I encourage an increased commitment to reducing the stigma associated with the disease. Just this April, my husband the Honorable Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica along, with the Leader of the Opposition, signed the ‘Declaration of Commitment to Eliminate Stigma, Discrimination and Gender Inequality affecting Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Response’.
Although challenging, we must begin to re-engineer the social attitudes surrounding HIV/AIDS. We must begin to see it as an opportunity to show compassion to our fellow citizens, improve knowledge and social attitudes and increase healthy life practices.. We cannot miss the lessons HIV is trying to teach us. The Jamaican National Pledge promises, “Before God and all mankind” that “Jamaica will play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”. For my part, I will continue to work to ensure that that there is an end to the stigma and discrimination impeding Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS response. This is my commitment and this will be my role in the mission.
May you all be strengthened in your efforts and commitment to this cause.