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Statement to the thirty-eighth session of the Commission on Population and Development by Mr. George Talbot, Chargé d’ affaires a. i., Permanent Mission of the Republic of Guyana to the United nations, on behalf of the Caribbean Community.
27 June 2008 / 05:43

I Introduction

Mr. Chairman,

1. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Member States of the Caribbean Community on agenda item 3, follow-up to the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development. We associate ourselves fully with the statement made by the representative of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

2. May I begin by extending warm congratulations to you and the entire Bureau on your well deserved election to preside over the thirty-eighth session of the Commission on Population and Development. Our delegations stand ready to collaborate with you and with the Commission as a whole in reaching decisions that will contribute in a meaningful way to advancing implementation of the Cairo agenda and internationally agreed development commitments, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.

3. We take this opportunity to welcome and congratulate Ms. Hania Zlotnik, who is participating in the work of the Commission for the first time in her new role as Director of the Population Division. At the same time, we pay tribute to her predecessor, Mr. Joseph Chamie, for the valuable contribution he made to the Division and to the work of the Commission over many years.

II Global situation

Mr. Chairman,

4. The theme under review today, viz., “Population, development and HIV/AIDS, with special emphasis on poverty” holds particular importance for the Caribbean Community. The reports of the Secretary-General remind us that the HIV/AIDS pandemic constitutes a global crisis, and that the disease has expanded to all regions of the world.

5. While Africa remains home to the worst manifestations of this tragedy, with both the highest numbers of affected persons and the highest incidence of the disease, there are signs of a growing problem in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean. Current trends signal a continuing increase in the number of cases worldwide in the foreseeable future. The demographic impact in the most affected countries can be seen in higher mortality rates and reduced life expectancy, while fertility levels vary widely across the group.

6. The socio-economic implications of the pandemic present a more varied picture. However, the evidence indicates that HIV/AIDS aggravates and is aggravated by poverty. According to the report, in general, AIDS-affected countries present relatively poor socio-economic indicators and there is evidence to suggest that, in general, poverty levels are relatively higher in AIDS-affected countries. At the same time, it is difficult to discern a correlation between the levels of poverty and levels of HIV prevalence.

7. While poverty is one of the determinants of HIV/AIDS, therefore, there are clearly other factors that intervene. The report identifies a number of biological, social and other determinants such as those relating to gender inequalities, mother-to-child transmission, stigma and discrimination, conflict, mobility and transition. However, sexual transmission continues to account for the great majority of infections. Addressing this crisis requires a multisectoral approach that takes these varied factors into account.

8. CARICOM countries support the report’s conclusion that prevention is the central pillar of action against HIV/AIDS. More has to be done to educate and equip people to protect themselves and others. At the same time, given the magnitude of the crisis, it is clear that urgent attention must also be paid to treatment and care and other forms of support for those affected, including orphans.

III The Caribbean experience and response: PANCAP

Mr. Chairman,

9. With HIV prevalence in the Caribbean being the second highest in the world, after [sub-Saharan] Africa, the Governments of the Caribbean Community are acutely aware of the dire consequences that can ensue from the pandemic, not only for development prospects in the Region, but for the very survival of our societies. Five CARICOM countries were listed among the 48 countries with high adult HIV prevalence – i.e. in excess of 1.9 per cent. Nearly 400,000 persons are said to be living with HIV in the Caribbean and AIDS is the leading cause of death in the Region. The high incidence of HIV/AIDS compounds the vulnerability faced by our countries, which is attributable to economic, social and environmental factors.

10. Among specific areas of concern are the dramatic and constant increase of HIV/AIDS among Caribbean women and the concomitant increase in children born with the disease; the impact on the labour force and on strategic sectors; and longer-term impact on productivity, GDP and other aspects of socio-economic development.

11. Mindful of the undesirable portents of the presence of HIV/AIDS in the Region, our Governments have taken a number of steps, both nationally and regionally, to halt and reverse the spread of this scourge.

12. At the national level, CARICOM Governments have launched aggressive campaigns to attempt to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. These efforts have entailed massive expenditures of scarce resources on prevention, care and treatment programmes, while at the same time the pandemic continues to sap the productive capacity of our workforces, and place a strain on social infrastructure.

13. The primary regional instrument in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP). The Partnership, established in 2001 groups the countries of the Caribbean Community, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, together with several regional and international agencies and representatives of civil society, altogether more than 70 partners.

14. PANCAP’s overarching goal is to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS and to reduce sharply the impact of AIDS on human suffering and on the development of the human , social and economic capital of the Region. It confronts the HIV/AIDS challenge through actions in seven priority areas, namely: advocacy, policy development and legislation; care, treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS; prevention of HIV transmission, with focus in young people; prevention of HIV transmission among especially vulnerable groups; prevention of mother-to-child transmissions, strengthening of national and regional capacity for analysis, programme design, implementation of management and evaluation; and resource mobilisation.

15. CARICOM Governments welcome the assistance that has recently been provided to PANCAP by the international community and international institutions, as we seek to turn the tide against the pandemic and counter the threat it poses to our continued social and economic development. CARICOM is also encouraged by the recognition accorded to the Partnership as an example of best practice in tackling the AIDS epidemic.

IV Towards a scaled up global response

Mr. Chairman,

16. The global dimensions of the pandemic and its impact, both actual and potential, point to the need for an urgent scaling up of action at all levels – national, regional and global – to arrest and reverse its spread. CARICOM countries call in the first instance for a stronger accent on prevention in efforts to contain the further spread of the epidemic.

17. Secondly, it must also be a matter of major concern that the resources currently donated to the fight against HIV/AIDS amounts to just 30 per cent of estimated requirements. As the Secretary-General notes in his report to the General Assembly entitled, “In larger freedom: towards, development, security and human rights for all” (A/59/2005), “the overall international response to evolving pandemics has been shockingly slow and remains shamefully under resourced.” We urge full funding of the 3 by 5 initiative and a rapid and substantial increase of resources for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

18. Thirdly, access to affordable care and treatment must be an integral part of the global response to HIV/AIDS. CARICOM Member States welcome initiatives that have been taken to reduce the cost of drugs. Current price levels are nevertheless beyond the reach of most victims of the disease in developing countries. We urge that priority be afforded at the global level to ensuring full access for people living with HIV/AIDS to necessary treatment, care and support.

19. Fourthly, we consider that international support to South-South cooperation in addressing the challenge posed by HIV/AIDS to development and poverty eradication could have a multiplier effect in tackling the epidemic, including by fostering more cost-effective modes of cooperation and the sharing of experiences and best practices.

20. Last but not least, CARICOM countries are strongly of the view that the advancement of women is critical and central to the successful pursuit of sustainable development and for addressing the AIDS crisis in particular. We call for special attention to the particular needs of women and girls, including with respect to reproductive health.

21. The June 2005 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS provides an important opportunity to further define an international response commensurate with the scale and urgency of the crisis. We expect the September summit on the Millennium Declaration follow-up to take bold decisions in this regard

V Conclusion

Mr. Chairman,

22. In conclusion, I wish to observe that CARICOM countries are convinced that the fight against HIV/AIDS is one that can be won through concerted and sustained action on all fronts.

23. We look forward to working in a constructive manner, under your wise leadership, towards a positive outcome on this and other issues before the Commission.

24. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.