[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Economic and Social Affairs]
Determined to find concrete solutions to overcome the spread of HIV, the United Nations over the weekend held the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Meeting on HIV in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The two-day meeting gathered some 100 government ministers, health and education experts, policy makers, NGOs and business representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean, to discuss the regional dimension, prospects and challenges of the HIV epidemic. Participants reviewed progress to combat the epidemic, identified gaps and pledged concrete actions to bridge the gaps.
They called for greater efforts on HIV and stessed the need for scaling-up prevention measures through education as well as strengthening investment to fight the epidemic.
“Donors and national governments must uphold their commitment to the struggle against AIDS. If not, millions of people will face devastating consequences”, said Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon on World AIDS Day last December.
While the prevalence of HIV infection has levelled off around the world, ensuring the most effective use of national and international resources is crucial to curb the spread of the epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Estimates by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) indicate that the Caribbean region is, after sub-Saharan Africa, the second most seriously affected area of the world. In Latin America, 1.7 million people were living with HIV in 2007. Moreover, stigma, discrimination, homophobia and violence against groups at high risk for HIV infection remain very high in the region, hindering greater accessibility to HIV prevention and treatment.
In his opening remarks, DESA's Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs Thomas Stelzer expressed concern about the lack of awareness and funding, adding that the stigma associated with the disease make the task of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) complex. Full text of Stelzer's remarks
Significant strides have been made in stabilizing the epidemic in many parts of the region in preventing mother-to-child- transmission of HIV, providing life-saving treatment, attracting international resources, and mobilizing the highest levels of political commitment. However, further efforts are needed to slow-down the expansion of the epidemic to achieve long-term, sustained success and meet the internationally agreed development goals.
Addressing the opening ceremony, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Sylvie Lucas said the event could play an important role in analyzing the gaps, challenges, and way forward in responding to HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. Full text of Lucas' remarks
The meeting is hosted by the Government of Jamaica and organized in cooperation with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and UNAIDS.
The regional meeting is in support of the 2009 Economic and Social Council’s Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) on global public health, to be held in Geneva in July.
The Jamaica meeting was opened by Jamaica’s Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer and Jamaica’s Minister of Education Andrew Hollness.
As part of the preparation for the July session of ECOSOC, an online lecture series on global public health, featuring articles by the Executive Heads of UN agencies is available on the ECOSOC web site.
Recently, Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS said that “We can no longer work on AIDS in isolation. Instead we must think of AIDS as an opportunity to leverage broader health and human development goals.” UN staff are invited to visit and read the postings on the ECOSOC online lecture series webpage.