US marks 20th anniversary of PEPFAR aid to the Caribbean

By Hanan Redwan Published on January 29, 2023
US marks 20th anniversary of PEPFAR aid to the Caribbean

The United States on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the Caribbean and other places.

The US Department of State has listed a number of Caribbean countries among PEPFAR-supported countries and regions.

They comprise the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken in a statement noted that 20 years ago, then President George W Bush announced the creation of PEPFAR.

Since that historic announcement, Blinken said “the people of the United States provided more than US$100 billion to save more than 25 million lives and contributed to the resilient public and community health systems for today and the future.”

“Working with partner governments, multilateral and regional institutions, people living with HIV/AIDS, NGOs [non-governmental organisations], and other stakeholders, we are confident that we can continue that progress and eliminate HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” he added.

“With bipartisan support from the US Congress and the generosity of the American people, PEPFAR has provided over 20.1 million people with life-saving HIV treatment in over 55 countries,” Blinken said. “These efforts have built, and continue to build, a stronger health infrastructure in many countries, improving health security and responses to other health crises such as COVID-19, mpox and Ebola.”

But Blinken said that progress in ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot easily be reversed without “focused, sustained and equitable action.”

“We cannot achieve our goal to end HIV/AIDS as a global health threat if we deny people’s rights or if we allow stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS or those who are most vulnerable to acquiring HIV,” he said. “As President Biden declared on World AIDS Day 2022, ‘we finally have the scientific understanding, treatments and tools to build an AIDS-free future where everyone – no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love – can get the care and respect they deserve.’”

Noting that “Our administration is committed to ensuring all LGBTQI+ individuals are treated with dignity and respect, closing pernicious gender gaps and ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” Blinken expressed that it is “incumbent upon us to maintain progress, follow the science, and address disparities and inequitable access to achieve our According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Caribbean has the highest incidence rate of reported AIDS cases in the Americas.”

With between 350,000 and 590,000 Caribbean people living with HIV/AIDS, UNFPA said the region has an adult HIV prevalence rate between 1.9 per cent and 3.1 per cent, second only to Africa (7.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent).

“As a whole, the Caribbean is facing a generalised epidemic…HIV/AIDS is well entrenched here, with a national prevalence of at least one per cent in 12 countries, all of them in the Caribbean Basin,” UNFPA said.

Hanan Redwan

Hanan Redwan

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