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Government of Saint Lucia

 Address by Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy on the occasion of Red Cross / Red Crescent Day 2002

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another year has passed and St.Lucia joins with the rest of the world in observing Red Cross Red Crescent Day. We should be familiar by now with the fundamental principles which govern the international Movement : the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and universality: principles which have guided our own National Society, the St.Lucia Red Cross throughout its fifty-two years of service to the country. The International Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, continues today, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found, to protect life and health, and to ensure respect for the human being. Evidence of this essential humanity is seen on our television screens, all too frequently.

Here in the Caribbean, we have grown to associate the Red Cross mainly with disaster relief, since thankfully we have been spared the ravages of war and civil conflict. But the Red Cross has constantly been reviewing its mandate and adjusting it to fit particular international and national circumstances. Therefore at the International Federation’s General Assembly in 1999, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies adopted Strategy 2010, with health and care in the community identified as one of the four core areas of intervention. In that regard, they set themselves the task of enabling communities to reduce vulnerability to disease, to caring for their people and to preparing for and responding to public health crises.

And what greater public health crisis do we now face than that of HIV/AIDS? It is projected that HIV/AIDS will kill more people this decade than all the wars and disasters in the past 50 years. Indeed, since the AIDS epidemic began, 25 million people have died and more than 40 million are now living with the disease. While it is ultimately the responsibility of governments to ensure that their health and welfare systems are capable of meeting the needs of their populations, the Red Cross, with its network of volunteers working in the community, can play a complementary role and make a significant difference to the health of vulnerable people. “To improve the life of vulnerable people through mobilizing the power of humanity”. This is the challenge that Red Cross Societies have set themselves, and it is that commitment that lies at the heart of their Global Campaign against HIV/AIDS which is being launched today, May 8th , World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, under the theme “The truth about AIDS - Pass it On”. The truth , that is, not the AIDS.

The campaign, spearheaded globally and managed and implemented nationally, will work to change perceptions, attitudes, policies and behaviour in order to :

• ensure that those who are already HIV positive or have AIDS are able to receive the appropriate care, have access to affordable drugs and can live full and useful lives within their communities; and to

• prevent a further spread of the infection and increase individuals’ willingness to be tested, to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have indeed very good reason here at home to support the St.Lucia Red Cross in ensuring the successful implementation of that campaign, for the HIV/AIDS

epidemic is particularly severe in the Caribbean, with the region being the second most-affected region in the world. This is hardly the type of reputation we want to market, particularly when we recognize the debilitating economic and social consequences of this epidemic: that is, a decimated workforce, impoverished and broken communities, lots of orphans. We are all heartened by the heightened profile which AIDS prevention and treatment is now enjoying, and by the many organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, which have now joined the fight against the

deadly disease. The involvement of the youth, who unfortunately are the most vulnerable, is particularly welcomed. I would like to call on all these groups and organizations to join with the St.Lucia Red Cross and take advantage of its volunteer network, its extensive experience in community-based first-aid programmes, its proven capacity in emergency situations, and its humanitarian approach. Together we can all make a difference ; we can find negotiated solutions to the concerns of those living with HIV/AIDS.

The Global Campaign to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination is a challenge to the St.Lucia Red Cross, as it is no doubt for other National Societies all over the world. I commend the administrators and the volunteers of our Red Cross for the work they continue to do among the more vulnerable members of the society, and call on them to work vigourously at this new face of their mandate here: a potential public health crisis which threatens to destroy all the gains we have made in our building of a viable society. The work that needs to be done demands consistency and perseverance. It is for this reason that I urge the members of the Red Cross and all other organizations to take up the suggestion of the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to consider using the 8th of every month as a focus day for the campaign and action to help limit the spread of the epidemic, and to provide support and care to the people in our communities who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Collectively, we can and must act NOW to make a real difference in people’s lives.

I thank you.

May 8, 2002


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