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Contact: Julita Peter

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - The Government of St. Lucia continues to invest substantial sums of money to ensure that persons living with HIV and AIDS and their affected families are provided with the best support.

Last week, a EC$21.1 million St. Lucia HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project was launched at the Sandals Grande Resort, brining together representatives from the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, and secondary schools.

The project is funded by the World Bank as part of its support to Caribbean countries under the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS.

Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Kenny Anthony, Chairman of the National Council for HIV/AIDS revealed that the economy had lost some EC$200 million to AIDS, since its detection in the mid 80’s. He said the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project would provide support to civil society organizations, the Ministry of Health, and underlying ministries to implement effective strategies over the next five years.

Dr Anthony said the project fitted squarely with the wider national health reform agenda, and would concentrate on activities at the community level: “The capacity building component includes the implementation of an integrated health information system liking the entire health services from each health centre, the investment in training each community health worker to deliver the necessary health services in the community, and the investment in the bureau of health promotion to ensure the implementation of an effective behavioural change strategy”.

Dr. Anthony said he was looking forward to the day when St. Lucia can have draft legislation to deal with the issues of discrimination, to protect persons living with HIV.

The issue of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients is also a concern for Health Minister Hon. Damien Greaves. He said the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project must not only focus on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, but on fighting stigma and discrimination.

“The complex nature of the epidemic demands an appropriate response from ministries and institutions charged with the responsibility to manage key economic sectors. Therefore, all non-health ministries must take responsibility for the protection of their employees and their clients from the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS. We look forward to our brother and sister ministries and other civil society organizations developing and strengthening their responses, as we mount a coordinated and offensive against the insidious and formidable foe”, Minister Greaves said.

The health minister said the HIV/AIDS epidemic did not only affect the country’s health system, but also its economic development.

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