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World Bank committed to helping region tackle HIV/AIDS

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Contact: Julita Peter

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 - The World Bank has assured Caribbean leaders of its commitment to supporting the region in tackling HIV/AIDS, a major health and development challenge. The St. Lucia HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control project, has received World Bank funding of EC$21.1 million.

Speaking at the recent launch of the St. Lucia HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control project, representative of the World Bank, Mary Melusa, said until the current trend of HIV/AIDS was reversed, the World Bank’s vision for a world free of poverty would never become a reality.

According to Ms. Melusa, HIV/AIDS is a growing impediment to development and poverty alleviation in many countries. She added that the disease placed a burden on health care systems, competing for scarce resources needed for other productive investments. Recent estimates suggest that there are 440,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. Over 80,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS.

“The highest number of people living with HIV in the Caribbean is in the most productive age group from 15-49 years. These are today’s and tomorrow parents and labour force. When they become infected with the virus the consequences are more children without parents, classrooms without teachers, farms without workers, and hospitals without doctors and nurses,” she said, adding, “just as we mobilise for natural disaster, such as a hurricane, we must also mobilize for the battle against HIV/AIDS, a battle for the Caribbean‘s future and that of its children.”

“In 2001, the World Bank approved 155 million dollars for the Caribbean multi-country HIV/AIDS program, and since 1986, has committed over 2 billion dollars to HIV/AIDS related projects worldwide”, Ms. Melusa informed.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Mr. Fedalis Williams said the World Bank funded St. Lucia HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project also had other benefits for the overall health system. He added that the funds would make it possible for all social partners to intervene collaboratively in combating the pandemic.

“The structures which we strengthen, made possible from these resources will also enable us to intervene more decisively in the fight against other lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, the non-communicable ones. The experience we gather and the skills we develop from this project in the area of behavioural change are also applicable in the fight against other diseases,” Mr. Williams said.

However, Mr. Williams lamented that efforts towards the battle against HIV/AIDS continued to be hampered by issues of ignorance, stigma, discrimination, miss information and a lack of confidentiality.


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