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US$2.4M for persons affected by HIV/AIDS

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Thursday, January 27, 2005 - Director General of the OECS Secretariat Dr. Len Ishmael, said the secretariat was taking its responsibility very seriously, as principal recipient of a US$2.4 million grant to support persons infected with HIV/AIDS and affected families in member countries over the next two years.

Dr. Ishmael made the statement at a press briefing of the contents of an agreement signed one week ago. Also present was Chairman of the OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism, Dr. Douglas Slater.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS program has approved a grant of US$10.1 million over five years and the recently signed agreement represent phase one.

Pointing out that on a per capita basis, the Caribbean has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world, Dr. Ishmael said, “I think that is a stark reality for us. For small countries we just cannot afford to have an escalation of that rate, and everything must be done to reduce that substantively; these resources will particularly go forward in assisting us in our work to at least stabilize the rate of infection.”

The program is targeting a 50 % reduction in hospitalization for HIV patience and HIV/AIDS related deaths. It is hoped that transmission from HIV-infected mothers to their babies will be reduced from between 30 % to less than 10%.

Meanwhile Chairman of the OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM), which is the implementing agency for the project, said one of the main goals of the project would be to remove the barriers of discrimination and stigma that is meted out to infected patients. He said the allocated US$2.4 million also makes provision for new cases that may arise during the first phase of the project.

“The goal that we want to get is that those persons living with HIV infection or AIDS must be the primary beneficiary of this project. That is most important and not only those living but those affected, because you may have a situation where one person is infected and the whole family is affected. It will require an understanding and sensitivity by all”, Dr. Slater said.

The OECS governments have identified the fight against HIV/AIDS as critical to the sub region’s long term economic growth and human development. The governments have pledged to use the grant funds to provide care and support services to AIDS patients and their families.

One of the donor agencies is the Clinton Foundation, which has provided the services of Miss Berlinda Bailey, who will serve the RCM as project coordinator for a period of three months, by which time the full compliment of staff for the RCM would be in place.

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