Saint Lucia Parliamentarians discuss justice for all to end AIDS epidemic 

Saint Lucia Parliamentarians discuss justice for all to end AIDS epidemic 

A group of Parliamentary Representatives from the Government St Lucia Labour Party and the Opposition, United Workers Party participated in a special session in the parliament on 27 November. The discussion focused on what can they do to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.  The point of reference for this engagement was the Justice for ALL road map of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS ( ( PANCAP)

In her presentation, Hon. Alvina Minister of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations underscored  that St Lucia has continued to make great progress and is one of seven Caribbean countries in line to be certified as having eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV . Over the past decade, the country has also witnessed, over 50 percent  access to affordable treatment, a marked reduction of over 60 percent of AIDS related deaths and an overall reduction in new infections by approximately 50 percent

D.r Edward Greene. UN Secretary General Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean appealed to Parliamentarians to adopt a bipartisan approach in support of the recommendations of the CARICOM Council of Human and Development in September 2015. They included the implementation of 8 elements of the Justice for All roadmap immediately and taking steps to implement 7 others between now and 2020. He made reference to the medium term targets that identified the enactment of legislation to eliminate stigma and discrimination at the workplace, hospitals, schools and communities and for the inclusion of HIV and AIDS as preexisting conditions for purposes of health insurance. He also highlighted the need for strengthening the application of those laws penalizing offenses involving domestic violence and sexual abuse, particularly of women, adolescents and children.

Parliamentarians recognized the value of priorities in Justice for All roadmap. They noted that strengthening the public health Act is an important prerequisite for leaving no one behind and thereby ending the AIDS epidemic. More specifically are the requirements of sustainable financing for getting people with HIV tested and treated; placing greater emphasis on education and awareness through enhancing age appropriate   sexual education for in and out of school youth and others. They also agreed on the necessity for respectful dialogue with stakeholders including the private sector, faith leaders and civil society on approaches to eliminate AIDS related  stigma and discrimination against vulnerable groups, especially men of have sex with men, sex workers and drug addicts. The group also pledged to lend their voices to the international lobby against the unfair practice of removing access to concessional support for countries like St Lucia, classified as middle/upper income countries.

Parliamentarians also agreed to use World AIDS day  December 1 to advocate for this year’s theme  “ending AIDS for sustainable development”  This reflected the call by Dr. Greene  “let us use this occasion to promote  a bipartisan  approach to Justice for All and  resolve to make the Caribbean the first region in the  World to end the AIDS epidemic” he said

Among those who participated in the discussions were Hon. Marcus Foster, Speaker  of the House,  , Hon Dr. Desmond Long Deputy Speaker, Hon. Dr. Robert Lewis, Minister of Education,  Human Resource Development and Labour, Hon. Lorne Theophilus,  Minister of  Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries , Senator, Hon Dr.  Stephen King Independent Senator,  Dr. Kentry Jn. Pierre ,  Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries, Hon. Dr.  Gale Rigobert, Leader of the Opposition, Hon Stephenson King, former Prime Minister, and Mr. Dereck Springer Director PANCAP Coordinating Unit.

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