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Last updated: 02 March, 2011 - Published 13:57 GMT
 
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HIV/AIDS is 'impending national disaster'
 
HIV/AIDS ribbon
Ministers say the issue is no longer just about health
HIV/AIDS has reached a level where it is being treated as a national disaster in the region, according to ministers attending the UK Caribbean Forum in London.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister for Barbados, Dame Billie Miller, described the disease as an urgent matter for the whole of the Caribbean.

"We actually can see with the naked eye the way this disease is literally taking its toll on the productive sectors of our economy so it does not only attack in the reproductive process but the productive process as well."

"We actually see it no longer as an exclusively health issue in the Caribbean. We treat it as a development issue all over the islands... we are treating this like we treat an impending national disaster and that is how we see it," Dame Miller said.

St. Lucia's strategy

Her comments came as a World Bank mission held the final round of talks in St. Lucia to fine-tune a strategic plan to fight HIV/Aids on the island.

The initiative aims to achieve a 30% reduction in transmission over a five-year period.

Discussions on the issue will continue in Washington, after which the multi-million dollar plan is expected to be approved and implemented.

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Fidelis Williams said with reported cases on the island currently at more than 400 and rising, it is vital to reduce current transmission rates.

"If it does get in the general population it becomes a development issue. It means you will not have the labour force and the intellectual capital to develop," Mr Williams said.

The World Bank, will donate EC$20 million to finance the anti-AIDS plan.

Mary Mulusa, the World Bank’s Senior Public Health Specialist for the Caribbean and Latin America believes the 30% reduction target is not unrealistic.

"You will establish certain targets, you are not sure that you are going to reach those targets... a lot of it is speculation on our part, but the important thing is to look to make a difference," Ms Mulusa said.

The plan is due to be fully implemented by the end of October.

 
 
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