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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 1, CMC –The Caribbean Saturday joined the rest of the global community in observing World AIDS Day indicating that while there had been a drastic decline in the number of new infections, the region should not relax its efforts in dealing with the deadly virus. Caribbean countries were observing the day with a number of activities and a report by UNAIDS notes that the number of children born with the virus declined significantly in the Caribbean during the period 2009 and 2011. The report noted that the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa, also recorded the highest decline in AIDS-related deaths of any region between 2005 and 2011. The number of children born with the deadly HIV declined significantly in the Caribbean during the period 2009 and 2011, according to the 2012 global report by UNAIDS. In his message to mark the occasion, St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, who has lead responsibility for health in the quasi Caribbean Community (CARICOM) cabinet, said that there is no doubt that significant inroads have been made to reverse the spread of AIDS throughout the world. “The Caribbean has made many advances. Indeed the UNAIDS report for 2012, singles out this region as having the sharpest declines in number of new HIV infections since 2001 with a drop of more than 42 per cent. “There are other positive indicators evidenced by the increased numbers of our people receiving treatment, reduced number of people dying from AIDS and greater investments on the part of our governments in both treatment and prevention, among others,” Dr. Douglas said. He said in this regard, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) embracing governments, civil society, regional and international partners, networks of people living with HIV and vulnerable communities, must be commended for its leadership role. “But it is still a long walk to zero – possible though it is a walk, to which PANCAP is committed. As I recall, it was at a UNAIDS/PANCAP Advocacy Forum in 2005, when partners in developing their advocacy strategy, envisioned a Caribbean without AIDS. “A Caribbean without AIDS is possible, but the PANCAP agenda must be reshaped by human rights to reduce stigma and discrimination taking centre stage. Sustainable social development and equity for all require increased community and political engagement, Hence, there is much more to be done in getting to zero,” he added. Executive Director of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS, (CBMP) Dr. Allyson Leacock said while the UNAIDS Global Report 2012 shows signs of progress in the HIV epidemic, “we should not see this as a time for relaxing our efforts. “In fact, as we struggle for more financial resources for sustainability and counter the AIDS fatigue that is so evident in the malaise to many AIDS programmes, initiatives such as ours are even more important to be sustained.” She said that adult HIV prevalence in the Caribbean remains higher than in any other world region outside of sub-Saharan Africa. “We still have people to reach and work to do. We know we have to sustain our training efforts with our colleague reporters, producers and editors to enhance our coverage of this complex epidemic so media coverage is always accurate and effective,” she said of the CBMP that groups 112 television and radio broadcasters in 24 countries. Leacock said that a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean must include well-coordinated media campaigns as well as on-the-ground programmes. In their message, a dozen Caribbean civil society organizations (CSO) that met recently in Jamaica said there was a need to regroup in the face of the changing tide of the HIV epidemic and its attendant change in available resources for the Caribbean. “Ultimately, it was the disturbing emergence of increasing inequality these actions bring that threatens to erode all the developmental gains these HIV advocates have worked so hard to address as foot soldiers in these multiple struggles with the epidemic in the region. “HIV exposes the reality that no matter how high we raise the tide in our societies, ignoring inequality will erode the gains of development for everyone and create insecurity in our nations,” the CSO’s said, adding in rising to meet that challenge, we hold on to the core belief that the role of governance, public policy and civil society organisations are to make the Caribbean a better, more liveable place, that we must leave it a better place for our children”.