Rate of HIV/AIDS infection ‘too high’
BARBADOS MAY HAVE scored significant gains in the battle against HIV/AIDS by slashing deaths, but infection rates remain unacceptably high.
Just as worrisome, more women than men are coming down with the sexually transmitted disease – and a major contributing factor is that Bajans are simply not changing their sexual behaviour in any significant way in order to avoid infection, thus raising serious questions about the future.
That, in essence, was the picture Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Maxine McClean, painted at the United Nations in New York yesterday when she addressed the world body’s special summit on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the goals dealt with the lowering of HIV/AIDS infection rates and reducing the pace of non-communicable diseases.
She told diplomats and others from around the world that after spending millions on HIV/AIDS programmes, some of the funds coming from the World Bank, and after boosting the flow of information about the disease, far too many people in Barbados weren’t heeding the warnings about the spread of the disease.
“There has been an increase in knowledge, but no corresponding behavioural change,” was the way she put it.
“Infection rates remain unacceptable, raising questions about the sustainability of our treatment programmes. Ironically, our successes in this area have brought with them other difficulties. Our expenditures continue to rise, even though we are unable to access grant funding readily, given our categorization as a high/middle-income country.”
McClean, who is addressing the UN again next week during the General Assembly’s debate on global foreign policy issues, said Barbados had succeeded in significantly reducing deaths due to HIV/AIDS and in making mother-to-child transmission “almost something of the past”.
It was able to achieve that goal through a “high political commitment and our expanded multi-sectoral response strategy, with the assistance of the World Bank” which has “allowed persons living with HIV/AIDS universal success to treatment”.
She explained that Barbados had “redoubled” its efforts at prevention, “recognising that those most affected fall within the cohort of the population group 15-49, the bedrock of the labour force”.
A major challenge, she added, was the shift in the pattern of infection, meaning that “women are being infected at a faster rate than men”.