EDITORIAL: Good news for local AIDS fight
THIRTY-FOUR YEARS AGO, doctors in United States identified the first case of what we now know as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. At that time, the health community and medical researchers had been baffled by the virus that causes the disease.
Since those gloomy early days there have been major achievements in fighting this new-age plague. The world has reached the stage where there is clear evidence that not only can HIV be controlled, but even eliminated amongst a segment of the population; our children.
So, the news reported in the WEEKEND NATION from Dr Ernest Massiah of UNAIDS Caribbean that Barbados may be the first country to reach this milestone is a really big deal and will be an achievement worth celebrating. Even if it is not the first country to have this grand distinction, simply getting there will be a joyous occasion.
While we appreciate that an end to AIDS may still be some years away, even a small curtailment in the spread of this life-taking disease can mean so much to all of us. The breakthrough against preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission could be the first step in helping to drastically contain this illness.
The fact that Barbados has had no HIV-positive babies for the six consecutive years is a big deal. It means this country is on track to meet the target set by world leaders to eliminate this type of HIV transmission by 2015. There is greater significance in realising this goal since it could help in successfully reaching other health objectives in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
It will also mean that we have more money and time to fight other aspects of the disease, such as ending discrimination, particularly against innocent children. As simple as it seems, we can now focus more on celebrating life and less on mourning.
But, there is a long and difficult road still ahead in overcoming the spread and the eventual elimination of HIV/AIDS which has become a pandemic. The issues of reckless sexual behaviour, stigma and even denial among those affected are still commonplace enemies against this scourge which has taken too many lives over the past three decades.
Thankfully, successive governments in Barbados have placed an emphasis on the fight against HIV/AIDS, while the health community and a range of community-based organisations have all played important roles in the fight against its spread.
Despite Barbados’ tough economic challenges over the past eight years, there has been no let-up on putting financial and human resources in this fight against HIV/AIDS. This emphasis must be continued if we are to maintain a quality public health system. After all, this is a sure guarantee to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation.