Findings of UNGASS Indicators: A summary
In 2009, a total number of 2,100 people were living with HIV in Barbados and the adult HIV prevalence was 1.4%. UNAIDS estimated that there were for every 170 males, 100 females living with HIV. The country reported on 12 out of the 23 relevant UNGASS indicators which represents 52% completeness. The NASA submission shows that in 2008, USD 11 million was spent on AIDS with 63% of this amount coming from domestic sources but no distribution of funds by strategy was reported. In terms of policy, issues remain with laws prohibiting same sex relations and solicitation. Based on new WHO standards, the ART coverage (804/903) is 89% and TB/HIV cases are 100% treated. The PMTCT coverage rate is above 95% and care for orphans is 100% secured and all attend school. Life-skills HIV education is provided in 85% of the schools. Only 50% of young people know the sexual transmission prevention means and reject misconceptions, and 20% of them have had sex before the age of 15. Quality of care is high with 94% of PLHIV on ART 12 months after initiation of therapy. There is a serious lack of behavioural information among MARPs in Barbados. This shortcoming is not helping with the use of evidence to make decisions.
Key Issues Requiring Focus
- Sustain blood safety measures, provision of quality ART and PMTCT services.
- Focus national attention on the generation, analysis and use of strategic information among men who have sex with men and sex workers. There is a lack of strategic information among these vulnerable populations which needs urgent correction.
- Include key populations in the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions i.e. men who have sex with men, male and female sex workers and young people.
- Remove discriminatory and punitive laws regarding same sex relationships and sex work.
- Strengthen and expand national prevention programmes to reach out to the most vulnerable populations.
Chair, National HIV/AIDS Commission
In the past few years, our country has produced some notable successes with our HIV programmes. Our treatment access numbers have set a strong example for other countries throughout the Caribbean and the world. But there is a long way to go if we are to meet the critical Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations— all eight of which are affected by the prevalence of HIV in our community.
The deadline to reach those goals is 2015. To meet it, we must both focus on the populations in Barbados who are most at risk, and we must eradicate the stigma of AIDS that is so detrimental, yet so unfortunately prevalent, in our culture. Although some work is ongoing in these areas, much more still needs to be done to reach our goals.
First, HIV infection rates in our country continue to climb at an unacceptable rate. Before this trend spins out of control, we must focus on the groups who are most-at-risk of contracting
HIV as we develop policies and funding for our AIDS programmes in collaboration with our partners. To halt the spread of HIV, we must focus on those groups which are most-at-risk to make our programmes as effective as they must be.
Second, we must eradicate the discrimination and stigma of being HIV positive. As there is a central AIDS treatment site in Barbados, many who have HIV are reluctant to seek treatment, for fear of being recognised and discriminated against. This means risky behaviour often continues, perhaps spreads, and that those who require help do not receive it merely because they are too afraid to seek it out.
Leaders in the community, including those in the faith-based community, should re-double their efforts to help our society eliminate discriminatory thoughts and feelings about those living with HIV and most-at-risk populations. Our leaders must continue their role modelling. But now, we must also ask them to step in with a bolder message of acceptance and understanding of HIV as it exists in Barbados. It is spreading into more and more of our communities. This means that we must make greater efforts and use more effective strategies very quickly if we are to stop its momentum. And putting an end to intolerance by educating our communities about the realities of HIV is a necessary start.
If the government and people of Barbados work together in these ways to both focus on and eradicate AIDS, we can make the necessary changes to meet our deadline for the MDGs, and to make Barbados a stronger and healthier place to live.