PANCAP Champions for Change initiative relaunched

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Addressing the HIV epidemic

… First Lady honoured as a champion

The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) on Tuesday formally relaunched the Champions for Change programme to strengthen the Caribbean’s response towards tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In the Caribbean there were 285,900 people living with HIV in 2015, which represented a decline from the 333,400 in 2010.
The PANCAP Champions for Change was initiated in 2004 and convened in St Kitts and Nevis. It seeks to bring together stakeholders from all sections of society to focus on significantly eliminating stigma and discrimination. However, since 2008, the Champions for Change initiative became inactive and PANCAP reactivated it on Tuesday at the Georgetown Marriott Hotel.
Speaking at the relaunch, Education Minister Nicolette Henry pledged Guyana’s support towards ending the HIV epidemic nationally and regionally. Minister Henry noted that stigma and discrimination have devastating effects on the lives of people living with HIV and those closest to them.
“Stigma and discrimination have a devastating effect on the lives of people living with HIV and those closest to them. It also in a large way undermines our effort to tackle the epidemic, people are afraid to test for HIV, to disclose their status or to access treatment, care and support,” the Minister added.
She further stated that the rapid scaling up of access to HIV treatment across the Caribbean aids in the reduction of deaths and increases the life expectancy of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron, in his feature address spoke about the judicial attitudes and HIV, and the positioning of the Judiciary to effectively contribute to ending AIDS by 2030. Sir Bryon noted that cases of HIV/AIDS have repeatedly engaged the courts. “They include challenges to decisions refusing them employment to persons living with HIV/Aids on the basis of their status and even complaints of discriminatory treatment by example officers of the court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Dr Douglas Slater, said Caricom remains committed towards addressing the fight against HIV/AIDS. He noted that the PANCAP Champions for Change model is an opportunity to tackle the barriers and challenges to end AIDS in the Caribbean.
“The elements of this goal, while aiming to end the epidemic of AIDS by 2030, places emphasis on integrated approach. It recognises that while deaths from AIDS have declined by approximately 60 per cent, since the establishment of PANCAP in 2002, more people with AIDS are dying from opportunistic infections and non-communicable diseases,” he informed.
“It also recognises that strengthening health systems, designing new integrated testing and treatment regiments and adopting the WHO/PAHO principle of Universal Health access are all important parts of the new paradigm for change for which PANCAP Champions must focus on,” Dr Slater added.
He noted that there are lessons to be learnt from the successes and challenges involved in the AIDS response by PANCAP over the years. He attributed the major successes due to a coordinated strategic plan of action, coordinated mechanism and provision for sustainable resource mobilisation.

Champions
The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS is a mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic. It was originally launched in 2004 but has been in a state of dormancy since 2008.
However, at the relaunch on Tuesday, First Lady Sandra Granger was named as one of the champions. She was recognised for outstanding leadership in championing of the every Caribbean woman, every Caribbean child initiative and stellar work in improving the lives of children and women in Guyana. The First Lady is a member of the Caribbean Community forum for First Ladies and spouses for heads of government, which focuses on reducing adolescent pregnancy, cervical cancer, mother to child transmission of HIV and domestic violence in the Caribbean.
Among those being honoured were former Culture, Youth and Sport Minister, Dr Frank Anthony. He was honoured for outstanding work in public health and demonstrated understanding of the critical role parliamentarians can play in ending AIDS.
The other honourees were Dr Allyson Leacock for outstanding leadership as director of Live Up, the Caribbean media alliance and championing the HIV response in the Caribbean; Joel Simpson for advocacy work against sexual orientation and discrimination in Guyana and regionally; Speaker of the National Assembly of Belize, Laura Tucker Longsworth; Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh; Nicolette Fernandes; Cannon Garth Minott; Kenita Placide; Lucien Govarrd; Dr Nigel Taylor; Dr Nikkiah Forbes; Volderine Hackett; and Reverend Winston Mansingh.
The 16 Champions for Change would be engaged in a training workshop that would assist them in addressing several challenges and formulate plans in dealing with HIV epidemic. The workshop concludes today.
PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional and civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which was established on February 14, 2001. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic.