Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 14, 2015 (SKNIS): While the persistent message transmitted by the National AIDS Secretariat during the Christmas and Carnival season has always been for revelers to exercise responsible sexual behavior, another message of creative partnerships is also being dispersed.
National AIDS Programme Coordinator, Gardenia Destang-Richardson, has said that while the secretariat continues its role of coordinating the programme, there will always be the consistent and persistant need for funding which cannot be carried solely by government. She also noted that the funding from the international community is not as abundant as it once was.
“Of course we can’t rely solely on government; we still need to have that private sector support; whether it’s technical or financial assistance, we can’t do it alone,” she said. “HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections, that’s just one area that Health has to deal with, you are seeing a lot of Non-Communicable Diseases [NCDs] which seem to be continuing every year. So the Ministry of Health in itself is not a ministry that makes any money; we don’t generate it.”
Several reasons were given as to why international funding was less abundant, including the fact that the HIV “infection rate has stabilized with an average of 12 to 15 new cases of HIV confirmed over the past five years,” as stated by Minister of State responsible for Health, Honourable Wendy Phipps during her World AIDS Day message. This achievement, according to Mrs. Destang-Richardson results in funding being diverted to other parts of the world.
“You’re [countries of the Caribbean, including St. Kitts and Nevis,] doing so well, your burden of diseases is somewhat under the control, not as dramatic or drastic as some of the other parts of the world,” she said, noting that the focus then is to channel some of the resources to other parts of the world.
“Additionally, our countries, not only in terms of the burden of disease, but many of our islands are doing very well in terms of finances and Gross Domestic Produce (GDP), we are now being considered high income or middle income countries and so we don’t qualify for funding,” she said, identifying that St. Kitts and Nevis, specifically, is now categorized as a Middle Income country and also has a low burden of disease relative to its small population.
The National AIDS Programme Cordinator explained the result of these ratings.
“It does not mean that we are not getting funding, but that we are getting reduced funding – we are not getting the same amount that we used to,” she explained, stating that the onus is now on local programmes, local governments, to put in some funding towards their national responses.
Mrs. Destang-Richardson noted that the internal (governmental) funding process has begun, for she had begun the process of identifying the needs of the Secretariat over in the next five years for submission to the ministry. However, she did reiterate the importance of private sector involvement.
“So we really need to have some sort of support from the private sector,” she said. “And this can be done in a number of ways, such as setting up foundations,” she said. You don’t necessarily have to have a lumpsum of money, but with a foundation you can do charitable events. Somebody can take the initiative and say I think this is a worthy cause, I’m going to work towards it. And the elimination of AIDS is a worthy thing. We would really like to see the back of AIDS – I personally would like to see the back of AIDS. It calls for all hands on deck, an all-inclusive partnership, not just the government.”
In addition to undertaking the National Testing Day exercise on December 11, during the Christmas and Carnival Season the Health Educators from the National AIDS Secretariat will be seen at certain points along the ‘jamming’ and parade routes distributing HIV/AIDS literature as well as male and female condoms.