Dr. Douglas praises local, regional and global players in end of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in St. Kitts and Nevis

By:Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 18th 2017 – former St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has paid glowing tribute to past and current Caribbean prime ministers and ministers of health, former Barbados prime minister Owen Arthur, former United States president Bill Clinton, ex UN Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean, Dr. Edward Greene; and local officials for the important role they played in helping St. Kitts and Nevis achieve the end of mother-to-child transmission with respect to HIV/AIDS.

File photo of former United States President Bill Clinton (left) and then Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas

Setting the record straight, Dr. Douglas, who also served as lead spokesman in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet with responsibility for Human Resources, Health and HIV/AIDS, for 20 years and as chair of the PAN-Caribbean Partnership for HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), detailed several instances of the roles of the individuals following statements from the Office of Prime Minister Dr. Harris which gave the impression that the mother-to-child transmission programme began when he took office and became the lead Caricom spokesman for HIV/AIDS and failed to recognise the important role of others in the achievement.

“We welcome the recent announcement that St. Kitts and Nevis has become the first English speaking nation in this region to end mother-to-child transmission with respect to HIV/AIDS and this is laudable. It did not begin in mid-February 2015,” said Dr. Douglas during his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader” on Kyss 102.5 FM.

Dr. Douglas noted that in 2014, Cuba became the first country in the world to receive official WHO validation that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

He further noted that to reduce mother-to-child transmission of these diseases to a minimum, the PAHO initiative proposed universal screening of all pregnant women, a policy that every country in the Region and the world has adopted for the diagnosis of HIV and syphilis though not yet for Chagas disease and hepatitis B.

“The successful elimination of the mother to child transmission of HIV/ADS belongs not only to the support of the regional and international entities but also the personnel in the Ministry of Health, national organisations and institutions in St. Kitts and Nevis, the region and globally,” said Dr. Douglas.

He thanked those in the Timothy Harris administration for continuing the programme and paid tribute to the role played by former health ministers in his four-term administration – Mr. Rupert Herbert, Dr. Earl Asim Martin and Hon. Marcella Liburd.

Other health specialists who worked tremendously hard include Dr. Kathleen Allen-Ferdinand, who led a spirited campaign working with families to ensure that the counsel was up to date with the national mandate that was given via the global commitment; former Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Martin; Mrs. Gardenia D’Estang-Richardson; Dr. Judy Nisbett and Mrs. Nadine Carty-Caines of Nevis and former permanent secretary, the late Elvis Newton.

“I commend the community nurses, at the various health centers, those who were present, those who were careful and diligent in ensuring that the programmes that we pursued, especially in the antenatal clinics that we were able to ensure that the transfer of the virus from a mother to an innocent child at birth would not continue and thus be brought to an end in our country as one of the leaders around the world,” said Dr. Douglas who also remembered those who worked closely with him in the regional and international communities.

“I think especially of Dr. Edward Greene and those who worked with him at the CARICOM Secretariat in the special unit that led the programme. I want to thank president Bill Clinton for embracing the initiative when I first approached him in Barcelona Spain and asked him to assist us here in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I also thank all those at CARICOM, all present and former Heads of Government, including former prime minister Owen Arthur of Barbados; present and former ministers of health and all those who assisted and worked diligently so that St. Kitts and Nevis can be proud to say we in St. Kitts and Nevis can say have eliminated the transmission of the HIV virus from mothers to innocent children,” said Dr. Douglas.

He recalled the 4th annual General Meeting of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) in Barbados at which the PANCAP as a concept, was promoted by then Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Hon. Owen Arthur at the first ever Regional Meeting on HIV/AIDS in September 2000.

Dr. Douglas also mentioned the signing of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Initiative on behalf of CARICOM, the Special Session on HIV/AIDS in New York at the United Nations in June 2001; the July 2002 XIV International HIV/AIDS Conference in Barcelona and his hosting of President Bill Clinton who had accepted his invitation to visit St. Kitts and Nevis in 2003.

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