(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) In what could only be described as a most memorable opening, the 13th Annual General Meeting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) got underway in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, last evening 3 November 2014, under the chairmanship of PANCAP Coordinating Unit Director, Dereck Springer .
Speakers from Guadeloupe, international development partners and global leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS were all united in their call for continued cooperation and collaboration, as the region works towards an ‘AIDS-free Caribbean.’
Keynote Speaker for the evening, United States Ambassador at Large and Global AIDS, Dr. Deborah Birx, told the more than 100 invitees, “history will judge us”, …people will ask us, did together we seize this moment”?
The Ambassador alluded to the “dark cloud of stigma and discrimination,” which still remained, but said “it warms her heart” to see this (stigma and discrimination] as an important item on the meeting’s agenda”.
“Although we are still losing a significant number in this region to HIV and AIDS, there is incredible hope and incredible possibility”, she noted.
Continuing on the issue of stigma and discrimination, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, emphasised the need for the Justice for All programme in order to tackle this burning issue.
Mr Christian Delavaquerie, General Director of the University Hospital, Guadeloupe in his welcome reminded the meeting that “alone, one can achieve nothing,” and wished the participants a meeting, “rich in projects.”
Dr Jacques Bangou, Mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre who gave a short welcome on behalf of the city, said, “we [the Caribbean] are now more united and working together across the region.” He added, “it is always the neediest populations who suffer” from lack of access to health services, and hopes the Partnership will continue to address this.
During her remarks, Mme Thérèse Marianne Pépin, President of the Committee for Cooperation, Regional Council of Guadeloupe, reminded the group that there is efficiency when there is a joint response and the exchange of best practices.
According to the representative of Mme Marcelle Pierrot, Préfète of the region of Guadeloupe, who delivered remarks on her behalf, HIV is an essential issue and France is very proud to have PANCAP in Guadeloupe.
Kofi Annan of the Kofi Annan Foundation in a video message, expressed his regret at not being able to attend, but encouraged the meeting to continue its work towards ending HIV in the region.
The evening was also one of recognition for the tireless fight to reverse the spread of HIV in the Caribbean and to eliminate the sub-epidemic of stigma and discrimination.
Dr Marie-Thérèse Georger-Sow, a driving force behind the HIV response in Guadeloupe for many years, who also gave a brief welcome on behalf of the Interreg Caraibes Project and the Centre Hospital of Guadeloupe, was presented with a special award from PANCAP for her years of untiring work in the fight against HIV.
This year, PANCAP Awards were conferred on Mrs Julie Frampton and Dr Gerardus van Osch for their dedication and commitment to the HIV response.
Valerie Wilson, Executive Director of the Med Labs Foundation who gave the Vote of Thanks brought the curtain down on an evening which, though profound and sober, was unforgettably punctuated with enchanting performances by the youth performance group Company K13DKA, that were rich in the celebration of Guadeloupian culture and messages of humanity and equality.
The 13th annual general meeting of the Partnership ends on 5th November 2014 and is expected to come up with important decisions on positioning the Partnership post-2015.
The Annual General Meeting is the highest decision-making organ of PANCAP and is the principal forum of expression for its broad membership of 62 formal partners.
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Kofi Annan Video can be seen here: http://youtu.be/FJBaUjjVdVU