In 2001, Prime Minister Owen Arthur signaled the high priority he placed on the HIV/AIDS fight by assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of the national HIV/AIDS programme. The Prime Minister has kept the fight on the national agenda by setting up a National HIV/AIDS Commission to advise on policy and co-ordinate the national programme to deal with this disease. At the last National Public/Private Sector Consultation in October, Arthur called on the private sector and civil society to step up their efforts so that there could be “full national participation” in the response to the deadly disease.
He stressed that HIV/AIDS mitigation had become primarily a state-sponsored programme, but its impact was felt across every industry – therefore the fight had to extend beyond the public sector. Arthur said prevention had to be promoted as a “public good”, and therefore financed as such. The Prime Minister said he supported the business coalition model, but called for more civil society coalitions and other mechanisms to be employed in the fight.
Source: Nation Newspaper
In 2001, when Prime Minister Arthur assumed responsibility for the fight against HIV/AIDS, BU had mixed feelings. We felt a sense of satisfaction that this disease, which has the potential to destroy our small country would be targeted with all the necessary resources to ensure its spread was limited. On the other hand, we had a sneaky suspicion that the busy agenda of our Prime Minister might short-change the effort required to lead a successful campaign to mitigate the spread of AIDS/HIV. The National HIV/AIDS Commission was established under the Chairperson of the eminent Dr. Carol Jacobs. When the commission was formed, we had high hopes for its work in helping the epidemic. This was based on the expertise of the people assigned to the commission, and their professional access to the resources that would be required to start the battle against the lifestyle change, in a society that has developed a reputation of being very promiscuous.
Imagine our horror when we read the BACK page of the Sunday Sun of 23 September 2007, with the headline “Unsafe Sex”. The article quoted a leading sexually transmitted infections (STI) specialist, Dr. Vijaya Thani as saying, “Barbados maybe losing the battle against the spread of sexually transmitted infections among the youth.” Before we examine what the doctor had to say, it is important that we establish the credibility of Dr. Thani as someone authorized to speak on the subject of AIDS/HIV and its related issues.
It was reported that the goodly doctor has been treating STIs for about 15 years. She has been involved with abstinence training programmes, working with the National HIV/AIDS Commission for 5 years, servicing about 30 primary schools where the target audience was children ranging from ages 9 to 11.