As we pause once again to remember all those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS within the Caribbean and around the world, we also renew our efforts to contribute to zero new infections; and ensure those living with HIV have access to treatment and live their lives to their full potential.
With support from USAID, CHAA has been implementing projects across the OECS since 2006 focused on reaching those most vulnerable to HIV infection with appropriate interventions that speak to their needs and challenges. The cornerstone of our efforts are peer outreach workers. In the last year alone they have reached over 5,428 of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society providing prevention support, referral to services, companionship, guidance and resources which helps them make safer choices in their sexual lives. Our peer outreach work has made an immeasurable contribution to the lives of many across the region who struggle to live a life free from stigma and discrimination due to either their sexual orientation, their work as sex workers or because they are living with HIV.
As CHAA, we are proud to be part of the collective efforts of all of the Governments, donor agencies, civil society organizations and activists that have contributed to reducing the prevalence of HIV in the OECS over the last 10 years. However, like in many parts of the world, the challenge is still to reach the key populations that continue to carry the highest burden of disease. “Getting to Zero” will require a stronger and concerted effort to tackle, respond to, and change the drivers of the epidemic in the Caribbean which still include stigma and discrimination, homophobia, prejudice, gender based violence, underemployment of women and poverty.
As we mark World AIDS Day 2013, we refocus and renew our efforts on increasing access and uptake of HIV testing and counseling. We are reaching many key populations who have never been tested before by taking services directly to them in bars, clubs and hotspots. CHAA has also been able to provide key populations with access to SRH and social development services, support responses which address vulnerabilities that contribute to increased risk of HIV infection, and promote self-efficacy as a central part of the continuum of care cascade.
Changing behaviours, changing attitudes!
Today we remember all those who living with HIV and AIDS and pledge to continue to focus our efforts on preventing new infections.