The Fight Against HIV/AIDS Must Continue


The Caribbean region has made great strides in reducing new HIV/AIDS infections, according to the latest UNAIDS report – a dramatic reduction of 33 per cent between 2001 and 2012, and 52 per cent among children. There has been a steady decline from the high of 2005, mainly due to increased access to anti-retroviral drugs (now at an estimated 68 per cent in Jamaica). I was happy and honored to have been part of the contribution made by the U.S. Government towards this effort over the years. As a member of U.S. Embassy Kingston’s team, which included USAID, the U.S. Peace Corps and the U.S. State Department, I helped administer the Small Grants Program in Jamaica funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). So I was happy to read this recent press release from the U.S. Embassy. The link is at http://kingston.usembassy.gov/pe_28102014.html

U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater speaks to PEPFAR Small Grant recipients at the recent handover ceremony at the U.S. Embassy earlier this month. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)
U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater speaks to PEPFAR Small Grant recipients at the recent handover ceremony at the U.S. Embassy earlier this month. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

“Reducing stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS is the hallmark of the United States Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program, administered by the United States Embassy in Kingston.  This program is part of the global President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush, which is the largest effort in history by any one nation to combat a single disease.

On October 9, 2013, Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater officially signed and awarded grants totaling US$50,000, to five Jamaican non-governmental and community organizations, which will each conduct programs aimed at fulfilling the mandate of the program.

The grantees are the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP); Mustard Seed Communities; National Council on Drug Abuse; Eve for Life and BREDS The Treasure Beach Foundation.  These organizations will conduct sensitization seminars, provide counseling, mediation and public education sessions aimed at reducing the stigma and discrimination among marginalized and at-risk populations affected by HIV/AIDS.

In Jamaica, as in the thirty countries with PEPFAR programs, partnerships are crucial.  The U.S. mission in Kingston supports the Ministry of Health and other governmental and non-governmental agencies with PEPFAR funding through the various programs managed by the Public Affairs Section of the embassy and other agencies, primarily USAID, Peace Corps, the Department of Defence and the Centers for Disease Control.

Representatives from Mustard Seed Communities pose for their photograph with Ambassador Bridgewater. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)
Representatives from Mustard Seed Communities pose for their photograph with Ambassador Bridgewater. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

At the signing ceremony, Ambassador Bridgewater noted that the work to be done by each grantee signifies another milestone which advances the U.S. Government’s work towards an AIDS free world and will serve to improve the quality of life for persons living with HIV/AIDS.”

A note from me: Serious challenges remain, especially among marginalized populations, including men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers. Discrimination against these groups in Jamaica serves to deepen these concerns. It is something that must be addressed and cannot be ignored. So – we cannot give up the fight against HIV/AIDS!

Related links:

http://www.pepfar.gov President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/jamaica/ UNAIDS in Jamaica

http://kingston.usembassy.gov U.S. Embassy Kingston (also on Facebook)

http://ccrponline.org Caribbean Community of Retired Persons

http://www.mustardseed.com/site/PageServer?pagename=where_serve_jamaica Mustard Seed Communities/Jamaica (also on Facebook)

http://ncda.org.jm National Council on Drug Abuse (also on Facebook and Twitter @DrugFreeJa)

http://www.eveforlife.org Eve for Life (also on Facebook and Twitter @EveforLife)

http://www.breds.org BREDS Treasure Beach Foundation

That Word: Sustainability (petchary.wordpress.com)

HIV/AIDS and PEPFAR: From Emergency to Sustainability in Tanzania (washjournalclub.wordpress.com)


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